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They’re All Going To Laugh At You: 5 Reasons Why The ‘Carrie’ Remake Didn’t Work

They’re All Going To Laugh At You: 5 Reasons Why The ‘Carrie’ Remake Didn't Work

Kimberly Peirce’s much-hyped “Carrie,” which we first got a fairly pleasurable preview of during last year’s New York Comic Con, finally opened this weekend in a prime pre-Halloween slot usually reserved for the yearly “Paranormal Activity” iteration and… nobody showed up. The movie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role, failed to connect with audiences, who rejected it in favor of yet another go around in Alfonso Cuarón’s IMAX 3D version of Space Mountain, and critics (like our own) were mostly unkind. But why this new “Carrie”—which, like the 1976 Brian De Palma original and the 2002 TV movie, is based on Stephen King’s first novel—defaulted so spectacularly is still worth investigating. We decided to look at the five most criminally awful aspects of this remake in an attempt to decode who killed “Carrie.”

What makes this whole “Carrie” debacle so mystifying is that this is the kind of story that is classic and timeless, one ripe for reinvention and a fresh coat of paint (or pig’s blood). Stephen King, while often peppering his work with historically specific pop culture references, writes broadly; they’re less novels than fables. The one about the drunk in the haunted hotel or the one about the killer car or the one about the little girl who’s picked on but has something special inside of her…

In another decade or so somebody else will try to take on the material. Hopefully they’ll have better success.

1.) The Joylessness Is Palpable
From the opening moments of “Carrie,” you can feel that there is something missing. This version begins with Carrie’s birth, which happens in the shabby bedroom of her mother Margaret (this time played by Julianne Moore). As soon as Carrie exits her mother’s womb, Margaret grabs a pair of oversized shears (she’s a seamstress, after all) and almost kills the newborn. She doesn’t, of course, and the moment is supposed to be a defiant act—not only is it a different opening than both the original movie and novel, but it’s also “hardcore” (or at least what some suit thought was hardcore), with a mother nearly killing her new baby. Its execution is almost laughable and cartoonish in an entirely unpleasant way, but more than that, it’s evocative of the movie’s joylessness. The rest of the movie proceeds like this, with little in the way of zippy inventiveness, actual fun or the morbid humor of De Palma’s film. While watching, we were reminded of another horror remake from a couple of years ago, Craig Gillespie’s exemplary 2011 “Fright Night” redo. You could tell from that movie’s title card that it had real pep; that it wasn’t just intent on pantomiming the original film but that it was determined to create something new, bold, and enjoyable. You could feel its liveliness in every frame. With “Carrie,” the whole thing seems rote, overburdened by the impressiveness of the original film and the source material, and unable to carve out a bold, new path for itself. 

2.) It Doesn’t Stray Far Enough From The Original
Earlier last week we saw a TV spot for “Carrie,” where a new screenwriting credit appeared, immediately setting off very loud alarms. Since the movie’s inception, the film’s script had been solely credited to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a brilliant-with-a-capital-bee playwright and screenwriter who had previously adapted King for a truly amazing, multi-part Marvel comic book. But now the movie didn’t just bear his name; it also included Lawrence D. Cohen, the screenwriter of the original “Carrie” (and, it should be added, the Broadway flop). Immediately the question arose: just how similar would this “Carrie” be? As it turns out, it’s almost beat-for-beat the same movie as De Palma’s; from the locker room humiliation to whole sections of dialogue (“It’s a shitty thing to do,” “Dirty pillows,” etc.), this new “Carrie” hedges very close to the original. Even the look of Julianne Moore’s Bible-thumping fundamentalist mirrors that of Piper Laurie‘s, which is all the more frustrating when you consider that there are so many more fascinating directions that could’ve been taken (especially the cultural and political impact Christianity carries now). At one point we thought, Well at least they won’t do the scene where the guys try on tuxes (a notorious low point in De Palma’s original). And then they did it. Only this time, it was set to a Vampire Weekend song. 

Where the movie deviates is baffling: for some reason we spend more time with the other high school kids without every learning anything more about them. And any attempts at modernity are foiled completely: Carrie still mostly researches her newly discovered psychic powers by doing some “All the President’s Men“-style card catalog research (she does, however briefly, go online) and towards the end of the movie, snarky bitch Chris (Portia Doubleday) sends Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) a text suggesting that she’s about to do something horrible and fucked up. But these attempts at contemporary communication are haphazardly applied, as Sue doesn’t bother texting her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort), warning him of the threat, but she instead drives to the prom and tries to stop it (her hair is still wet from the shower). There’s also cursory attention given to a “found footage” element of the movie, first by having her locker room humiliation videotaped and then by having that same footage uploaded to YouTube, but that is barely developed, but again, it feels like a halfhearted inclusion rather than a fully formed concept.

We re-watched the 2002 TV movie version written by future “Pushing Daisies” and “Hannibal” mastermind Bryan Fuller, a movie that despite some uneven direction and low production values, does some exciting things with the material, including giving the bitchy girls some great dialogue (they have a discussion about the different types of waxing) and adding a slick layer of self awareness (Tommy Ross: “We should have a rule: if they do it in a Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie, we can’t do it in real life”). It also plays with race and sexuality as well, but even that TV movie took a few more risks than this new studio movie. Even the ending of the original “Carrie” is replicated here, but instead of a hand jutting out of the earth, it’s some unseen psychic power “shattering” Carrie’s tombstone.

3.) Chloe Moretz Isn’t Right For The Lead 
In the original “Carrie,” Sissy Spacek had a willowy, otherworldly quality to her performance. It’s a turn that feels less like it was performed by an actor and more like the filmmakers were capturing footage of some kind of strange creature that was interacting with human beings for the very first time. She was decidedly off, in a delicious way. Angela Bettis, in the TV movie, shared an equal strangeness (she played a similar role in the indie horror favorite “May“). In the right light, both actresses could be labeled “pretty,” but it was important that this not come until the final act, and then could only be seen in silvery glimmers. Chloe Grace Moretz, on the other hand, is adorable. We know already this. And the problem is that she is as cute in the first scene as she is during the climactic prom (with or without her dirty pillows on display), and so the scenes in between are flush with a kind of painful awkwardness. It’s not the awkwardness that she’s supposed to have, either, of a tormented girl who is constantly bullied by classmates and pushed around even more violently by her bible-thumping mother. Instead, it’s the awkwardness of a poised, gifted actress trying to appear like the pigeon-toed outcast (and, worse still, too influenced by those earlier performances). In the “Carrie” TV movie, there’s a reference to all those teen movies where the “ugly” girl is transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, even though the girl was usually a supermodel to begin with. The same thing applies here. Moretz gives off the vibe of a young girl who everyone wants to be friends with; everything else feels like a put on. Especially when, instead of staying statue-still during her massacre, she moves her arms and hands around like she’s conducting a symphony (or channeling Magneto in “X-Men“). It’s hard to give an actress grief for being too cute, but for the role, her adorableness works against her, the character, and the movie. 

4.) “Carrie” Doesn’t Earn Its R
At some point during “Carrie” the poor sap who we dragged to our screening leaned over and said, “Is this even rated R?” It’s a good question: there’s painfully little about this new “Carrie” to warrant an R rating. The opening of De Palma’s movie, with the camera glacially gliding through the girls’ locker room (with tons of full frontal nudity) is gone, even though the scene mostly remains. And there’s barely any bloodshed. The prom massacre is oddly neutered, especially since, given the advances in filmmaking technology (and the idea, in this movie, that she has more control over her powers), Carrie’s wrath could have been more fully felt. Quite frankly the level of carnage doesn’t even level up to something like one of the “Final Destination” movies that take ghoulish delight in creatively offing teenagers. “Carrie” barely shrugs. The most violent thing about this new “Carrie” is the killing of the pig (in this version, Chris slits the pig’s throat), although that might unfairly be rewarded points because animal cruelty is so disturbing. Finally, when Carrie has her showdown with Chris and Billy Nolan (Alex Russell, who is no John Travolta), you think that the fireworks are going to fly. Except that they don’t. The stuff with Chris and Billy’s car in the trailers and TV spots is pretty much all of what you see in the movie, with a few more closeups. Billy breaks his neck and Chris goes through the windshield in slow motion (there’s a brief shot of her face embedded with shards of glass), but, it’s not the blood laden spectacle some may have been hoping for. In fact, when you boil where the R-rating is coming from, it’s most likely the handful of “fucks” that litter the screenplay. Besides that, this thing could be broadcast on cable TV with few objections. 

5.) You Can’t Feel Kimberly Peirce At All
Maybe the most disappointing thing about this new “Carrie” is that you can’t feel director Kimberly Peirce’s presence at all. Peirce as the director of “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Stop-Loss” felt like the perfect choice for a “Carrie” reboot, with the thinking being that the outspoken feminist would infuse some forward-thinking girl power into the movie. Instead of Carrie merely being a victim of her psychic abilities, she would become emboldened by them. But this idea is hardly present in the film, reduced to one or two fleeting moments that don’t have much impact on the overall narrative. Additionally, the cast is uniformly underwhelming, a disappointment given Peirce’s previous knack for savvy casting (look at the lineup she assembled for “Stop-Loss,” well ahead of their time: Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish and Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Moreover, Peirce’s take on the prom night massacre feels rushed and unfocused. Those hoping for her to infuse the sequence with the same kind of dread and misgivings that she brought to “Boys Don’t Cry” will be sorely let down. It mostly plays as extended version of De Palma’s finale, with a better budget, but it’s missing any emotional depth or weight, or the sense of true horror and tragedy. How much influence the suits had in determining the final shape of the movie we’ll probably never know, but what’s on screen is a movie totally devoid of the authorship we’d expect from Peirce.

Of course, the list of things that are wrong with this new “Carrie” could go on and on (the limp Marco Beltrami score, the severe lack of stylization), but these are the main offenders. We hope that a similar fate doesn’t befall the next Sony/MGM horror remake on the docks, a refreshing take on “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” directed by “American Horror Story” superstar Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Of course, it was also written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa … 

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Moretz is an amazing actress and you haters out there who don’t think she is that’s your opion but if you aren’t going to say something nice then don’t even come on here.


I loved the remake of carrie. Is modern, relatable, and amazing like the original and the book. I don’t understand the dislike.


@DAMIEN @JEFF – You two look to be exactly the sort of people movies like this are made for. The only reason I can see a person preferring this version of Carrie is if they’re the sort that needs everything explicitly detailed to them. Watching it felt like the directors went out of there way to insult the intelligence of the viewer – the arm waving was a prime example of that.


While this remake was similar to the original version, it is much better than the original version. Chloe Grace Möretz was the reason I decided to even watch this movie in the first place, the reason she was chosen was to gain popularity for the film and she was brilliant. She made the film come to life. The prom destruction was weak in terms of what could have been done with FX. Same with some other scenes but a great remake other than that.


The only redeeming quality about this movie was Julianne Moore. Everything else about it was completely soulless and lifeless. I don't care how dated the original is, how anyone can say the remake is ANYWHERE NEAR as good as the 1976 version is beyond me.


I agree with EVERY word in this review. A treat to read it!


This article, just like a few i read before are just born from hate towards the movie, this isn´t a review, it´s just someone ranting about how they don´t like the movie and don´t even bother making good points about it. 2013 Carrie was much closer to the book than any other version and equally good to the 1976 verison.

Carrie fan

Who ever makes fun of carrie is dead!!!!

Carrie fan

This movie is cool
Like how chloe grace moretz play's in the movie, she is cool

jack johnson

I haven't seen the movie but I've read most of the book. Whats annoying about this movie though, is its supposed to be the story of a chubby girl who doesn't fit in, yet here she is an attractive blonde girl. I guess the Carrie from the book wasn't good enough for her own movie.

The Mother is supposed to be a huge woman as well, which would make her look more terrifying like the crazy christian lady from wife swap


i loved the movie! it was emotional and conveyed its message perfectly :)

Ron I


Damien, I can safely say you're a certified moron. It's ridiculous that you even have access to a computer.

Better luck next time, lol.


It is ridiculous what some people are saying about this film. How on earth people can say that the original is better than the remake is beyond me. The original is horrible. Everything about the remake is better. The actors were soooo much better in this movie. All of the characters displayed so much more emotion. The way in which Carrie used her powers was great. I read one of the comments saying that they didn't like the way she used her arms when using her powers. Well its a hell of a lot better than just glaring at stuff. The prom scene in the original is pathetic. Saying that Chloe Grace Moretz is too "cute" to play Carrie is ridiculous. The fact that she is a 'normal' looking girl proves the point that bullying can happen to anyone, not just the people who are different from the norm. People aren't seeing the movie for what it is. Anything who for some strange reason thinks that the original is better, just imagine for a minute that this is the first time this movie has been made. Don't compare it to the original. Maybe then you will like it more. Either way, the remake shits all over the original. It franctly happens to be my favourite movie. I've been having fun laughing at the negative comments about this movie. Still can't understand why people can like the original and not the remake when it is clearly a far better movie.


I agree with you completely! Also, what was up with Carrie using her arms? That wasn't scary. it looked hokey, same goes for the faces she kept pulling


Chloe Moretz is a c*nt. This movie sucks, burn every copy. Sissy Spacek is Carrie. End of!


This is an amazing and much informative post .Enjoyed the read.


Well not going to even read the review because I can tell you simply why a remake of Carrie doesn't work. If I wanted to see this film. Well simply put I'd just through the original in my blu-ray player and there's the remake. Its the same film. There is nothing different(Minus CGI). Even todays youths should still know Carrie. Its not like the films been pulled from the shelves. I just why they keep throwing remakes at us? Heres a thought think of something original. The movie goers like original storytelling. Not some remake that anybody with a DVD or Blu-Ray player can watch. Its $5 at Wal-Mart people. I'm similar in the mindset of making up my own mind about seeing a film and disregarding reviews. And me I actually know film structure. Been in the business a long time and some of the films that are on shelves at your favourite retailer I've been in or a part of. It was like EVIL DEAD. They butchered a truly great and original film just to do role reversal. You can't replace Ash. Sorry he was what made the film great. And most females either don't like EVIL DEAD or have no clue what it even is. So why do role reversal? They should have had Ash return. Anyway you can see by the Carrie trailer that everything is the same. From having her period, A psychotic mother to the infamous pigs blood at the prom. Its all the same. HollyWood needs to be more creative.


no matter how you slice it.. critics are a joke.

we don't care, i do what i please… whether or not you get paid to waste bandwidth or not.

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Jualianne Moore was awful.


I thought it was done extremely well. I thought it brought in into what is happening now about bullying. I think it was done well and was even more frighting than the original and I saw the original. Chloe did an amazing job playing the Carrie part with a different edge on it. I am sorry to hear and see the bad reviews on this remake. Again they did a GREAT job!


I disagree with almost all of these points. I love the original, but I loved this one as well. Let's face it. The original is not perfect. It is almost laughably dated. Why shouldn't it be joyless? It's more of a tragedy than a horror film, IMO. I thought Chloe did a great job. She did it differently than Sissy. Sissy was more pathetic, while Chloe played up a certain innocence. Also, I think the movie was too graphic for a PG-13. I would say it's a light R. Also, I thought it was obvious that stuff was cut out. Some transitions felt completely out of place. I will agree that it was a bit too similar to the '76.

Movie Patron

Hollywood puts these young "Actors?" out there and shoves them down our throat as "talent?" HA! I knew this film would fail. And to you P.R. people on this thread trying to post against others opinions. WE ARE THE ONES WHO SPEND THE MONEY!!! Shut up and pat your client on the head and say…."maybe next time".

B3 Fearless

The answer for why it bombed is simple. I'm sure many people felt like I did where I liked the original and felt like the first remake had happened not too long ago. I didn't realize the last remake had happened 10 years ago. I just remembered being a teen. The previews didn't make the film look like it would be better than the original or add any kind of interesting twist on the same old story. The film simply just did not look worth spending $10+ for.


Here's another reason: that screenshot of Moritz all blood-spattered and psychotic looks like it's from one of those freaky photo-shoots on America's Top Model. Sissy Spacek did it much better. C'mon, why are we even having this conversation?

Ginger Liu

You contradicted yourself. You said it's too like the original. And later you say that Chloe is too unlike the original Sissy. You're comparing it to the original, why? I can understand it if the two films are just a decade a part. But they almost 40 years apart. Two generations apart. I watched the original again over the weekend. It's still a classic but its also a film in the 1970's. things have changed since then you know? And if you read more about the directors and the decades they live in, you'd know that Brian worked in a time where the director called the shots. Now directors have to do what the money says. And your complete rubbishing language in your opening paragraphs are wrong. Have you actually seen a really dire movie before? I've seen plenty in the horror genre. Yes, I thought that Chloe didn't look shabby enough. I would kill to look that bad. But that aside, we are living in a totally different world to the 70's and that shows in the movies made.


You do realize that this film was heavily edited by Screen Gems, right?


People, Chloe Moretz, Julianne Moore and Kimberly Peirce ARE TALENTED and this article clearly states that opinion as well. The Playlist is starting a conversation about the handling of THIS ONE FILM – let's watch how we talk about these women, eh? I'm not comfortable with thes comments skewering actresses or judging the character they play or swear words they say while ACTING.

Alan B

"While watching, we were reminded of another horror remake from a couple of years ago, Craig Gillespie’s exemplary 2011 “Fright Night” redo."

The idea that anyone could call that milktoast remake "exemplary" is hilarious. What made it "exemplary"? Was it the color-corrected cinematography to the point of lifelessness? Was it the wasted supporting actors like Toni Collette? Was it Marti Noxon's typically clueless "misogynistic" dialogue that reads about 30 years old? Was it the complete charmlessness of the final act which is just one spectacle after the other with little let-up?


Nothing worse than trying to sell out and failing.


I think it's funny that you reference the "exemplary" Fright Night remake in an article about why Carrie flopped. Fright Night's entire gross is barely higher than Carrie made this past weekend.


Without poor movies like this, there would be nothing to showcase this new lovely starlit. The new Natalie Portman. PLEASE tell me they gave her a part in the New Star Wars reboot.


The only thing I disagree with is Chris' death. It was pretty damn brutal. And was completely satisfying moreso than any adaption has given us in rgeards to her death scene.


I'm pretty sure that by now, we are all wise enough to Hollywood to know that this type of release is guilty until proven inocent rather than the other way around. We will assume it is all the things you meticulously listed, until someone sees it and proves us otherwise. It's happened way too often for people to bite again. Hollywood STILL doesn't get it, and will take some more time apparently. It's not just for remakes, there was article after article about blockbusters and Lone Ranger and such months ago, just the same as this.


Moretz is a poor actress who gained fame by playing sweary teens in vulgar films and cheap remakes of famous horror films. She needs to go away.


Chloe moretz is just a fame and fashion obsessed "actress" she hasn't impressed me at all in anything shes done yet, playing a prostitute in equalizer and having done hick and working non stop shows her mother isn't looking after her best interest, trainwreck ahead.

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