Blu-ray Review: Carrie (2013)

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The Kimberly Pierce-directed Carrie that hit theaters in October, 2013 wasn’t tremendously well-received on either a critical or commercial level. Perhaps the readily available (and still quite effective) Brian De Palma original (released in 1976) remains popular enough that even today’s youth stayed away. For an entire generation, Sissy Spacek will always be Carrie White (the supporting cast, which included John Travolta, Amy Irving, and Nancy Allen, was nothing to sneeze at either). But enough about the original filmed adaptation of Stephen King’s novel (sequalized in 1999 with The Rage: Carrie 2 and first remade as a TV movie in 2002). While the new version isn’t revelatory, it stands on its own as a decent psychological horror film. It’s available to own on Blu-ray January 14, 2014.

Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a socially awkward high school student, burdened by supernatural abilities she doesn’t understand. Her mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), is a religious fanatic who believes her daughter is the spawn of Satan. As much as she despises Carrie’s very existence, she’s terribly overprotective of her. She’s also done a poor job of acquainting her with the basic functions of the post-pubescent female body. The unfortunate timing of Carrie’s first menstrual period makes her a target of ridicule among the student body. One particularly vicious student, Chris (Portia Doubleday), even uploads a video of Carrie’s locker room misfortune. Carrie’s telekinetic abilities (a gift or a curse, depending on how they’re used) begin to blossom at an accelerated rate.

Carrie Judy Greer.jpgPartly of her own recognizance and partly due to gym teacher Miss Desjardin’s (Judy Greer) scolding, another student is quite regretful of contributing to Carrie’s embarrassment. Sue (Gabriella Wilde) goes so far as to offer Carrie a misguided olive branch. She insists that her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) take the outcast to the upcoming school prom. Sue believes it will be beneficial for Carrie’s self-esteem, but it’s also a way for her to punish herself. Chris was banned from prom by Miss Desjardin (leading her to formulate decidedly nefarious plans of her own), and Sue decides to self-impose the same restriction. Anyone who has seen the original, or even the trailer for this version, knows that things don’t go according to plan with Billy and Carrie.

Carrie gabriella wilde.jpgIt’s important to recognize that director Pierce doesn’t treat the material as straight horror. The film, for the most part, has neither the “scare” moments nor the general atmosphere associated with the genre. Instead, the interesting decision was made to approach the story as one of slow-building psychological torment. Between Carrie’s treatment at home (her mother regularly locks her into a prayer closet) and her ostracization at school, it’s entirely believable that she would eventually lose all sense of control. Though Moretz is far too conventionally attractive for the role, she transitions from the sympathetic Carrie to the fearsome Carrie with consummate skill. Moore is effectively demented as the mother. While Greer has some nice moments as the fair-minded P.E. teacher, the rest of the supporting cast fails to make a huge impression.
 
Carrie Cloe Grace Moretz.jpgMGM and 20th Century Fox’s Blu-ray presentation of Carrie is everything one expects of a modern production. Steve Yedlin’s digital cinematography looks razor sharp for the most part, offering up fine detail even during the darker stretches. The only strange effect is an overly aggressive blue tint that leaves some of the actors looking oxygen-deprived at times (I’m guessing this had to have been a conscious decision made in the color timing). The commonplace, suburban settings don’t offer much eye candy, but the generic scenery looks every bit as good as it should.

Carrie Julianne Moore.jpgMuch showier is the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which makes excellent use of all channels. The LFE channel, in particular, pumps out plenty of deeply humming bass during the any scene involving Carrie’s telekinesis. The prom climax is the go-to segment for the busiest, most intricately-mixed audio bonanza of the film. You’ll definitely want to crank this one up for maximum effect.

There are some solid supplements on the Blu-ray, not the least of which being ten minutes of deleted scenes that contain some surprisingly worthwhile tidbits (with optional Kimberly Pierce commentary). A great flashback to Carrie’s youth, involving a spontaneous hailstorm, probably should’ve been retained. There’s also an informative 20-minute “Creating Carrie” featurette and a more promotional-oriented segment about telekinesis. Pierce contributes an articulate, well-prepared feature commentary. There is a choice between watching the theatrical cut and a version including an alternate ending. “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” is a great Candid Camera-style bit. The combo pack also includes a standard DVD and UltraViolet digital copy.

As a story of teen bullying and fanatically overprotective parenting, Stephen King’s original story remains relevant to this day. The new Carrie has been updated to include social media (the video of Carrie’s locker room mishap), but if anything this element could’ve been exploited even further than it is. Those who know and love the original film may find this remake unnecessary, but on its own terms the film is well made.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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