We all knew it would happen--the film would inevitably be compared to the 1976 original helmed by Brian DePalma with the estimable Sissy Spacek in the title role. A sharply divided reception was predictable. And that's a shame. The Kim Pierce iteration is one that pays homage to the original here and there, but was ultimately meant to stand on its own as an adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel. But we all knew that a remake, by simple virtue of being a remake, would elicit the position that it is completely unnecessary.

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Again, that's a shame. In the hands of Kim Pierce, the plot focuses on social issues that necessitate a retelling. It is evident from how the present film is handled that it is not created in the same vein as remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Psycho, or any other project meant to turn a quick buck for a studio at the expense of originality or a younger generation's unawareness of the original. Times have changed, and the problem of bullying has evolved along with it. It is this problem that the socially-conscious Pierce sought to address.

Having watched both the original and the remake with a much younger nephew, certain moments in the original, while still terrifying, were lost to him for stylistic reasons--something a viewer might call campiness. This is something the remake has remedied. I suppose what was effective in the 1970s is not as effective to a less sensitized generation of moviegoers who crave realism over theatricality. A younger audience is likely to appreciate the naturalness of Julianne Moore's acting, or relate far better to Chloe Grace Moretz's portrayal of the sheltered teen.

While the target audience will surely appreciate the film, so will fans of the Stephen King novel. Many (but not all) plot elements that were woefully omitted from the 1976 film are given a rightful place in the new film, giving the story much more coherence and unity.

The most striking aspect is the mother-daughter relationship. Pierce, Moretz, and Moore handle the dynamic beautifully. The love-hate-fear relationship is more fully fleshed out than in the original. Whereas Piper Laurie's portrayal of Margaret White, remarkable in its own right, is of a maniacal fundamentalist who oppresses her daughter, Juliane Moore's is of a damaged woman who has probably lived through one too many mental breakdowns. While viewers will always appreciate the theatricality of Piper Laurie, there is a certain undeniable grittiness to Moore's more psychological version of Carrie's abusive mother.

Moore's Margaret is not all fire-and-brimstone, either. There are flashes where one sees profound maternal instinct and care for her daughter. Certain added scenes give Pierce the opportunity to put Margaret and Carrie in a kind of "Abraham and Issac" scenario which makes it difficult for the audience to completely think of Margaret White as an antagonist. Moore's Margaret is at times Carrie's enemy, and at other times her protector--an uncomfortable situation for the viewer, and Pierce pulls it off flawlessly.

I had misgivings about the casting decision with Miss Moretz. She is a beautiful young lady who I feared would not portray the outcast well. This misgiving was soon forgotten, however, early as the film progressed. Sure she's a beautiful girl, but she pulled off Carrie's shy awkwardness convincingly. She is not Sissy Spacek, but she didn't try to be. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. We will always have Spacek's bloody, wide eyed visage in our minds when we think of Carrie. But while Spacek gave off creepy, Moretz's portrayal is more human and sympathetic. One might view Spacek's Carrie as robotically vengeful, whereas Moretz's telekinetic feats lead to unintended, regrettable consequences. To Moretz, the power is at times too much for the girl to handle. Overall, Moretz's Carrie is closer to the one I envision when I think about the novel. I prefer Spacek's iconic stare, admittedly, but that's not to say Moretz wasn't convincing. Rather, her portrayal was prodigious--of high caliber for an actor her age.

Perhaps the greatest "pro" the remake has over the original is the more well-rounded secondaries: Sue, Tommy, Chris, and Billy. Fans of the book may have been bothered by Travolta's drunken greaser portrayal of Billy Nolan. At last, Alex Russell's Billy is closer to the sociopathic teen in King's book. Sue and Chris are not mere pawns in the storyline here. The acting ability of certain secondaries seems wanting at times, but the characters themselves are given a greater purpose here.

Does this live up to the original? I suppose that would be a completely subjective assessment. Both films have pros and cons. Taken on its own, however, the film is not a great one, but it's strong. It flows naturally. It is deeply psychological, not just for Carrie and Margaret, but for the other characters, too. Ultimately, it was worthwhile, and I don't doubt it will be memorable to its target audience as the 1976 film is for older viewers.

changed October 24, 2013