Rating: R (bloody violence, disturbing imagery, language, and some sexual content)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2013
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Stars: 3 out of 5
They say that every age gets the Shakespeare it deserves, meaning that each generation interprets the Bard’s varied and versatile plays according to the dictums, mores, and mood of its era. Some plays are favored by some cultures over others, and the same play may be interpreted not only differently but in almost completely opposite fashions. A good example of this is Laurence Olivier’s fervently patriotic “Henry V” on the eve of World War II and Kenneth Branagh’s cautious anti-war interpretation of the same script.
Although the novelist Stephen King may not have the literary calling card of the Bard, his novels are popular enough that as they age, their adaptations into films will surely differ wildly from each other according to the times. A lot has happened in American schools since the wonderfully edgy, if somewhat campy, film adaptation of King’s first novel, “Carrie.”That first film was directed by Brian De Palma and featured the acting talents of Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, and John Travolta in a minor role. A lot has happened to change the mood of the age. The blood spilled in American schools by shooters such as Dylan Klebold and Adam Lanza can make the title character of this story, an unassuming seventeen-year-old bullied relentlessly at school by her classmates and at home by her religiously devout and increasingly unhinged mother until she unleashes destruction and mayhem, seem ethical and kind. Each age will almost certainly get the Stephen King film adaptations it deserves.
The author is reported to have been surprised that anyone would want to remake the original “Carrie,” because he considered it of the best early adaptations of his work. The novel itself rose out of a challenge from one of his short story editors that his characters were too macho and that he could not write believable female anti-heroines. King went on to prove that he could not only write women but also dogs and clowns extremely well.
Given how much has changed in the zeitgeist in regard to American schools, it is understandable that a reputable director such as Kimberly Peirce would want to take a crack at this story again. Her “Boys Don’t Cry,” the story of a trans man who is endlessly bullied, beaten, raped, and eventually murdered for daring to be different from his peers, has much more in common with “Carrie” than would be evident at first sight.
Peirce’s remake stars a far-too-beautiful Chloe Grace Moretz. Even splattered with blood in one of the versions of the movie posters, she looks like she stepped out of the pages of “Vogue” and not the lonely streets of Nerdville, as the character is written in King’s novel. It is hard to believe that such a beauty would not be courted by the popular clique instead of endlessly harassed-although her looks do enhance the fear and terror her sexually phobic and religiously devout mother (played by the versatile Julianne Moore), who locks her in an under-the-stairs closet to pray and ask forgiveness for her sins, may feel.
In the midst of one of these episodes, the wood on the closet door cracks open, and Carrie slowly discovers that she does not have to take all this bullying without fighting back. Destructive force must meet destructive force head to head, and those who have hurt Carrie must be made to pay. A lot of horror has transpired since the original film version of “Carrie,” including the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is therefore not surprising that one of the ways in which Carrie tests the telekinetic powers that she will use for vengeance is by making the American flag outside of the classroom window flutter patriotically.
This scene and others like it signal that Peirce’s ambitions with this film may have been more complex than the eventual delivery, which sometimes seems like it’s as much as a remake of William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” as it is of the original “Carrie,” with a levitating bed and everything. It seems that Peirce wanted to make more nuanced statements about how the culture teaches the meaning of violence to its children: how violence does not have to be physical; that it can be as destructive and damaging when it is verbal, emotional, and psychological; how the culture’s children should think more about the consequences of its actions with each other; how the nation as whole might be improved if it rethinks its whole take on violence. In the end, however, Peirce settled for a more traditional horror film with its own simpler moralistic code.
See what Chloe Grace Moretz says about bullying