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They’re All Going To Laugh At You: 5 Reasons Why The ‘Carrie’ Remake Didn't Work

Features
by Drew Taylor
October 21, 2013 12:48 PM
51 Comments
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Kimberly Peirce’s much-hyped “Carrie,” which we first got a fairly pleasurable preview of during last year’s New York Comic Con, finally opened this weekend in a prime pre-Halloween slot usually reserved for the yearly “Paranormal Activity” iteration and… nobody showed up. The movie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role, failed to connect with audiences, who rejected it in favor of yet another go around in Alfonso Cuarón’s IMAX 3D version of Space Mountain, and critics (like our own) were mostly unkind. But why this new “Carrie”—which, like the 1976 Brian De Palma original and the 2002 TV movie, is based on Stephen King’s first novel—defaulted so spectacularly is still worth investigating. We decided to look at the five most criminally awful aspects of this remake in an attempt to decode who killed “Carrie.”

What makes this whole “Carrie” debacle so mystifying is that this is the kind of story that is classic and timeless, one ripe for reinvention and a fresh coat of paint (or pig’s blood). Stephen King, while often peppering his work with historically specific pop culture references, writes broadly; they’re less novels than fables. The one about the drunk in the haunted hotel or the one about the killer car or the one about the little girl who’s picked on but has something special inside of her…

In another decade or so somebody else will try to take on the material. Hopefully they’ll have better success.

1.) The Joylessness Is Palpable
From the opening moments of “Carrie,” you can feel that there is something missing. This version begins with Carrie’s birth, which happens in the shabby bedroom of her mother Margaret (this time played by Julianne Moore). As soon as Carrie exits her mother’s womb, Margaret grabs a pair of oversized shears (she’s a seamstress, after all) and almost kills the newborn. She doesn’t, of course, and the moment is supposed to be a defiant act—not only is it a different opening than both the original movie and novel, but it’s also “hardcore” (or at least what some suit thought was hardcore), with a mother nearly killing her new baby. Its execution is almost laughable and cartoonish in an entirely unpleasant way, but more than that, it’s evocative of the movie’s joylessness. The rest of the movie proceeds like this, with little in the way of zippy inventiveness, actual fun or the morbid humor of De Palma's film. While watching, we were reminded of another horror remake from a couple of years ago, Craig Gillespie’s exemplary 2011 “Fright Night” redo. You could tell from that movie’s title card that it had real pep; that it wasn’t just intent on pantomiming the original film but that it was determined to create something new, bold, and enjoyable. You could feel its liveliness in every frame. With “Carrie,” the whole thing seems rote, overburdened by the impressiveness of the original film and the source material, and unable to carve out a bold, new path for itself. 

2.) It Doesn't Stray Far Enough From The Original
Earlier last week we saw a TV spot for "Carrie," where a new screenwriting credit appeared, immediately setting off very loud alarms. Since the movie's inception, the film's script had been solely credited to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a brilliant-with-a-capital-bee playwright and screenwriter who had previously adapted King for a truly amazing, multi-part Marvel comic book. But now the movie didn't just bear his name; it also included Lawrence D. Cohen, the screenwriter of the original "Carrie" (and, it should be added, the Broadway flop). Immediately the question arose: just how similar would this "Carrie" be? As it turns out, it's almost beat-for-beat the same movie as De Palma's; from the locker room humiliation to whole sections of dialogue ("It's a shitty thing to do," "Dirty pillows," etc.), this new "Carrie" hedges very close to the original. Even the look of Julianne Moore's Bible-thumping fundamentalist mirrors that of Piper Laurie's, which is all the more frustrating when you consider that there are so many more fascinating directions that could've been taken (especially the cultural and political impact Christianity carries now). At one point we thought, Well at least they won't do the scene where the guys try on tuxes (a notorious low point in De Palma's original). And then they did it. Only this time, it was set to a Vampire Weekend song. 

Where the movie deviates is baffling: for some reason we spend more time with the other high school kids without every learning anything more about them. And any attempts at modernity are foiled completely: Carrie still mostly researches her newly discovered psychic powers by doing some "All the President's Men"-style card catalog research (she does, however briefly, go online) and towards the end of the movie, snarky bitch Chris (Portia Doubleday) sends Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) a text suggesting that she's about to do something horrible and fucked up. But these attempts at contemporary communication are haphazardly applied, as Sue doesn't bother texting her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort), warning him of the threat, but she instead drives to the prom and tries to stop it (her hair is still wet from the shower). There's also cursory attention given to a "found footage" element of the movie, first by having her locker room humiliation videotaped and then by having that same footage uploaded to YouTube, but that is barely developed, but again, it feels like a halfhearted inclusion rather than a fully formed concept.

We re-watched the 2002 TV movie version written by future "Pushing Daisies" and "Hannibal" mastermind Bryan Fuller, a movie that despite some uneven direction and low production values, does some exciting things with the material, including giving the bitchy girls some great dialogue (they have a discussion about the different types of waxing) and adding a slick layer of self awareness (Tommy Ross: "We should have a rule: if they do it in a Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie, we can't do it in real life"). It also plays with race and sexuality as well, but even that TV movie took a few more risks than this new studio movie. Even the ending of the original "Carrie" is replicated here, but instead of a hand jutting out of the earth, it's some unseen psychic power "shattering" Carrie's tombstone.

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51 Comments

  • Jeff | July 2, 2014 6:12 PMReply

    While this remake was similar to the original version, it is much better than the original version. Chloe Grace Möretz was the reason I decided to even watch this movie in the first place, the reason she was chosen was to gain popularity for the film and she was brilliant. She made the film come to life. The prom destruction was weak in terms of what could have been done with FX. Same with some other scenes but a great remake other than that.

  • Stephen king | August 8, 2014 3:51 PM

    Jeff,

    You're an idiot.

  • James | June 9, 2014 2:22 AMReply

    The only redeeming quality about this movie was Julianne Moore. Everything else about it was completely soulless and lifeless. I don't care how dated the original is, how anyone can say the remake is ANYWHERE NEAR as good as the 1976 version is beyond me.

  • Robert | June 4, 2014 8:01 PMReply

    I agree with EVERY word in this review. A treat to read it!

  • John | April 24, 2014 4:13 PMReply

    This article, just like a few i read before are just born from hate towards the movie, this isn´t a review, it´s just someone ranting about how they don´t like the movie and don´t even bother making good points about it. 2013 Carrie was much closer to the book than any other version and equally good to the 1976 verison.

  • James | June 9, 2014 2:16 AM

    The remake was terrible and was no different than the original version in storyline, it was just poorly executed. They need to stop with these horror remakes because they truly suck.

  • Carrie fan | March 1, 2014 10:49 PMReply

    Who ever makes fun of carrie is dead!!!!

  • Carrie fan | March 1, 2014 1:00 AMReply

    This movie is cool
    Like how chloe grace moretz play's in the movie, she is cool

  • jack johnson | January 18, 2014 8:07 PMReply

    I haven't seen the movie but I've read most of the book. Whats annoying about this movie though, is its supposed to be the story of a chubby girl who doesn't fit in, yet here she is an attractive blonde girl. I guess the Carrie from the book wasn't good enough for her own movie.

    The Mother is supposed to be a huge woman as well, which would make her look more terrifying like the crazy christian lady from wife swap

  • CARRIE FAN | January 17, 2014 4:13 AMReply

    i loved the movie! it was emotional and conveyed its message perfectly :)

  • Ron I | January 12, 2014 7:31 PMReply

    @ DAMIEN

    Damien, I can safely say you're a certified moron. It's ridiculous that you even have access to a computer.

    Better luck next time, lol.

  • Ron I | January 12, 2014 7:33 PM

    And for anyone that doesn't believe me about Damien's silly little mind, he says:

    "franctly"

    Hahaha.

  • Damien | December 8, 2013 9:43 AMReply

    It is ridiculous what some people are saying about this film. How on earth people can say that the original is better than the remake is beyond me. The original is horrible. Everything about the remake is better. The actors were soooo much better in this movie. All of the characters displayed so much more emotion. The way in which Carrie used her powers was great. I read one of the comments saying that they didn't like the way she used her arms when using her powers. Well its a hell of a lot better than just glaring at stuff. The prom scene in the original is pathetic. Saying that Chloe Grace Moretz is too "cute" to play Carrie is ridiculous. The fact that she is a 'normal' looking girl proves the point that bullying can happen to anyone, not just the people who are different from the norm. People aren't seeing the movie for what it is. Anything who for some strange reason thinks that the original is better, just imagine for a minute that this is the first time this movie has been made. Don't compare it to the original. Maybe then you will like it more. Either way, the remake shits all over the original. It franctly happens to be my favourite movie. I've been having fun laughing at the negative comments about this movie. Still can't understand why people can like the original and not the remake when it is clearly a far better movie.

  • James | June 9, 2014 2:18 AM

    I hope you're joking... OK, no you're not. Not shocked or surprised though.

  • kat | November 30, 2013 9:30 PMReply

    I agree with you completely! Also, what was up with Carrie using her arms? That wasn't scary. it looked hokey, same goes for the faces she kept pulling

  • Jamie | November 5, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    Chloe Moretz is a c*nt. This movie sucks, burn every copy. Sissy Spacek is Carrie. End of!

  • hoho | November 9, 2013 10:07 AM

    watch your language. there's no need to be rude

  • Capucine | October 29, 2013 11:21 PMReply

    This is an amazing and much informative post .Enjoyed the read.

  • CJ | October 28, 2013 4:02 AMReply

    Well not going to even read the review because I can tell you simply why a remake of Carrie doesn't work. If I wanted to see this film. Well simply put I'd just through the original in my blu-ray player and there's the remake. Its the same film. There is nothing different(Minus CGI). Even todays youths should still know Carrie. Its not like the films been pulled from the shelves. I just why they keep throwing remakes at us? Heres a thought think of something original. The movie goers like original storytelling. Not some remake that anybody with a DVD or Blu-Ray player can watch. Its $5 at Wal-Mart people. I'm similar in the mindset of making up my own mind about seeing a film and disregarding reviews. And me I actually know film structure. Been in the business a long time and some of the films that are on shelves at your favourite retailer I've been in or a part of. It was like EVIL DEAD. They butchered a truly great and original film just to do role reversal. You can't replace Ash. Sorry he was what made the film great. And most females either don't like EVIL DEAD or have no clue what it even is. So why do role reversal? They should have had Ash return. Anyway you can see by the Carrie trailer that everything is the same. From having her period, A psychotic mother to the infamous pigs blood at the prom. Its all the same. HollyWood needs to be more creative.

  • ehnameis | October 24, 2013 10:23 AMReply

    no matter how you slice it.. critics are a joke.


    we don't care, i do what i please... whether or not you get paid to waste bandwidth or not.

  • ezibel | October 24, 2013 10:55 AM

    People that lap up whatever Hollywood sets out for them like dogs from a plate are the joke. But wait, there's hope. It's called a cinematic education.

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  • Ian | October 23, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    Jualianne Moore was awful.

  • Randy | October 22, 2013 11:13 PMReply

    I thought it was done extremely well. I thought it brought in into what is happening now about bullying. I think it was done well and was even more frighting than the original and I saw the original. Chloe did an amazing job playing the Carrie part with a different edge on it. I am sorry to hear and see the bad reviews on this remake. Again they did a GREAT job!

  • HMS1013 | October 22, 2013 9:56 PMReply

    I disagree with almost all of these points. I love the original, but I loved this one as well. Let's face it. The original is not perfect. It is almost laughably dated. Why shouldn't it be joyless? It's more of a tragedy than a horror film, IMO. I thought Chloe did a great job. She did it differently than Sissy. Sissy was more pathetic, while Chloe played up a certain innocence. Also, I think the movie was too graphic for a PG-13. I would say it's a light R. Also, I thought it was obvious that stuff was cut out. Some transitions felt completely out of place. I will agree that it was a bit too similar to the '76.

  • nWoguy | August 8, 2014 6:32 AM

    You are correct there was some stuff cut,a whole lot of stuff.Here is what was left out:
    The Rain of Stones [as the original opening]

    - The White Commission [The film had integrated several courtroom scenes with witnesses giving testimonies of their experiences with Carrie White leading to the prom incident, essentially structuring the film as a series of flashbacks and recollections]

    - The found footage that had been filmed by Freddy "Beak" Holt

    - Scenes detailing more in depth character development

    - "Wipe that smile off your face" - Chris to Carrie at the pool

    - The locker room scene [extended] - Chris turning the cell-phone toward herself and the mean girls

    - Scenes involving social media - Facebook in particular: The e-mail from Chris to Donna Kellogg. "So I’m out of prom and my [censored] father says he won’t give them what they deserve."

    - Billy's wild ride [The "blowjob scene" - similar to the 1976 version]

    - Chris and Tina kiss [extended]

    - Tommy and Sue's backseat love scene [extended]

    - An interaction between Carrie and Chris outside the dress shop

    - The confrontation between Sue and the mean girls

    - Drive to the pig farm [extended]

    - Carrie levitates Margaret [extended]

    - The meaningful conversation between Miss Desjardin and Carrie at prom

    - Tommy and Carrie kissing

    - Billy kisses Chris

    - Margaret escaping from the closet and cutting herself with a knife

    - Sue tries to call Tommy from outside the school to warn him but he rejects the call

    - The prom scene as a whole which was said to be longer and more violent than the theatrical version

    - Tina on fire [extended]

    - A scene or shot revealing Erika and George's fate

    - The electrocution scene which was supposed to be more graphic and longer. In the novel, it was described as a "crazy puppet dance"

    - Carrie using her telekinetic powers to kill some of the prom survivors who are outside the school

    - The town destruction

    - Sue seeing Tommy's body being taken out on a stretcher and Miss Desjardin saying how sorry she is for what's happened

    - Margaret's original death scene which was said to be closer to the novel

    - The multiple endings

  • Movie Patron | October 22, 2013 7:00 PMReply

    Hollywood puts these young "Actors?" out there and shoves them down our throat as "talent?" HA! I knew this film would fail. And to you P.R. people on this thread trying to post against others opinions. WE ARE THE ONES WHO SPEND THE MONEY!!! Shut up and pat your client on the head and say...."maybe next time".

  • B3 Fearless | October 22, 2013 5:26 PMReply

    The answer for why it bombed is simple. I'm sure many people felt like I did where I liked the original and felt like the first remake had happened not too long ago. I didn't realize the last remake had happened 10 years ago. I just remembered being a teen. The previews didn't make the film look like it would be better than the original or add any kind of interesting twist on the same old story. The film simply just did not look worth spending $10+ for.

  • Tyrasaysitsnotgoodenough | October 22, 2013 12:03 PMReply

    Here's another reason: that screenshot of Moritz all blood-spattered and psychotic looks like it's from one of those freaky photo-shoots on America's Top Model. Sissy Spacek did it much better. C'mon, why are we even having this conversation?

  • Ginger Liu | October 21, 2013 9:38 PMReply

    You contradicted yourself. You said it's too like the original. And later you say that Chloe is too unlike the original Sissy. You're comparing it to the original, why? I can understand it if the two films are just a decade a part. But they almost 40 years apart. Two generations apart. I watched the original again over the weekend. It's still a classic but its also a film in the 1970's. things have changed since then you know? And if you read more about the directors and the decades they live in, you'd know that Brian worked in a time where the director called the shots. Now directors have to do what the money says. And your complete rubbishing language in your opening paragraphs are wrong. Have you actually seen a really dire movie before? I've seen plenty in the horror genre. Yes, I thought that Chloe didn't look shabby enough. I would kill to look that bad. But that aside, we are living in a totally different world to the 70's and that shows in the movies made.

  • Jordan | October 21, 2013 7:41 PMReply

    You do realize that this film was heavily edited by Screen Gems, right?

  • CR | October 21, 2013 6:06 PMReply

    People, Chloe Moretz, Julianne Moore and Kimberly Peirce ARE TALENTED and this article clearly states that opinion as well. The Playlist is starting a conversation about the handling of THIS ONE FILM - let's watch how we talk about these women, eh? I'm not comfortable with thes comments skewering actresses or judging the character they play or swear words they say while ACTING.

  • Alan B | October 21, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    "While watching, we were reminded of another horror remake from a couple of years ago, Craig Gillespie’s exemplary 2011 “Fright Night” redo."

    The idea that anyone could call that milktoast remake "exemplary" is hilarious. What made it "exemplary"? Was it the color-corrected cinematography to the point of lifelessness? Was it the wasted supporting actors like Toni Collette? Was it Marti Noxon's typically clueless "misogynistic" dialogue that reads about 30 years old? Was it the complete charmlessness of the final act which is just one spectacle after the other with little let-up?

  • Strngr | October 21, 2013 5:01 PM

    Lol milktoast

  • Les | October 21, 2013 3:56 PMReply

    Nothing worse than trying to sell out and failing.

  • JR | October 21, 2013 9:59 PM

    Care to explain how Moretz has sold out?

  • ALefty | October 21, 2013 4:11 PM

    I think Moretz has been "selling out" since quite a young age.

  • JoJo | October 21, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    I think it's funny that you reference the "exemplary" Fright Night remake in an article about why Carrie flopped. Fright Night's entire gross is barely higher than Carrie made this past weekend.

  • oogle monster | October 21, 2013 3:57 PM

    They are speaking to it's quality, which is in fact exemplary.

  • FANDJ | October 21, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    Without poor movies like this, there would be nothing to showcase this new lovely starlit. The new Natalie Portman. PLEASE tell me they gave her a part in the New Star Wars reboot.

  • chase | October 21, 2013 3:28 PMReply

    The only thing I disagree with is Chris' death. It was pretty damn brutal. And was completely satisfying moreso than any adaption has given us in rgeards to her death scene.

  • AJ | October 21, 2013 3:06 PMReply

    I'm pretty sure that by now, we are all wise enough to Hollywood to know that this type of release is guilty until proven inocent rather than the other way around. We will assume it is all the things you meticulously listed, until someone sees it and proves us otherwise. It's happened way too often for people to bite again. Hollywood STILL doesn't get it, and will take some more time apparently. It's not just for remakes, there was article after article about blockbusters and Lone Ranger and such months ago, just the same as this.

  • mrs.isley | October 21, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    Moretz is a poor actress who gained fame by playing sweary teens in vulgar films and cheap remakes of famous horror films. She needs to go away.

  • mrgordo | October 28, 2013 4:17 PM

    Sorry but saying you don't understand the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence while failing to recognize her talent is just....foolish.
    Opinions are one thing but that statement is just willful ignorance.
    Kind of like saying "What do people see in this no talent hack Alfonso Cuaron?!!"

  • FictionIsntReal | October 26, 2013 2:16 AM

    Ahsoka23, have you seen "Winter's Bone"? It's an excellent film, and Lawrence carries the whole thing.

  • Cam | October 21, 2013 9:56 PM

    Too bad for you she isn't, huh?

  • Ahsoka23 | October 21, 2013 4:00 PM

    I know what you mean. I don't understand her appeal as I don't understand the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence. I am sick of these dinky actresses getting all of this attention, and people mistaken so-called beauty or "f%$#kability for talent.

  • ek | October 21, 2013 1:17 PMReply

    Chloe moretz is just a fame and fashion obsessed "actress" she hasn't impressed me at all in anything shes done yet, playing a prostitute in equalizer and having done hick and working non stop shows her mother isn't looking after her best interest, trainwreck ahead.

  • mrgordo | October 28, 2013 4:21 PM

    Really? And how was "The Equalizer?" Oh, that's right...it doesn't come out until next year.
    Nothing impresses more than people who can review a film before they've even seen it.

  • TP | October 21, 2013 3:12 PM

    Because we all know how Jodie Foster turned out...

  • JR | October 21, 2013 1:29 PM

    If you're going to post such baseless tripe at least use proper punctuation and capitalization. Don't want you looking like an idiot...

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