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CARRIE (2013)

By Elias Savada | October 24, 2013

Baking Instructions for “Carrie,” 2013 version:

Pre-heat oven for 75 minutes to 212 degrees. Enough to make your red blood boil.

Take the first Stephen King book ever published and the first adapted to film or television (1976–back before most of you reading this were born, I suspect) and spend a modest amount ($30 million) updating the screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with an assist from Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa.

Discard beloved memories of spellbinding direction by horror director Brian DePalma and Oscar-nominated performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Add watered-down thrills that mimic other horror-themed entries in today’s generic genre cookbook.

Add in a spicy dash of “Kick-A*s” with Chlöe Grace Moretz and, for the older demographic, Julianne Moore, offering a bible-thumping dollop of mom’s rotten apple pie.

Stir broadly, sprinkle in soundtrack featuring tunes performed by Vampire Weekend, The Civil Wars, Rogue Wave, The Naked and the Famous. Batter should be suitable for younger tastes.

The recipe in today’s reimagining of Carrie White, her psycho-religious mom, Margaret, and the misguided school chums who end up the worse for wear at their high school prom, calls for the same servings of thrills and shrills, making the new film a serviceable approach to the King classic, updated for today’s social media savvy crowd.

“Carrie” supernaturally follows the troubled life of a young, socially-misfit teenager who becomes the brunt of an ever-escalated school joke. It starts when she freaks out at the sight of blood—her first period— which coincides with her discovery that she’s got some fairly amusing telekinetic powers. The locker room chanting (“Plug It Up”) in this sequence mimics the vengeful wedding feast episode (“Gooble, gobble, one of us”) from Tod Browning’s horror masterpiece “Freaks” (1932), albeit director Peirce one ups the original “Carrie” with the use of a smartphone to capture and extend the embarrassment of its central character.

Bible-obsessed mom’s not terribly sympathetic. Carrie’s swim coach, Miss Dejardin (Judy Greer), tries to referee a middle ground, although über-bitch classmate Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) goes well out of her way to plot the poor girl’s demise with a prom prank that sends Carrie into a raging fit that brings down Eden High and most of the surrounding neighborhood. There’s some remorse, in the guise of Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), but that’s brushed aside as a too little, too late moment as the film reaches it’s bloody climax.

Hart Bochner, the sniveling coke-snorting office mate Harry Ellis in the original “Die Hard” film has an uncredited cameo as Mr. Hargensen, and his character is just as dislikable now as he was back them. And I mean that in a good way.

The choice of Kimberly Peirce to direct is interesting. Despite her ground-breaking feature debut with “Boys Don’t Cry” back in 1999, she segued to “Stop-Loss” five years ago, and now “Carrie” is just her third feature. She professed that the book “was ahead of its time, universal and so good that forty years later there is enough space culturally for both movies to exist.”

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that you can continually spin gold out of the same source material. And let’s not forget (although MGM/United Artists would have preferred it that way) the misconstrued 1999 spin-off “The Rage: Carrie 2.” Or the 2-hour-plus television movie starring Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson, one I missed when telecast back in 2002.

This is the first feature screenplay by playwright, screenwriter and comic book artist Roberto Arguirre-Sacasa, a staff writer of the Emmy-nominated series “Big Love” and a producer-writer on “Glee,” but he’s got two other re-treads in the making. His “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” out next year behind filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (feature debut), and big-name producers Jason Blum and Ryan Murphy, is a new look at another 1976 thriller of the same title. He’s also attached to a future remake (the second) of “Little Shop of Horrors,” rumored back in 2012 to be in development by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marc Platt.

Alas, I need to finish the cooking instructions now…

Place in oven and bake for remaining 25 minutes of bloody havoc. Toss out any consideration of Oscar nominations, although Moore does a damn good job playing the miserable mom. The original gotcha hot ending of 1976 has cooled for a sour after-taste. It will not be a frightful as the original 1970s dessert. It will crumble.

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