When Brian De Palma adapted Stephen King's novel “Carrie” for film in 1976, he turned the simple story of a bullied teenage girl with telekinetic powers into a dreamy pop-horror fantasia — a lush, operatic fright show that grooved on its excesses.
De Palma threw everything into the movie: split screens; slow motion; cartoonish humor; shameless sentimentality; a merciless sense of justice. The film made you laugh as much as it scared you. Often, it did both at the same time.
De Palma's “Carrie” became so iconic that it remains fresh and vital 37 years later — practically an eternity in Hollywood time — and casts an imposing shadow over the new version by director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don't Cry,” “Stop-Loss”).
Instead of trying to outdo the grandness of the original, Peirce takes a more grounded approach, treating the characters of Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her religious-fanatic mother Margaret (Julianne Moore) with more emotional gravity and empathy.
Although the beautiful Moretz looks nothing like the “chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks” King described in his book, the actress invests the character with a fragile vulnerability that runs deeper than her unkempt hair and shabby clothes.
She looks like she wishes she could shrink away into herself and disappear. When she gets her first period while taking a shower at school after P.E. class, she howls with terror and panic — she doesn't understand what's happening to her — and the other girls in the locker room descend on her like a mob, mocking and taunting and taking delight in her hysteria.
But menstruation also awakens something in Carrie — the ability to move objects with her mind. The power emboldens the timid girl, even though she must keep it hidden from her mom, who would undoubtedly consider telekinesis the devil's work.