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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Carrie

January 26th, 2014

Carrie - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Carrie is a remake of of the 1976 film of the same name. The original Carrie is considered a classic horror film and the movie that brought Stephen King immense fame. Horror remakes have done poorly recently and this film was no different. However, was it a bad remake? Or has the public perception of horror remakes unfairly hurt this film at the box office? Does it do enough new to make it worth watching? Or is it yet another unnecessary remake?

The Movie

We are introduced to Margaret White while she is alone at home giving birth. However, she doesn't know that's what's happening. She thinks she's dying from cancer. When she sees the baby, she thinks it's a test from God, and not a "I must raise this child by myself" kind of test, but a "I must kill this child" kind of test. Fortunately, she can't go through with it.

We then flash forward seventeen years, when Carrie White is in high school. Carrie is a social outcast and a target to some of the bullies, led by Chris Hargensen. After gym, while taking a shower, Carrie has her first period, but she doesn't know what is happening, mirroring how her mother didn't realize she was pregnant. After she freaks out, the other girls taunt her, first throwing tampons at her, while Chris pulls out her cell phone to record the action. The gym teacher, Miss Desjardin, tries her best and Sue Snell tells her Carrie might not know what her period is.

(We also see some small signs that Carrie has powers.)

Miss Desjardin takes Carrie to principal Henry Morton's office, where she's able to calm her down. At least Carrie's calm until the principal tells Carrie he has to call her mother. When Carrie hears her mother has to be involved, she panics a little again and there's another manifestation of her power. After her mother takes Carrie away, Miss Desjardin sees Chris, her boyfriend, Billy Nolan, and Chris's friends watching the video Chris made of the incident. It's pretty easy to see who is involved.

Once Carrie gets home with her mother, you can see why the caring approach by Miss Desjardin is needed. Margaret White is a terror. She begins banging her head against the wall asking the lord to forgive Carrie's sins. When Carrie asks her mother why she didn't tell her about what would happen, they get into an argument that includes Margaret smacking Carrie with a Bible and ends with Margaret forcing Carrie to go to the prayer closet while Margaret claws at her skin till it bleeds. Meanwhile, Carrie has yet another manifestation of her powers, but this time she begins to realize she's the cause for what's happening.

Next we see Sue Snell with her boyfriend, Tommy Ross. They are out on a date, but Sue isn't having a good time, because she feels bad about what she and the other girls did to Carrie. Tommy convinces Sue she should apologize to Carrie. On the other hand, we see Chris, Billy, and Tina decide to upload the video to YouTube. This turns out to be a mistake.

All of the girls involved in the incident are punished by Miss Desjardin. It doesn't take long for Chris to fight back and get herself suspended. She vows revenge. The first step in revenge is bringing in her father to threaten a lawsuit. However, Miss Desjardin isn't phased by this threat and counters with a threat to release the video to the news, which would destroy Chris Hargensen's chances at a good college. This would be an empty threat, but Miss Desjardin guesses correctly that Chris didn't delete the video from her phone. After this, Chris confronts Sue for not standing up with her and they leave. It seems she's going to have to get revenge a different way.

Unfortunately, Sue gives her the perfect opportunity. Sue realized Chris was right about somethings. Specifically, that what she did was bad enough that she shouldn't go to the prom. Instead, she asks Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom. It shouldn't be too hard to convince her. After all, Tommy did stand up for Carrie in English Class when the teacher called Carrie's poem scary. At first, Carrie says no thinking Tommy is helping the girls trick her again, but the second time she agrees. Of course, convincing her mother to let her go is another matter.

I've been skipping a lot of what Carrie was doing during this time, in order to keep the plot summary cohesive. (It's mostly exploring her powers and learning how to control them.) And at this point, we've run into some pretty major spoilers, so we will end the plot summary there.

Carrie is a remake of a very popular film, so the first question most people are going to ask is how does it compare to the original. I've got good news and bad news. There's not a lot that's different. That's both the good news and the bad news. The film is halfway done before Chris and Billy begin their big prank. During that time there's a lot of tension that is built up, but this tension doesn't really work, because we know what's going to happen. There were several times while I was watching this movie where I thought to myself that a particular scene would have been really amazing, if I didn't already know what was going to happen next. Because both versions of the movie follow the book so closely, there's not nearly enough suspense. Because of this, if you've seen the previous version of the movie, the opening half can be a little slow at times.

On the other hand, there are a few changes and some of them actually work better in the new movie that its predecessor. For instance, Carrie and Margaret are more well-developed characters this time around. Carrie is also more assertive this time around. She would really have to be, as I don't think Chloë Grace Moretz could play a character with such little confidence as Sissy Spacek did in the original. Additionally, the role of Margaret was expanded this time as well. I might get some crap for this, but I think the new versions are better. Likewise, there were some changes to the climactic scene at the prom, changes that made the movie better. Of course, this is miles into spoiler territory, so ... proceed with caution. In the original, after Carrie falls victim to a prank, she snaps and starts killing everyone. Everyone. In this version, she falls victim to the same prank, but only starts killing when she realizes Tommy was accidentally killed in the prank. (In the original, he was knocked unconscious and died in the fire.) Additionally, she's more selective about who she kills. Because of this, she comes across not as a monster out to kill, but as a still sympathetic victim out to avenge the death of her only true friend. It's also more in line with the original book.

Overall, I think if you saw this version of Carrie first, you would like it better than the original. However, the original is so iconic that it is not surprising if a lot of people who saw the first one don't feel the need to see the remake.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with Kimberly Peirce, the director. There is also an alternate ending to the movie, but I prefer the theatrical one. I like how Sue Snell got a more happy ending in the theatrical version and it emphasizes how Carrie White was the victim, not the monster. Up next are ten minutes of deleted / alternative scenes, with optional audio commentary track with the director. She also provides an optional commentary for the Dailies for the scene where they really lit a stuntwoman on fire, using a new technique. Creating Carrie is a 21-minute long making of featurette, which is the usual mixture of talking heads, behind-the-scenes, and clips from the movie. (There is also clips from the original movie, including a naked shower scene, which is the only nudity on the Blu-ray. Another positive this movie has over its predecessor: no gratuitous nudity.) There is a four-minute look at The Power of Telekinesis and how it is portrayed in the movie. Finally, there is the real world 'prank' / viral video that was used to promote the movie.

The technical presentation on the Blu-ray ray is really strong, which makes sense as it was shot digitally. The level of details is strong, as are the colors, for the most part. Carrie White's home life is not a colorful one and many scenes are bathed in beige as a result. There are also many dark scenes, but they never swallow-up the details. It's obviously not the most visually flashy movie I've seen, but the video is strong nonetheless. The audio is likewise very good with plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, not to mention very clear dialogue. This is a huge step up from the original movie, which has had a couple of Blu-ray releases, but neither of them had good audio or video.

The Blu-ray costs $18, which is only $3 or 20% more than the DVD. This is an excellent deal.

The Verdict

When you look up lists of the ten best remakes of all time, do you know which great remake is constantly left off that list? The Maltese Falcon. The 1941 version with Humphrey Bogart was the third time that film was made, within a ten-year period. Dismissing a movie because it is a remake is wrong. That said, when you remake a movie, you really should do something to make it stand out from its predecessor. This is Carrie's biggest flaw, it is nearly identical to the original. Because we know how it is going to play out, there's not as much suspense, so there's not as much tension. However, I think the few changes that were made do improve the movie, at least in my opinion. If you are willing to deal with the lack of suspense, then the movie is certainly worth checking out and I think the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack are worth buying over merely renting.

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Filed under: Video Review, Carrie, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Greer, Stephen King, Julianne Moore, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kimberly Peirce, Barry Shabaka Henley, Sissy Spacek, Portia Doubleday, Gabriella Wilde, Alex Russell, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Belkin