"You will know her name," predicts the posters for the new "Carrie." Chances are you already do, whether or not you've seen the 1976 Brian De Palma-directed original, or read the Stephen King novel both films were based on. That's because, like Freddy or Jason, when it comes to horror movie characters, Carrie White is already a household name.
In director Kimberly Peirce's version, it's Chloe Grace Moretz who plays the character that Sissy Spacek first made famous, a tormented (and telekinetic) high schooler who goes berserk on prom night. But as with any remake, that name recognition can be a double-edged sword. Because while it helps bring in the crowds, the main concern is typically how well the new version compares to the original -- especially when it comes to an undisputed classic like "Carrie." So here's a look at what Peirce's modern update got right, and what it got wrong.
Casting Julianne Moore:
Piper Laurie's Oscar-nominated performance in the original "Carrie" is almost as iconic as Spacek's, which made casting four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore as Carrie's mother a wise move. And the talented actress gives one hell of a performance as the deeply religious and self-flagellating Margaret White, potentially even better (and decidedly less campy) than Laurie's, as blasphemous as that likely sounds. Of course, the fact that Moore brings a lot to the production is no big shock. Still, she helps properly sell the twisted mother/daughter relationship that's as much at the heart of "Carrie" as the high school bullying.
Casting Chloe Grace Moretz:
On paper, this one sounds just as good as Moore. Moretz is a promising young actress, she's headlined horror remakes before with "Let Me In," and makes for a confident, capable leading lady. But that's precisely the problem: Moretz feels too naturally self-assured to buy as a social outcast, and despite delivering a decent performance, she seems miscast as Carrie. Spacek was instantly recognizable as a misfit. Moretz looks like she really ought to be playing mean girl Chris Hargensen instead.
No offense to William Katt, but we doubt anybody was crying sacrilege over casting choices for Carrie's doomed prom date. Still, despite being the feature debut for newcomer Ansel Elgort (he also appears in the upcoming "Divergent"), the young actor does an impressive job selling what's one of the movie's most difficult tasks: convincing audiences why the popular jock would agree to take Carrie to prom, let alone end up enjoying himself. And in this version of the story, Tommy is by far the most sympathetic secondary character, more so even than Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) or Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer).
Hiring Kimberly Peirce:
Tabbing the "Boys Don't Cry" director to helm a horror remake wasn't an obvious choice, but much like Moore, she helps give the new "Carrie" more cred. And Peirce does a nice job with both the look of the film and the smaller, more intimate aspects of the story, like the surprisingly heartfelt moments between Moretz and Moore. When it comes to the climactic prom scene though, a sequence that's so famous it barely even counts as a spoiler, Peirce has more difficulty, and despite a bigger budget and a lot more blood, it's not even half as tense or horrifying.
Updating the special effects:
Obviously after almost four decades of technological advances, the special effects in the new "Carrie" are impressive, and Peirce makes sure to show off Carrie's telekinesis as much as possible. But while De Palma's film didn't have the budget to fulfill King's original ending -- where a distraught Carrie lays waste to the entire town -- you'd expect this updated version to really ramp up the spectacle. Instead, when it doesn't, the third act is something of a letdown. For all the added gore, the total body count here actually ends up being significantly lower.
Updating the story:
Peirce has said that she always envisioned "Carrie" as her version of a superhero movie, the origin story of a young woman discovering her new powers and then ultimately being overwhelmed by them. It may be an interesting wrinkle, but it's not really enough to differentiate this new "Carrie" from De Palma's. And it's hard to say whether those who haven't seen the original film will be able to follow along, since it runs through all the iconic moments like it's ticking them off a checklist. Some key scenes feel suitably organic (like Sue's decision to not go to prom), and others come out of left field (the entire pig's blood scene). Ultimately, despite the facelift, while this remake introduces the story to a new generation, when you think of the name Carrie White, you'll most likely still be thinking of the original.
"Carrie" opens in theatres on October 18.