By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
October 31, 2013
To best enjoy “Carrie,” director Kimberly Peirce’s “reimagining” of Stephen King’s famous horror tale about teen bullying and revenge, you might want to bring along Hesh. I’ll explain. An old friend, he’s been my movie companion for the better part of my so-called career…available at a moment’s notice and happy to fill in when my significant other defers due to subject matter or previous plans.
I’ve oft opined that perhaps it wasn’t ever about the movies, but about our friendship and philosophical collaboration, though I’m not so sure now which of us is Dr. Johnson and who is Boswell. In any case, “Carrie” was on the schedule and Her Significance finds me quite horror enough, thank you. The call went out to Hesh.
Now, truth be told, the Scare-Me-Scare-Me crowd has its own, ghoulishly dedicated proprietary critics steering them to the latest gruesomeness, which essentially renders me besides the point. My remaining mission then is to dive into the breach so as to inform non-believers if this is worthwhile enough for them to cross the unholy line.
While Ms. Peirce’s permutation proves truer to the novel as touted, albeit in no earthshattering way, she nonetheless fashions a well-made scare-tactic, providing plenty of thoughtful gristle to feast on while you anticipate the next spate of revulsion. Indeed, it’s just the sort of film you can enjoy with a good pal, chiding, commenting and sharing your aghast reactions with laughs usually engendered only by inside jokes.
But shh! Not too loudly. You neither want to be impolite nor obscure what is, on its terms, a rather heartfelt horror, especially pertinent as society finally comes out of the closet concerning humankind’s bullying plague.
As you view the tragic story of teenager Carrie White, emotively portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz, odds are your hard drive will recall a shameful instance of victimization that took place at your own high school. Mr. King has made Carrie the poster child for this cruel depravity, his narrative ostensibly a contemporary folk-horror known to most, replete with extravagantly punishing moral lesson.
However, just in case you simply haven’t been able to break away from Chaucer long enough to acquaint yourself with some of the newer stuff, a brief recap is in order. Act #1, Scene #1: Margaret White, as crazy and oppressed a soul as you’re likely to run into, this week at least, is giving birth to the title character, but doesn’t know it. Imagine what kind of upbringing this kid is going to have.
Moving forward, imagine no more…here she is in high school, an outcast, shy beyond belief, and now ruthlessly humiliated by classmates on the occasion of an already embarrassing passage in her heretofore unhappy life. She is the brunt of every gag…mercilessly disliked for no other reason than her unfortunate circumstances. The thoughtless jackals attack her as if to psychologically thin her from the herd.
But aha, this is the movies, where you don’t necessarily wait for legislation to right wrongs. Vengeance is OK…even applauded. And in this instance, just to make the retribution a bit tastier, fanciful and to give it some sinister élan, it turns out Darwin has equipped Carrie with a terribly powerful weapon.
Psst. She can move things. You know, telekinesis. The lass has suspected the talent since childhood, but never surfaced it to her advantage. A quick cram course at the library ameliorates that. So much so, in fact, that when Mom, played with psychopathic deliriousness by Julianne Moore, attempts to dissuade our girl from accepting a charitable prom invite from BMOC Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), Carrie is able to turn the restrictive tables on the old gal.
Sixteen-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz, who sent me scurrying to find that umlaut above the first e in her name, does a fine job convincing us that peer pressure is a real son of a you know what. It caustically reaffirms the bittersweet wisdom in Maurice Chevalier’s “I’m Glad I’m not Young Anymore,” sung in “Gigi” (1958). But it’s Miss Moore’s portrayal of the self-torturing religious looney that takes Miss Havisham’s cake.
Note: This isn’t terribly scary in the usual sense of its genre, and dyed-in-the-wool fright mongers will agree the overflowing tumbrel of adolescent Sturm und Drang is the horror movie equivalent of Sherman’s march to the sea. It seethes and boils with fear and loathing for two-thirds of its running time, finally erupting in a cataclysmic Armageddon akin to the last three minutes of a 4th of July fireworks display.
So the iterated recommendation here, considering that the movie’s operatic outlandishness lends itself to the omigosh rib-poking, smirking and quipping that heightens the fun when shared with a good friend, is to see “Carrie” with Hesh…or your available equivalent.
“Carrie,” rated R, is a Sony Pictures release directed by Kimberley Peirce and stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore and Ansel Elgort. Running time: 100 minutes