Was anyone asking for a remake of Carrie, the 1976 film by Brian De Palma horror classic? This remake goes back to the original source, attempting to re-imagine Stephen King’s iconic novel for 2013. That is a noble goal but this update is a miss-fire on many levels, from the questionable performances by its stars to an awkward script.
Almost from the beginning, it becomes clear that Carrie (2013) is a movie driven by MGM’s need to exploit its classic stable of film properties. Handed off to director Kimberly Peirce, nothing comes together in this uninspiring remake that will be patently offensive to certain audiences.
Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is an outcast at her high school, the girl that does not fit with any crowd. We learn she grew up isolated and home-schooled by her extremely fanatic mother. Margaret White (Julianne Moore) is a one-note character, an extreme personality driven by bizarre religious beliefs and afraid of the outside world. Carrie paints her as a Christian of some type, though the religious iconography used is a confused mess of differing beliefs. It would be better to characterize Margaret as a woman with severe mental issues, smothering her only daughter with twisted love.
What makes Carrie special are her latent telekinetic powers, relentlessly parodied in pop culture since the original movie became a hit. Fueled by anger, Carrie’s powers start manifesting when she feels threatened or in danger. That poses a problem for the mean girls of her high school, always willing to bully an outsider. Particularly nasty to Carrie are Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) and Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), two popular cheerleaders. After a humiliating incident in the girls’ locker room, Carrie gets saved by a teacher from ridicule, Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer). Chris is punished for her role in the incident, banned from the upcoming prom. Sue feels pangs of guilt for her role and engineers it behind the scenes to have her jock-boyfriend Tommy take Carrie to the prom.
Carrie’s dream of going to the prom comes true, though the tortured path the story takes to get there defies description. Needless to say, her mother does not approve of the prom or any boy willing to see Carrie. Carrie’s new powers start coming in handy for dealing with problems, right before something terrible is about to happen at the prom. Carrie then becomes an over-the-top FX vehicle for its final act, desperately seeking sensible resolution.
As headlining stars, the movie has to be carried by Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, both capable actresses. Unfortunately, they don’t prove up to that monumental task in Carrie. Julianne Moore gives it her all, but the character is so poorly written that everything she does ends up in B-movie overacting territory. Moretz plays the vulnerable teenager with a little more nuance and charisma, though her performance suffers in the final act when Carrie’s telekinetic powers fully awaken. Her performance will certainly not make anyone forget Sissy Spacek’s turn in the original Carrie.
I can’t recommend this remake of Carrie; there are broad problems in its execution. Forgoing the original movie, this adaptation of Carrie is a bad movie on its own merits.
Shot on the digital Arri Alexa camera system, Carrie has a somewhat disappointing video presentation. Hampered by a harsh color-correction and doses of composite work, the picture quality is less vibrant than a movie released in 2013 should look on Blu-ray. MGM (by way of Fox) has given Carrie excellent technical specifications on Blu-ray, but the movie’s partially bleached color palette and lifeless color tonality makes for a flat, dull Hi-Def image.
The AVC video encode handles the pristine source material quite well, spread out over a BD-50. Neither cut of the film exceeds 101 minutes. The theatrical cut averages a robust 27.96 Mbps. Aside from some very minor chroma noise in the darkest scenes, the 1080P video is free of notable artifacts. Carrie’s native aspect ratio is preserved in a 2.35:1 scope ratio.
Chief complaints lie in the unusual color correction, applied at the Digital Intermediate stage. Resulting flesh-tones look off at times, as if the actors are covered in pancake make-up. Colors rarely pop off the screen and interior scenes have a dim, flat appearance. It leads to dull black levels and mild contrast issues.
Carrie is constructed around rampant use of digital composites and CGI FX, which definitely hurts the amount of detail and overall sharpness. A bit of aliasing creeps into the video at times, though the transfer is bereft of nasty processing. The video remains reasonably sharp but don’t expect to see the type of depth and dimensionality present in the best-looking Blu-rays.
The primary audio is a choice 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack, designed to take full advantage of modern home theater systems. The mix utilizes an explosive surround design, an active presentation that is pumped-up with deep, accurate bass. As Carrie begins to use her powers the sounds fly around the room, causing an intricate collage of Foley effects. It’s the clear highlight in an otherwise disappointing film, as Carrie goes wild with her powers in complete audio detail. I wouldn’t characterize it as a reference presentation, but the sound design adds some needed energy and life to the story.
The score is fairly pedestrian and not very memorable. Dialogue is always purely clean and clear, even in moments when characters whisper or talk softly.
MGM has included two subtitle options: English SDH and Spanish. They display in a white font, strictly within the 2.35:1 framing of the movie. An English Descriptive Audio soundtrack is provided in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Spanish and French dubs are offered in 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks at 448 kbps.
Carrie does come loaded with fairly extensive supplements, all presented in HD. Some will be very interested to see the alternate ending, offered as a secondary viewing option when you begin the movie. This combo pack includes the movie on DVD and an UltraViolet code, good for a HD copy of the film on your favorite UV provider.
Slipcover collectors will definitely want to check out the lenticular slipcover available on first pressings. It’s a thick piece that looks superb in motion and is worth hunting down.
Alternate Ending with introduction from director Kimberly Peirce – This option only presents itself when you first choose to play the movie. It is the theatrical cut with a different ending, featuring an alternate version of Sue’s ultimate destiny. I did not think much of the alternate ending, but it is different than the theatrical cut’s ending.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes with optional audio commentary by director Kimberly Peirce (10:18 in HD) – Some interesting material, especially if you listen to the commentary. One of the scenes of a young Carrie should have probably made the final cut.
Tina on Fire: Stunt Double Dailies with optional audio commentary by director Kimberly Peirce (2:18 in HD) – A brief featurette explaining how Tina’s stunt fire was actually set on fire with practical effects. It wasn’t CGI.
Creating Carrie (21:07 in HD) – A decent featurette covering behind-the-scenes information from key cast members and director Peirce. It does become something of a mutual admiration society, as every participant gushes about working with one another.
The Power of Telekinesis (4:02 in HD) – A strange, goofy featurette that asks cast and crew if they believe in telekinesis. What is an actor supposed to say?
Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise (2:39 in HD) – A trick is played on unsuspecting people at a coffee shop, fooling them into believing a girl has telekinetic powers. (Ed note: This was a viral YouTube hit prior to the film’s release)
Theatrical Trailer (01:56 in HD)
Trailers (06:05 in HD) – The Family, Runner Runner, Fright Night 2: New Blood, American Horror Story: Asylum
Audio commentary with director Kimberly Peirce – Director Peirce is so lucid in analyzing her film, that you wonder how it ended up so bad. It’s a dry commentary that feels academic in nature but by its end you learn how Peirce approached the material.
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