Brian De Palma's 1976 horror classic "Carrie," which starred Sissy Spacek as a mistreated high school girl who uses her supernatural powers to exact fiery vengeance, may look a little dated and campy in hindsight. Its story, however, adapted from Stephen King's 1974 novel, is as fresh as ever. Pressing such hot-button topics as mean girls, bullying and school shootings, "Carrie" feels not just modern but almost prescient.
The time might seem right for a revisit, and female director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") seems like the right choice. So does Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie; she's an intriguing young actress with a history of playing violent misfits in "Let Me In," "Dark Shadows" and the "Kick-Ass" franchise. It's also hard to think of a better pick than Julianne Moore (replacing Piper Laurie) as Carrie's morbidly religious and abusive mother. All three promise great things for a new, fresh approach to "Carrie."
Instead, "Carrie" completely squanders its potential. For the most part, the new movie merely imitates the old one, sometimes shot for shot and word for word. It makes superficial updates -- modern hair, modern clothes, a viral video of Carrie being humiliated in the gymnasium shower -- without adding any original spin or thematic embellishment. And aside from Judy Greer as Carrie's well-meaning gym teacher, the movie's supporting cast is unmemorable. Portia Doubleday and Alex Russell are no replacements for Nancy Allen and John Travolta as Carrie's main tormentors.
With nothing new to offer, "Carrie" is reduced to attempting the impossible: repeating De Palma's long, tense buildup to Carrie's prom, one of the most stylishly executed horror-film sequences in history. Peirce doesn't dare rip off De Palma's famous split screen -- no director would -- so the disappointment is inevitable.
Peirce has already made a better version of this story anyway, her phenomenal 1999 film "Boys Don't Cry," about a small-town transgender girl who learns just how far a herd mentality can go. It's far more effective, and far more horrifying, than "Carrie."
PLOT A remake of the 1976 horror classic about a bullied girl who gets her revenge.
BOTTOM LINE No improvement over Brian De Palma's stylish original, merely a surface update.