Film review: Modern twist on ‘Carrie’ misses the mark

The horror remake “Carrie” caters too much to the original movie’s audience, so when it delivers its rendition of one of the most iconic moments in horrordom, the scene feels appropriately inevitable, but not very tragic. The underdeveloped script is to blame, rushing itself to fanservice instead of dwelling on its characters.

A brisk pace is certainly laudable, as is director Kimberly Peirce’s eerie immediacy of framing, but it fosters tonal inconsistency, a lack of individual identity so severe that the best way to understand “Carrie” is within the context of its source material.

But having a scattered identity and being repressed by one’s origins reflects the struggles of the bullied high-schooler Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), our introverted protagonist, who was raised by a mentally unstable, religious fanatic of a mother. She is Margaret White (Julianne Moore), a terrifying, fragile wraith driven by her own twisted interpretation of dogma.

Ashamed of her own body and sexual desires, Margaret never taught Carrie what it means to become a woman. When Carrie has her period for the first time during a shower after gym class, she screams for help and falls to the floor, thinking she might be dying, unaware that what’s happening to her is perfectly normal. Her peers laugh at her and pelt her with tampons as one girl films the incident on her cell phone before uploading it online for everyone to see.

It’s a moment of modern times in which social media exacerbates the trauma of victims of bullying. Except the contemporary resonance is all-too-brief, quickly moving aside by introducing Carrie’s telekinetic powers that emerge when she’s under duress. They’re brought to life by CGI in unconvincing excess. There are floating books, cutlery, furniture – not to mention blood, lots and lots of blood.

Yet there’s something triumphant about the unabashed display of the supernatural, feeling both out of place and commonplace, reminiscent of a line from the latest X-Men film: “Mutant and proud.”

Carrie comes to terms with her unusual gifts by researching other telekinetically inclined people, discovering she’s not alone in the world. The movie works best during these scenes of self-acceptance. When Carrie challenges her mother’s unquestioning faith and accepts an invitation to prom, the film is a hopeful depiction of female empowerment and nonconformity.

Moretz plays Carrie with an unaffected knowledge of one’s own certainties and anxieties. Though damaged, she still has hopes and dreams, able to recognize genuine goodness when it comes along. But none of this can last, as anyone vaguely familiar with the story knows, which is a shame, because the film loses its way once Carrie is humiliated at prom and takes merciless revenge on her classmates.

The last act is awkwardly apocalyptic with crumbling streets and exploding gas stations, a rather jarring turn even with the impending sense of doom that permeates most of the film, feeling less visceral than its many moments of stark humanity despite the heightened visual style.

Which is to say that somewhere beneath the movie’s concerns for its sacrosanct pedigree and modern, computer-generated obligations, is a moving portrait about how bullying can stunt self-actualization.