Part affecting teen angst drama, part fantastical revenge horror, Carrie mixes the genres with aplomb and then adds a layer of mean-streaked sentiment.
As a starting point, director Kimberly Peirce (Stop-Loss, Boys Don’t Cry) ensures Carrie (Chloe Moretz) comes to symbolise just how cruel bullying can be. It is the power in which this in conveyed by an intimately shot early sequence (involving a rather nasty group of teenage girls and some feminine hygiene products) which delivers the necessary sympathy towards Carrie that ultimately carries (sorry) the rest of the film.
Attackers’ explicit expressions of disgust, hatred, frenzy; the pain in Moretz’s own face are shot in unflinching, close-up detail. Suddenly a seemingly kinetic blast from the hapless victim blows a strip light to pieces…
Things aren’t too much better for Carrie at home; her self-flagellating and panphobic mother is also religiously obsessed and has already (in a pre-credits sequence of gothic wonder) attempted to abort Carrie during childbirth. Carrie is closeted (quite literally, at one point) in indoctrination at home, and desperately exposed because of this among her cruel peers. She has a good heart though, and is brave and inclusive, and so deserves none of the onslaught she is receiving on both fronts as she simply attempts to just… be.
Julianne Moore is in chilling form as Margaret White, and remains a bogeyman constantly overshadowing any progress Carrie may make in finally being accepted by the hormonal bitches thus far ruining her pitiful life. Throughout the events of the first two acts Carrie is reaffirmed as a decent human being, her sympathisers are established and the adults in the mix manage to polarise the deliciously hateful Chris (Portia Doubleday) against these camps by banning her from prom night for her leading hand in Carrie’s abuse.
Carrie’s growing realisation she has telekinetic powers, her nemesis’ plans for revenge (Chris, like all good baddies thinks even her cruelty is justified) and anticipation of the prom all build the tension. Events on the night send what has been a romantic, emotional drama (albeit with a fantastical telekinetic element) off on a very sharp tangent into revenge-horror. The infamous, porcine-bloody moment is the breathless drop off the cliff; it’s the effective gear change which From Dusk Til Dawn wished it had had, before ‘shlock’ was employed (because it that film such a change in direction hadn’t worked at all).
Carrie has a vicious mean streak; Carrie is letting her Old Testament bitch loose. The prom night sequence is exhilarating, shocking and gruesome. The comeuppance of those antagonising Carrie to the point at which they face their own personal crucifixions are extraordinarily satisfying, and it is the seamlessness at which the extraordinary emerges from the ordinary which director Peirce has nailed with some expertise. Disbelief need not be suspended; no leap of faith is required.
Carrie’s story could have ended at the prom, and the closing moments are weaker for their inclusion after a climax that the film had set up so nicely. The final scenes do offer practical closure, but it is the startling image of Moretz covered in blood, levitating, raising hellfire and taking her revenge amidst the scurrying clique which will remain burned onto your retinas.