FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES, the story of Carrie White has been the definitive pop cultural parable of menstruation as monstrosity. Though ostensibly a supernatural revenge fantasy, the climax of Carrie—in Stephen King's novel, and especially in Brian De Palma's flawless 1976 film adaptation—depends upon its protagonist's total acquiescence to the abomination of herself, an act that explicitly marries the onset of female sexuality and the threat of human horror. Unsurprisingly, the long list of names that have shepherded Carrie's familiar story over the years—through a book, a film, a made-for-TV movie, and even a Broadway musical—is an unequivocal sausage fest: after the blood come the boys. So even if there's no earthly reason to fuck with the perfection of De Palma's original film, the notion of a female director (especially one like Kimberly Peirce, who gracefully helmed the difficult terrain of Boys Don't Cry) finally controlling the distinctly feminine plight of poor Carrie White seemed, at least, like an interesting avenue toward the inevitable.
At first blush, the architects of this "re-imagining" appear to have done a few other things right: they landed the generally capable (if nasally overzealous) Chloë Grace Moretz to play Sissy Spacek playing Carrie White, and even roped in Julianne Moore to approximate the high camp spectacular of Piper Laurie's Margaret White. Neither actress manages to add nuance or otherwise improve upon the feral hysteria of the original's performances, of course—something no reasonable person could ever expect them to do. Which ultimately leads us to the trouble with this Carrie: though it's customary to try to judge these sorts of exercises based on their own merits, Peirce's Carrie is such a half-assed, cynical rejiggering of De Palma's film that it scarcely justifies the effort.
Besides its uniformly milquetoast cinematography, editing, and acting, I count exactly four differences between this year's Carrie and its incomparably superior predecessor: (1) Carrie's shower scene is caught on a smart phone and uploaded to YouTube because CYBERBULLYING, (2) a completely dead-end plot twist about a secondary character that's kind of a spoiler (but not even, really?), (3) telekinesis makes Carrie's nostrils flare with orgasmic euphoria because Chloë Grace Moretz can't control those fucking things and, (4) the blood looks like shit. (This final point may seem fairly inconsequential, but seriously: how are you going to remake Carrie and LET THE BLOOD LOOK LIKE SHIT?) Perhaps most disappointingly, Peirce's Carrie fails to imbue the narrative with any more insight into the distinctly feminine fate of Carrie White than its progenitors—content to merely redecorate the patriarchal house built by De Palma in decidedly drabber colors. Once again, poor Carrie White deserves better.