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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 22, 2013

Carrie Movie Review: The Ultimate Revenge Fantasy For Bullied & Abused Kids

IN 1976, Brian de Palma’s “Carrie”, mixing horror and camp, catapulted the unknown Sissy Spacek to stardom. The movie, based on Stephen King’s first novel, is considered as a classic of sorts. Now, 37 years later, Kimberley Peirce, who gave Hilary Swank her first best actress Oscar as the tortured lesbian in “Boys Don’t Cry”, does a remake to introduce Carrie to today’s generation of viewers.

In 1976, the world was more innocent and the incidence of outsiders who feel they don’t belong suddenly shooting everyone in school, like what happened in Columbine and Sandy Hook, is not yet so prevalent as it is now. What Carrie did to her classmates on that fateful blood-soaked prom night can also be considered as the revenge of a misfit who’s considered a freak and has been a victim of harsh school bullying.

The new ‘Carrie’ starts with her mom, Margaret White (Julianne Moore) giving birth to Carrie, a baby she almost killed with a pair of scissors. The director’s way of staging of the birth scene is very original and Moore's acting as she gives birth to Carrie in blood is just perfect. Peirce obviously has a very coherent vision of what she wants to do with this remake. She aims to offer a fresh spin on an already familiar material to make Carrie’s crucible of suffering to start and end with an outpouring of blood.

We then see Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz of ‘Let Her In’, ‘Hugo’ and ‘Kick Ass’) as a loner in school who panics and thinks she’s bleeding to death when she experiences her first menstrual period while in the school shower. Her classmates make fun of her, throwing tampons on her while shouting ”Plug it in.” Worst, they recorded her ordeal on a cellphone and posted it on Youtube.

Everyone makes fun of her. Her fiercest detractor is the cruel queen of the Mean Girls, Chris (Portia Doubleday), who later arranges Carrie’s final humiliation at the prom through pig’s blood with her boyfriend, Billy (Alex Russell). Another girl, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), is conscience-stricken about what they did to her and asks her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to their prom.

What happened to Carrie in the locker room triggers the awakening of strong telekinetic powers within her. She then researches on it in the library and starts practicing how to move objects using her mind. As such, when the fateful night at the prom where she gets so humiliated happens, she already knows how to control and harness her powers on her own terms.

And when you’re abused by your own mom and tormented by your classmates, what’s a girl to do? Then you make your story the ultimate revenge fantasy for bullied and abused kids who want to get back at their oppressors. It’s not her fault. It’s them who turned her into a killing machine.

A nice touch of the director is showing the difference in social class between Carrie and her classmates. She lives in a modest neighborhood and her mom works as a lowly seamstress and as a clerk in a laundry shop where Sue’s rich mom is one of her customers. Chris has a very wealthy dad who’s ready to spoil and protect her when school authorities try to punish her.

Sissy Spacek was already 26 when she did the first “Carrie”. In contrast, Chloe Grace is really 16 so, age-wise, she’s more right for the role. She paints Carrie as a deeply troubled teen, subjugated by her mother and with no self-esteem. Her Carrie is an abused child without a normal home life, so she feels ugly and radiates a sense of worthlessness. When she finally goes on rampage, after being proclaimed Prom Queen in a Cinderella story that goes horribly wrong, she unleashes the full extent of her telekinetic powers and it's at once a magnificent and terrifying spectacle. The new movie definitely excels technically, considering the advances in visual effects that took place since 1976. It’s certainly more gory, more violent, as demonstrated in the death scene of Chris. In the original, she just died in the car, period. Here, her last moments are depicted in long and horrifyingly gory detail.

Chloe Grace gives a fascinating heartfelt portrayal that evokes sympathy, perfectly matched by Julianne Moore. As Margaret, Moore's interpretation of a soul twisted by warped religious beliefs is infinitely more affecting than Piper Laurie's over-the-top portrayal in the earlier movie. Moore gives a more muted but more psychologically insidious take as Margaret. She plays the mom here not just as a nut-case religious fanatic, but as a dangerously damaged lunatic who even inflicts pain on herself. In a sense, both mother and daughter are essentially tragic characters.

Judy Greer as the kind and caring teacher who defends Carrie (“What did Carrie White ever do to you?”) also fares better than Betty Buckley in the 1976 film. But the original had better supporting actors: Nancy Allen as Chris, Amy Irving as Sue, William Katt as Tommy and John Travolta as Billy Nolan. They all made a mark in the public’s consciousness. Their counterparts today unfortunately look so bland and forgettable in comparison.