We sent Carey O'Donnell and Eli Yudin, the guys behind the very funny @NotTildaSwinton Twitter parody account (and tireless chroniclers of Real Housewives of New Jersey and surrealist celebrity exploits), to a screening of the Carrie re-make and asked them to share all of their thoughts and emotions after watching the film. Carey's seen the original while Eli's a Carrie virgin -- find out if this affected their reactions, below.
1. Chloë Moretz Adds Nuance to the Famous Role
Carey: Despite my initial "OH, HELL," Chloë Moretz did a very admirable job taking such an iconic role and brought very different elements to Carrie's character. She was never supposed to mimic Sissy Spacek's now-legendary spin on Stephen King's tragic heroine -- no one could ever do that successfully. Under the direction of Kimberly Peirce, Moretz's Carrie is more in touch with reality, which, in many ways, makes her sadder and more sympathetic. Hearing her quietly ask the well-intentioned Tommy Ross, "Aren't you going [to prom] with Sue Snell?", with such confusion and vulnerability, will definitely stay with me for days. The most brutal scene, even more than the gore of the extremely cheesy prom scene, takes place in P.E. class during a pool volleyball game. Carrie accidentally strikes Sue Snell in the back of the head when she serves the ball; the kind Sue immediately laughs it off. Carrie laughs as well, visibly relieved to be sharing something with another person. But her momentary "in" is quickly axed by class monster Chris Hargensen, who shouts over to Carrie, "You eat shit." The other girls laugh. Carrie drops her head. It's terrible.
2. The Costumes/Makeup Were On Point
Eli: In terms of the most common concern/complaint/"joke" I've heard about the remake -- which is that Chloë Moretz is too pretty to ever play someone who would be so bullied -- I didn't have too much of a problem. She may be beautiful, but the homemade clothes that she wears, most of which include calf-length, earth-toned dresses or overalls that look lifted from a Build-A-Bear Workshop, do enough for me that I could suspend my disbelief. She's also much shorter and whoever was in charge of makeup dyed her hair a very bile-like color that definitely chips away at her classical features. And lastly, if you want to make Chloë Moretz look ugly, you're definitely making the right decision by casting whoever they did as Sue Snell. I don't know her name but assume it's something like Helena Elizabeth Zephyrbreeze. She looks like they found her in a stasis chamber somewhere underground.
3. Julianne Moore Is One of the Movie's High Points
Carey: Julianne Moore is on par with Piper Laurie's fanatical Margaret White and even surpasses her in terms of scariness. The real horror of the movie (like the book and the original) is the dynamic between Carrie and her mother. Our first glimpse of the twisted matriarch is in the very opening of the movie, as Moore gives birth to her daughter alone on her bed. She cries out to God, believing her labor is punishment for a sin she committed (premarital sex), and is convinced she is dying. When she first looks down at the infant between her legs, she views her as an immediate threat and raises a pair of scissors above the baby. However, Margaret spares her daughter after she looks into the baby's eyes, and immediately cradles her, giving us a perfect summary of their relationship. Moore captures this love/hate seesaw wonderfully: she hates Carrie for being the physical reminder of what she views was her most dire disobedience to God, but realizes that Carrie provides her with the only remaining trace of humanity left in her, a mother's unconditional love for her child.
Rather than Laurie's operatic Margaret, Moore's religious rants are hushed, coo-like, making for a more menacing contrast when she hits her daughter in the face with books, drags her into her "prayer closet", and digs her fingernails and sewing tools into her own flesh. She's a ghoul in every sense of the word, one that Peirce makes clear Carrie is so desperately trying not to become. As the movie completely falls apart into modern horror movie "ugh" at the end, Moore is its only saving grace.
4. Zealotry Can Be Scarier Than Zombies
Eli: Julianne Moore-as-Margaret White reminds us that for a truly scary character, you don't need a zombie outbreak or a revenge plot, you just need some ol' fashioned zealotry. Anybody who is going to stab a baby with a pair of scissors for Jesus needs some serious re-evaluation of their choices. Unless you're Abraham and you're trying to sacrifice your son, in which case God is just seeing if you've got his back.
5. The Prom Scene Kind of Sucked
Carey: THE PROM SCENE. What? Why? How? WHAT? WHY? HOW? The movie had me on board until the pig's blood was dumped. From the very beginning of the original, De Palma builds the story in such a way that when the carnage at the prom finally does happen, it's cathartic and necessary. Carrie HAD to kill everyone. The insanity she reaches is absolutely understandable, and Spacek's wide-eyed catatonia as her Carrie wrecks merciless revenge with her telekinesis was less about the actual superpowers, and more about the removal of her humanity after she had been dehumanized over and over again by her classmates and mother.
In the re-make, the prom scene starts out decently (aside from the retro electro-rock ballads one would hear at a frat house day party) and Moretz does a good job capturing Carrie's wonder over prom night, and gradual ease as Tommy Ross and his friends make her feel welcome. Unlike the original, however, the entire "nice part" of the prom felt like a time filler. No matter how many times I've watched the original, a part of me forgets the coming doom. The original prom scene goes on for what seems like an eternity, Carrie and Tommy spinning in circles on the dance floor with the twinkling lights overhead, sharing stilted, awkward, teenage dialogue. So when the pig's blood crashes the party, it seems that much crueler and more shocking in comparison to the sweet moments beforehand.
And, when the 2013 version does get to the pig blood scene, Carrie's violent reaction felt off to me. The killings were too focused and specific, and it made it almost laughable and slasher-filmy. The equalizing destruction in the original was much more profound and disturbing. Carrie didn't spare anyone. Even if they didn't laugh at her, they still were killed. The remake's prom horror made it a completely different (and infinitely worse) movie than the previous hour, letting the CGI (which looked like shit) carry the weight.
6. And What's Up With the Soundtrack?
Eli: Back to Carey's mention of the music: some of the music choices in the movie are positively jolting. I'll explain how out of place they are by saying that the Vampire Weekend playing during the "getting ready for prom" scene is the LEAST incongruous. The biggest and most grievous one to me, however, is definitely the song that cuts in over the shot of Carrie's grave at the end of the movie. We see the grave, with "Carrie White Burns In Hell" graffitied on it, and, just when you think the movie's over, some Black Keys-esque uptempo blues rock cuts in and then the grave splits up into the screen like we're watching Final Destination: Carrie.
7. Carrie's Telekinetic Gestures Were Kind of Weird
Carey: It's typically a good thing to try something fresh, but it was downright silly watching Carrie move her hands and arms around when she used the telekinesis. It was like watching "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in Fantasia, only Fantasia is actually kind of scary. This was not. No one wants to see Chloë Moretz levitating around the gymnasium while a bunch of stock teenagers with nondescript smartphones get trampled and die in a fake fire below her. Also, when she levitated Judy Greer? NO. No. I was trying to imagine Judy Greer getting yanked up by a harness in front of a green screen. Do that right now. Close your eyes and imagine Judy Greer swinging around a soundstage on a harness. I would have much rather the prom scene didn't actually happen at all and the movie ended with Judy Greer taking Carrie shopping at Kohl's.
8. The Pig's Blood Shots Were Excessive...
Eli: When the pig's blood is dumped, we're treated to about 20 shots of it dumping, from different angles, repeated over and over, a decision that hovers somewhere between an interesting artistic choice and a Double Dare homage. Also, the bucket falling and killing Tommy, which apparently does happen in both movies, didn't look lethal at all to me. I half expected there to be a scene afterwards where Tommy wakes up, rubs his head covered in rubble, and says, "Now that was one hell of a dream!"
9. But At Least They Cast Actual Young People As Teenagers
Carey: The only thing this version does better than the original is actually having teenagers and early-twentysomethings play teenagers. Portia Doubleday as Chris, with her dyed-black hair, and tanning salon skin, looks hard and fearsome, and does an OK job bringing the sociopathic character to life. Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell was generally snooze-worthy. The stunning British actress/model tried her best to add nuance, and at moments shined, but overall, 2013's Sue would have probably been a role for a better equipped actor. Ansel Elgort (Ed. note: good for you for keeping that name) was sweet and handsome as Tommy, and I probably would have voted for him to be prom king, too.
10. The Takeaway? Remakes Usually Suck But This One Was Pretty Okay
Carey: Overall, the entire movie was mostly unnecessary, but as far as remakes go, this was top tier. The story is very relevant, especially with the current bullying epidemic (especially bullying online and across social media). Usually, characters in movies taking videos on their phones -- or doing any type of "vlogging" -- makes me want to pull my hair out. However, watching Chris film Carrie on her phone, who's curled in a fetal position on the floor of the locker room showers as she panics over her first period, while the other girls jeer and chant the infamous "PLUG IT UP", seemed all-too real. High school still sucks. Teenagers are still mean. Bullied kids still hurt themselves and others. Carrie remains tragic and relatable.