I enjoy a good remake. I know that I'm in the minority with this opinion, but I think that's only because most people are so offended by someone else having a hand in their beloved property that they're bound to hate the remake no matter what. In trying to describe what I think makes a great remake, it's easier to explain what I think makes a bad remake. Worthless remakes consist of doing absolutely nothing new, making a word-for-word picture-for-picture replica of something that already exists. Remakes along those lines – I'm talking to you, 1998 Gus Van Sant version of 'Psycho' – are an utter waste of time. Good remakes do the opposite.
Get ready for my controversial opinions.
I enjoy a remake that takes an old film and gives it modern relevance that will speak to new, young viewers who probably know nothing of the original. Example: 2011's 'The Thing' (yes, 'The Thing' was technically a prequel, but it easily could be deemed a remake because it follows an identical structure from the 1982 'Thing'). The youngsters fueling the wretched 'Paranormal Activity' franchise are probably oblivious to John Carpenter's 'The Thing.' The remake/prequel worked because it told the same horror story, but was filmed and edited in a manner that would appeal to these naive audiences in a way that the '82 classic never will.
Another example happens to feature the new Carrie, Chloë Grace Moretz. 2008's Swedish vampire flick 'Let the Right One In' is the anti-'Twilight.' It tells the story of a human boy and a vampire girl who fall for one another. Unlike 'Twilight,' I recommend it. 'Let the Right One In' steers clear of love triangles and basic soap opera content. Instead, it's realistic – well, as realistic as a vampire movie can be. My only complaint is that it focuses too much of its long runtime on mourning tertiary characters while we should be connecting more with our two leads. As fantastic as it is, stubborn American audiences barely fuel worthy foreign language films. I was ecstatic with 'Cloverfield' director Matt Reeve's American adaptation titled 'Let Me In.' He tightened up the story by removing the mourning subplot, added stronger dynamics to the human/vampire relationship, gave it some '80s American flare and turned it into a film that could please all R-rated English-speaking movie-loving audiences.
Which finally leads me to the review at hand - last year's remake of Stephen King's novel, 'Carrie.' Brian De Palma already made 'Carrie' into a classic horror flick in 1976, one that cannot be trumped by a remake – and I believe that the director of the remake, Kimberly Peirce, knew that she could never replace the old. She hasn't set out to make a better adaptation of King's novel than De Palma. I feel that her goal was to modernize 'Carrie,' give it contemporary social relevance, tell the story in a way that would appeal to young new audiences and introduce them to an awesome piece of property that they're probably unaware of. In that way, her remake succeeds.
Although Peirce says that she didn't want to shoot a picture-for-picture remake of De Palma's version, her re-telling isn't all that far off from the original. The story begins with Carrie's mother Margaret (Julianne Moore), a nutjob zealot marching to the beat of her own made-up extreme form of fanatical Christianity, giving birth to Carrie. Resulting from the product of sexual "sin," Margaret feels an evil nature in Carrie and is determined to protect her from the soul-staining sins of the world. Over the years, Carrie is made a social misfit through her motherly-inflicted sheltered naivete. The film's rising action begin with Carrie experiencing her first period – something that she is oblivious to – in her high school's shower after PE. This is the catalytic moment for the film. Everything that happens is a direct result of what follows. The onlooking girls ridicule Carrie for her panicked reaction, which not only makes way for the story that follows, but establishes the ever-present moral theme that's emphasized much more in the remake than in De Palma's 'Carrie' – bullying.
The social relevance of bullying has never been as prominent as it is now. 'Carrie' sheds an honest, uncomfortable light on this topic, one that I can see making an impact on teenage minds. I also believe that the flipside of this hurtful action is given more emphasis in the remake than it is in 1976 'Carrie.' Three characters function as Carrie's guardian angels. As bullies plot against her, these three try to make Carrie feel accepted. The moments with them are great, showing the amazing impact of positivity, kindness, and friendship. I didn't expect it from 'Carrie,' but a few scenes involving Carrie and these characters are extremely tender and sweet. Again, I think that young audiences can take something away from this. And, on top of that, these kind moments also make the events of 'Carrie''s iconic prom scene even more brutal. In case there are readers who don't know how it ends, I'll keep it spoiler-free.
Is the 'Carrie' remake better than the original? No. But is it a worthy remake for the youth of today who don't know the original? Absolutely. 2013's 'Carrie' will never be my 'Carrie,' but it will definitely be the 'Carrie' of a new generation of horror moviegoers.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
MGM and Fox have given 'Carrie' a two-disc release that includes a Region A BD-50 of the film, a DVD and a code for the redemption of an Ultraviolet copy. It's worth noting that the Blu-ray contains an alternate cut of the theatrical release, the sole difference being a nightmarish alternate ending. This cut is not available on DVD; the UV code only unlocks the theatrical cut. Both discs are housed in a blue Elite keepcase that slides vertically into a cardboard slipcase with a great thick lenticular image glued to the front. Prior to arriving at the main menu, there's a forced Fox vanity reel followed by skippable trailers for the upcoming 'Robocop' reboot and 'Paranoia.' To bounce between the theatrical cut and the "theatrical cut with alternate ending," head to the discs settings menu.
'Carrie' has been given a fantastic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding that presents the film in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Shot with digital cameras, 'Carrie' contains the flawlessly crisp image of digital cinema, yet still carries many scenes with a strong filmic presence. I don't know how they gave it that slightly grainy celluloid feel, but it gives this disc the best of both worlds.
The film begins with titles so wildly red that they glow. Knowing the movie's iconic prom scene, I couldn't help but feel that the vibrant nature of the red lettering was meant to immediately make me think of what's to come. The palette inside of Carrie's home is plain and lifeless, which causes the bright primary colors of the outside world to pop in contrast. Many objects and costumes – bleachers, lockers, clothing and swimsuits – within the school setting are more colorful than reality. Dark settings never feature all-consuming black levels because most dark and nighttime settings are softly lit. Stark shadows are rarely seen – but this doesn't mean that black levels are weak. Au contraire, they're bold and rich, but mostly function in the background.
Fine details are to be seen throughout the entire picture – and it truly enhances the experience. How so? When we first meet Carrie, she and her mother have frowsy hair. Margaret's is stringy and damaged, Carrie's is an unkempt mess. The ability to see details in such fine quality make these characteristics jump out. And as the film progresses and Carrie gets more comfortable blending into society, her hair noticeably softens. Stuck in the past, Margaret drives an older car, but the Blu-ray's rich details show that it's immaculate. You can feel the fuzzy interior upholstery of her perfectly clean car, which is obviously symbolic of how clean she's trying to keep Carrie as she matures.
The film is completely free of aliasing, banding, or noise. My only complaint comes from a brief shot of Margaret working behind a sewing machine. The machine's light washes out all details in her face. Aside from that, the video quality in 'Carrie' shines.
'Carrie' features a strong 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. Great effort was put into strongly mixing environments – and not only when scenes call for it. When walking down hallways in school, you'll hear lockers randomly opening and closing all around the room and whispers of rude chatter bouncing around the channels while passing bullies. As Carrie goes through her superhero power training, the warped and rumbling effects of telekinetic energy flow from each speaker in waves. Often times, it's accompanied by strong bass and effective LFE. One scene shows Carrie studying her powers from books while sitting on her bed. As she does so, the sounds of a few dogs barking in her neighborhood outside can be heard. As the head bully, Chris, and her boyfriend prepare for prom by visiting a local farm, the nature sounds are dynamically mixed. You'll hear crickets chirping from the majority of the speakers, along with pigs snorting and walking in the mud in other parts. Rear speakers are just as active as the surrounds.
The vocal tracks is perfectly clear and intelligible. No dialogue is lost – expect for when it's meant to be (whispering passers by, Carrie's un-confident public voice, etc.). The film's score is also well mixed. It contains unexpected subwoofer bumps that accentuate the film's tension. Combined with the LFE effects, the subwoofer is definitely put to use.
I understand how painful it can be to see one of your favorite films remade, but it's worth noting that if you love something very much, no matter how good the remake is, it will never compare to the real thing. For those who know Brian De Palma's 'Carrie,' Kimberly Peirce's 'Carrie' will never live up to it – but that doesn't mean that it can't be an equal in the eyes of those who are either too young or cinematically inexperienced to know De Palma's. For them, there's no reason why this 'Carrie' can't be as iconic as De Palma's is to us. It carries a heightened social relevance, a modern style, and a cast that young audiences can connect with. The Blu-ray features fantastic video and audio qualities, as well as a nice amount of special features, including a director commentary, deleted/alternate scenes and an option to watch the film with a new alternate ending – which I actually prefer over the theatrical ending. What more can you ask for from a little horror movie?