Carrie (2013) and The Cinema Experience

I’ve not seen the original Carrie, nor have I read the Stephen King book that it is based on, but today the opportunity arose to see the remake and I couldn’t pass it up. The simple fact that it’s a film obviously tussled my interests but the timing could not have been more poignant given that I only just wrote an article on Horror remakes and the terrible state of that genre. Below, I will discuss the film as well the cinema-going experience as a whole.

And the reason for that was well; it’s horrible. Going to the cinema is a depressing situation to be in these days. In the days of ad-free Netflix and infinite, instant downloading options, is it so much to ask that you needn’t have to sit through a half hour of adverts? I understand that the aforementioned cinema-alternatives may be taking a slice of the film-pie and that that has led to a series of more profitable changes in the cinemaplex; the inflation of ticket costs etc. But this is getting beyond a joke.

I could’t list you everything I saw but I can tell you that there were at least three that involved dogs, one with a dancing horse, a Tesco’s ad that seemed to be aiming to guilt people into having a nice Christmas and McDonald’s reminding you that they do coffee. There was even a rudimentary 4 question quiz at the start to promote Playstation’s or an app I think. The absence of the Orange guy who tells you to switch off your phone has bothered me for a while and the lack of any alternative strike me as very conspicuous. Do people switch off automatically nowadays or is it that no one cares?

So fifteen minutes or so later we get to the theatrical trailers, the joy of which I cannot express to you unenthusiastically enough. We start with a delightful looking, same-old-shit Rom-Com with our boy Zac Efron in which three guys decide that if one of them is single, the other two should be as well. Y’know, for solidarity. I shouldn’t have to express how unabashedly terrible a concept for a film that is.

Next we get to spend 3 minutes with I, Frankenstein. A suitably mixed up looking film with bits of the Underworld franchise bashed together with some CGI Van Helsing-esque shittiness and Aaron Eckhart looking awfully glum. One more film borrowing heavily from films that have already been made in order to concoct some meat-pie of a “crowd-pleaser”, let’s all hope it flops.

By this point I had forgotten that I was there to watch any movie let alone a Horror movie, and so they set out very hard to remind you by showing you the same film, three times in a row.

We were shown shaky-cam Rosemary’s Baby rip off Devil’s Due, where a woman has a demon-baby and is subsequently followed by her daft boyfriend and his camera. Then we’re treated to a look at Jared Harris starring, old-timey shaky-cam possession flick The Quiet Ones, in which the quaint old brits at Oxford get all sciencey and try to film evidence of ghosts. (This trailer added fuel to my Auteur debate with the sentence “from the makers of The Woman In Black”. The “makers”? Who knows what on Earth they mean by that…)

Finally we get to the third, shaky-cam possession movie. And it’s none other than the FIFTH Paranormal Activity film. After a brief search I discover that The Marked Ones – as it is subtitled – is a spin-off and that the real Paranormal Activity 5 will be out in 2014. Hooray.

So by this point, I was catatonic with grief and really not looking forward to the film ahead, wondering if I was to be assaulted with the same thoughtless abandon as with that I had previously witnessed. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that the next hour and a half would not contain abject stupidity or incompetence, but competence to the lowest degree. The film was halfheartedly constructed in it’s narrative and lazily, inconsequentially plotted just baked to a high sheen. Like a cornflake dipped in gold I suppose. Those poor magpies.

Without motive, character allegiances form and disband, friends turn to enemies and vice versa. All within the space of the first 45 minutes, after just two school incidents we have to accept that Carrie is an outcast. The whole film seemingly takes place over a weekend giving it no dramatic pull, no atmosphere. It is clearly aiming to show you it’s climax and it hurdles towards it with little regard for set-up or character development. Carrie develops telekinetic powers, from nowhere and with no explanation. A montage see’s her get to grips with her newfound gift and that’s it.

It’s this weird, almost lackadaisical pace that means that none of the character relationships stick. Judy Greer’s weird pseudo-mum gym teacher seemingly pities Carrie and seeks to help her but it’s a relationship that appears so quickly and without context that you can’t even describe it as contrived because the effort just isn’t there.

What also struck me was the dialogue, as a teacher you expect a degree of decorum but she speaks in the same manner as her students, at one point decrying them all as “shitty”. To the same degree, the character of the Principal seems uninterested and uneasy every time he speaks to Carrie, as if he couldn’t care less. It’s as though the writers themselves are teen girls and they have no concept of range or depth and as such make no attempt to distinguish the things being said by one character or the next.

This laziness strikes through every aspect of the script; pacing, relationships and dialogue are all very weak. Julianne Moore’s hateful, Jesus-freak mother character locks Carrie in a cupboard one minute then tells her she loves her the next, their relationship is never explored deeply enough. In the final climax, Carrie kills her mother and then breaks down and cries “I won’t hurt you mama”.

In this scene, she crucifies her mother to a wall continuing the lifeless bandying about of religious iconography. Her values are expressed multiple times, she prays a lot, loves Jesus and inflicts it on her daughter excessively. The father is barely mentioned and nor is the story of Carrie’s conception or Carrie’s own beliefs. She seems smart enough but also desperate to please her mother, as with everything else, little information is given and nothing is explored. It’s like the whole film only bothers with skin deep but it was never a whole skin to begin with.

It all builds and builds to a huge, explosive climax as expected and in doing so means that you never truly get to know or like any of the characters so you can never truly be empathetic to any of them. The group of antagonist cliche “high school beauty queen bitches” are mostly unnamed as are their lunkhead jock boyfriends. None of them question each other or themselves when they head out to a farm and bash in a pigs skull with a hammer. How can any of them deem Carrie a “freak” when they can so unflinchingly commit such a sick act? It’s at once perplexing and unaffecting, a film in which you can’t help but just not care.

– Oliver Drew

Ollie sketch91


4 thoughts

  1. Good review. This felt more like another cash-grab remake that Hollywood throws out each and every year, rather than something made to connect with modern-day audiences. The heart was lost and while the message may have still been there, it was skewered in a way that felt insulting to any people who were fans of the original.

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