The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Anyone who thinks Carrie is just another horror remake will be in for a rude awakening. Or, should I say, a pleasant surprise? Yes, this is the second adaptation of Stephen King's book, the first being Brian DePalma's 1976 horror classic. Although that film exists, this one stands on its own as a solid fright flick. So much so that, from this point on, I'm not even going to reference DePalma's version. The 2013 Carrie, directed by Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry), is uniquely special.

Chloe Grace Moretz plays Carrie White, a shy, outcast teenage girl living with a crazy-religious mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), who shelters her too much. Carrie knows little of the “sinful” world, as evidenced early on when she gets her first period in the school locker room and thinks she's bleeding to death. The other girls, led by queen bitch Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), mockingly throw tampons at her. Another of them, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), feels guilty about it and subsequently convinces her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom as a way of atonement. After all, she argues, what girl wouldn't want to get all dolled up and go on a big date? Carrie is suspicious of Tommy's motives, but the school gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer), intervenes to make sure the girl is not being fooled. What the teacher doesn't know is that Chris has a plan to turn a dream evening into a nightmare for Carrie. And what nobody knows is that Carrie has been secretly developing the telekinetic powers she's recently taken note of.

A big reason why Carrie works is because it has a female director who tells the story from a distinctly female point of view. Pierce imbues the film with sisterly compassion and sensitivity for its main character. No male director could handle certain scenes in the film with the pure understanding that she does. During the shower scene, you feel Carrie's utter terror at her abrupt bleeding. Most movies would play a sequence like this simply to make you hate the bullies; this one makes your heart break for Carrie – and then it makes you hate the bullies for causing this poor girl to feel that way. The same is true for the buildup to the prom. (You all know what happens, right?) Because Pierce has done such a phenomenal job conveying what making herself pretty and opening up to a social experience means to Carrie, there's almost unbearable tension as her ultimate humiliation draws near. When it comes, the impact is nearly as devastating for the audience as it is for the character. While there are shocks and violence in the film, it is, at heart, a very human story about a teen girl searching for normalcy and acceptance. Pierce gives her movie that grounding, so that all the repercussions mean something.

What a leading lady she has in Chloe Grace Moretz. The young actress nails it all: the vulnerability, the insecurity, the confusion over what Carrie's going through, and, eventually, the rage. Moretz gives an exceptionally strong performance. So do the supporting players. Many times, the “other kids” in a horror movie are either generic or one-dimensional. Not here. Doubleday, Wilde, and Elgort all invest their characters with fully-formed personality traits, good and/or bad. Once more, the story's events have more impact due to the groundedness of the performances. Julianne Moore, meanwhile, handles a potentially difficult role with precision, recognizing that Margaret is already out there and taking care not to overdo it. Perhaps the MVP is Judy Greer, who perfectly portrays Carrie's occasionally misguided protector. Every scene she's in pops to life, as we watch this well-meaning woman unknowingly encourage disaster.

If there's a nitpick to be made with Carrie, it's that I wanted a little more of some things, most notably stuff at the beginning. In an effort to keep a tight pace, there are times the film seems to rush through something when it should maybe hold on a little longer. Specifically, the early scenes between Carrie and her mom could have hinted more at the origins of the problem, or conveyed the pervasiveness of it more fully. Also, the convenience of modern CGI has allowed for bigger payoffs in the final act. A couple moments border on being just a tad overwrought.

Regardless, Kimberly Pierce has made a very humane, yet still disturbing, horror film, atmospherically photographed by Steve Yedlin (Looper). And Chloe Grace Moretz proves again why she's one of our most valuable young actors. In an era where most horror movies are primarily about the scares, Carrie proves that when you care about the characters, the overall experience is much more unnerving.

( out of four)

Carrie is rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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