Awash in blood and tears, a woman howls in unspeakable anguish as she gives birth in the harrowing opening moments of Carrie. She is ashen and alone, her face gnarled with fear. Believing the child to be the devils spawn, she grabs a pair of scissors to stab the infant to death. Only the babys soft mewling, the pureness of its gaze, spares it from the knife.
Director Kimberly Peirce summons up the bracing thematic subtext of her stylish remake in that deeply disturbing scene. Its masterful filmmaking that recalls the visual economy of her debut film Boys Dont Cry and her gift for psychological nuance.
The cringe-inducing opening tableau tells us this is a tale about the cycle of birth and death, the fierce bond between mother and child and the destiny of biology. Far from a mindless monster flick about a kid with supernatural powers, this is a movie that mines the horror of real life, from dysfunctional families to cyber bullies.
That the opening scene is by far the most chilling in the movie is both the strength of this remake and its key weakness.
Peirce shines such a harsh spotlight on the twisted love between the religious zealot mother, Margaret White (played with heart-pounding menace by Julianne Moore), and her misfit daughter Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) that the rest of Carries connections to the world seem like an afterthought. Home is the real horror here. Moores captivating performance steals some of the thunder because very little else in the picture can rival it.
While Peirce pays homage to Brian De Palmas 1976 original by echoing many of the iconic films seminal moments, she diminishes the bite of the bullying that Carrie endures from her peers. Thats a pity because it robs this bloody revenge tragedy of its visceral impact.
The indignity Carrie suffers at school is nothing compared with the daily torment she experiences in her mothers religious torture closet. The fear that Moores mother engenders in her offspring will give you nightmares because it feels so much more raw and real than any of the movies supernatural butchery. Certainly nothing that happens at the legendary prom is anywhere near as terrifying.