For all these grace notes, though, there is something about De Palma's tragedy that cannot be replicated, or at least isn't here. Maybe it's his use of long takes, set pieces, and slow motion, as opposed to Peirce's traditional close-ups and quick cuts and angle changes. Maybe it was his soupy, dreamy cinematography and the pleasure of non-CGI special effects. Maybe it was the economy of words and subtlety of exposition, while Peirce and screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sagasa's dialogue engages in a bit of spoonfeeding. And certainly Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie cannot be remade.
Maybe there's something we cannot help but love in the kind of tragedy that ends with a scare like De Palma's—an idea that Milton discusses in his prologue to Agonistes.
Peirce's remake is not as good as the original. It's not close. But it brings enough to the table not to be an affront to the source—after all, they could have turned it into a slasher film churned out for a quick Halloween dollar. Instead, we have a decent scary movie that stays faithful to the core questions of Carrie. It will reward the thoughtful viewer of appropriate age by starting a conversation around deep questions of psychology, religion, and sex—with some tongue-in-cheek fun and scares to go along.
This version of the film is surprisingly tame for the R rating. There is no nudity this time around, though there are still some sexual scenes: Sue has several seconds of dimly lit sex with her boyfriend in a car, and three characters spend a moment on a bed with some sexual tension. There are some very gory and disturbing scenes—Margaret White raises scissors while thinking about killing her baby, and cuts herself for pleasure several times. A high school mean girl goes up in flames. Language is bad: several uses of the f-bomb and the s-word.
Timothy Wainwright is a writer based in New York City. He enjoys writing about culture, politics, and religion. You can follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Wainwright.