Note: This review will not take into consideration the original movie. The review will take the perspective of someone who hasn’t seen the original and will assess the remake on its own merits.
Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a very singular tragic character. From Hamlet to Walter White, Achilles to Gatsby, tragic characters throughout the centuries have been brought to their knees by their own flaws. Their demise a lesson to us all. This is not the case with Carrie. Instead she is a victim of the weaknesses of the people around her, namely the bullies and their compatriots. Carrie (up until her denouement) is a rather passive character subject to the plots and schemes of her classmates. Unlike most other tragic characters Carrie is also female, and in the world of Hollywood, this is a tragic flaw in of itself. Carrie is symptomatic of the deep rooted sexism embedded in hollywood filmmaking. It is hard to imagine a male version of Carrie being quite so doe-eyed and ineffectual.
The film, read as a simple tragic narrative, is a pretty monotonous affair. Filled with overacting, cartoonish characters, and rampant melodrama, it never scares or emotionally engages. Carrie is however not set in our own reality. Instead it is set in the revenge fantasy of a severely trodden upon teenage girl. Everything would seem to point towards such a reading. Anyone who’s been to a real school would know that a quite girl like Carrie would go mostly unnoticed through school life. But throughout the narrative everything revolves around Carrie. Chris Hargenson (Portia Doubleday) a highly popular girl in the school, seems inexplicably hell bent on causing Carrie grief at any cost. The most popular couple in school spend the majority of the film trying to help her. In reality Carrie would be invisible to these characters, her problems not even a blip on their radar. Her tormentors simply wouldn’t care enough about Carrie to go to the lengths that they do. In her fantasy though Carrie sees enemies on all sides. Carrie’s classmates and mother are not humans with real motivations, they serve no other purpose than to make Carries life a misery. Carrie wants to see herself as the ultimate victim, only to make her revenge more sweet.
As with any revenge fantasy, Carrie picks up skills that will allow her to overpower her tormentors in her moment of glory. Here she acquires the power of telepathy, a power that she originally she uses in a rather innocent manner. As she is pushed further and further however her powers become stronger and her use of them becomes more and more violent. This all culminates in the money shot of any revenge fantasy (and the film), the revenge itself. After what is generally a pretty uninteresting cliche-ridden bullying narrative, these final scenes are something of a welcome shot in the arm. Carrie’s rampage is gratuitous and borderline ridiculous. Carrie punishes all who have wronged her with ruthless aggression. Here ChloeGrace Moretz plays crazy to the extreme, gesturing like a puppet on a string, holding the wide-eyed “crazy” stare for the whole sequence. Her performance is almost parody. Added to all of this, in the wake of all the death and destruction she has caused, there are still those who feel nothing but pity for Carrie. It’s a situation so ridiculous and over-the-top, it could only exist within the mind of an angst ridden teenager.
It is possible that all of this is not the case. It may be that Carrie was meant to be a straight tragedy, meant to teach us about the wrongs of bullying (although what exactly we’re supposed to take away from it is unclear). It is possible, ney, likely that the awful acting, paper thin characters, and ridiculous plotting is simply a result of shoddy filmmaking. But it is surely preferable to watch the film believing that there there is something just a little deeper to what is an otherwise completely forgettable film.