FEATURE: Shocktober - Carrie (2013)

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here. Minor spoilers here.




Being a teenage girl can really, really suck. It's something that films tend to focus on, usually in its depiction of the way in which girls can make the lives of their friends or enemies as worse as they possibly can. It tends to manifest itself in comedies more than anything else like Mean Girls or Heathers (two high points of the genre, it has to be said). However, the horror genre is also pretty well-suited to exploring the minefield that is female adolescence. Brian de Palma's original adaptation of Carrie (which I won't be comparing this one to, as difficult as that may be) is a brilliant example; so too is The Craft, a film I maintain is one of the best to ever capture just how horrible girls can be to their friends, with or without magic.

Kimberley Peirce's Carrie is the second Stephen Kind adaptation in my watch after yesterday's Misery. Carrie is a book which happens to have had an enormous effect on me when I first read it as a teenage girl who really wasn't enjoying her high school experience. Part of the reason that Carrie stuck with me is because of the bodily horror element because, as everyone who has gone through it knows, adolescence is weird. I mean, really weird. And if you're a girl, the explanations you get about what's happening range from the purely biological to the pretty damn vague. Carrie's experience of getting her period without knowing what it was may seem extreme, but it's an extension of bodily fears that we all go through.

It's the physical element, the terror of the functions of the female body, that the film gets very right. The opening scene in which Julianne Moore's Margaret gives birth to Carrie whilst believing she is dying is particularly chilling. It carefully and quickly establishes Margaret's fanaticism as well as the trouble she will have accepting Carrie when she grows up. She views her as a test, a way of proving her faith to God. When your mother is already viewing you as a burden, it's probably not going to end well. The religious extremism side of things is something that creeps into King fairly often, though he also explores stories in which strong faith can be a positive and rewarding experience. Here, it most definitely isn't.

The ever-dependable and awesome Julianne Moore is excellent here as Margaret, pulling just short of cartoonish, but making a suitably awe-inspiring villain. Chloe Moretz does well opposite her, catching the awkward and gawky vulnerability that characterises Carrie, but doesn't do so well post-prom when Carrie embraces her powers. Her arc across the film is largely well observed, even if the mastering of her powers happens far too quickly. The other characters though barely register beyond their assigned teenage stereotypes. As the other villain of the piece, Chris Harginson, Portia Doubleday is purely a high school bitch whilst Ansel Elgort makes for a good, if unremarkable heroic jock figure as Tommy Ross. Gabriella Wilde fairs a bit better as the more sympathetic Sue Snell, but there's barely a character to work with.

The main problem with the film is that it just doesn't go far enough, nor does it build well to the infamous climax. Carrie's powers are understood too quickly and there's barely any atmosphere to latch on to. It's a shame, because there are some interesting ideas at play, particularly updating it to a modern setting that includes Youtube and smartphones. But again, it falls short of using that element to its full potential. Cyber-bullying is a massive issue in schools and it could have been used to add another level of horror to Carrie's torment. Instead, it's picked up and dropped when the plot requires it.

There are a few shining moments in this adaptation, mainly involving Julianne Moore and any scene she shares with Moretz, but there's nothing especially involving here. Just read the book again instead.

- Becky

You can check out the full list of Shocktober reviews so far here.

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FEATURE: Shocktober - Misery