The New Year was book-ended by two damp squibs in Carrie, which was actually released in November but was so agonisingly pointless that it has taken a month for me to bring myself to review it, and Paranormal: The Marked Ones to which the best praise I could give upon leaving the cinema was that it did not quite live up to the negative hype surrounding it. 2013 saw some notable gems released over the summer period including soon to be classics like You’re Next, and The Conjuring but as the autumn evenings grew darker Carrie blotted the horizon bringing with it the fear that the year would forever be marked as just another year of failed horror remakes.
I went into this film looking for a new angle on Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic. It seemed like an adaption more faithful to Stephen King’s original novel was the way to go, and the initial teaser trailers seemed to hint that this might be the case. King’s book takes more of a news report and witness statement approach to the telling of Carrie’s story and a modern-day adaption certainly could have used the current penchant for minute by minute updates on news and current events via social media to maximum effect. When I heard that what was possibly the most anticipated horror of the year had been postponed I knew it was either a masterpiece or very bad. Sadly the later was the case. I thought that nothing could be more painful than going through puberty until watching this movie.
The acting was appalling. Chloe Moretz can be a bit annoying in films but I know that she can act, here she spent the film in a constant state of moping, Carrie needs to express rage to a level beyond here own control for us to have any sympathy left for the character at the end after the prom tragedy. The Carrie we see in this film appears fully in control of her actions at the vital moment, so that by the time she gets back to her house to confront her mother she appears almost like a spoiled brat having a tantrum, when we should be looking at her as a victim of abuse failed by society. Julianne Moore is an amazing actress and tries valiantly to bring us a fresh perspective on Carrie White’s mother but her scenes are too limited to give us a good idea of her way of life. There is one interesting moment where we learn that Mrs White uses self harm to repress her feelings and emotions including the sexual urges she sees as evil. The actors playing Sue Snell and Tommy Ross are completely miscast, through the whole opening scene it was impossible to work out who was who, and they were a huge distraction throughout the whole film. Judy Greer is O.K. as Miss Desjardin, but does, not develop the emotional connection needed for us to feel the full tragic force of what should have been her death at the end. (She survives the school hall inferno in this adaption)
Knowing that Carrie was directed by a woman, Kimberly Peirce, a part of me was hoping for a feminist revisionist approach to the source material. Film theorists, and King himself, often sight the character of Carrie as actually representing the teenage male reader/viewer and it would have been intriguing to see a female perspective on this. However I realize that it is almost sexist to suggest that a female director ought to have a certain perspective based on her gender. I can however worry about the lack of any clear theme…
The themes of the original movie were completely watered down for this adaption with all the hard-hitting content taken out. This could be due to the constraints of the PG13 and 15 ratings systems that studios desperately pander to at the expense of their adult audiences, although in this case I fear it may just be a lack of vision. There is no real nudity, no hint of Carrie enjoying her body in the shower scene, despite the modern special effect, most of the school escapes unscathed from the prom night tragedy, there are no domestic violence undertones in the relationship between Chris and Billy and, most significantly, almost all of the religious subtext of Brian De Palma’s original adaption has been removed. This latter removal has had the biggest effect on the lack of characterization of the main characters.
All in all Carrie is more like an extended and extremely dull episode of an American teen drama like The O.C. or as Murry put it when he turned to me during the ‘happy’ section of the prom scene Dawson’s Creek. I would not choose to watch it again. Anyone who has ever felt a pang of sadness at the injustices of Carrie White’s life should read Stephen King’s new book Dr Sleep for a different take on a little girl with very special powers.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked ones
It is easier to refer to this installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise as Paranormal 5. Paranormal 5 was swirled in hurricane of bad word of mouth following it’s release on the 1st of January. It arrived seemingly out of the blue to no fanfare from its distributor (I cannot recall seeing either a trailer or a poster before seeing it in the cinema listings) Paranormal 5‘s lack of promotion can’t of helped the way it has been received by audiences and after it’s opening weekend all I was hearing were tales of audience sat in silence, bored stiff (bored to death perhaps) I was pleasantly surprised to find it not nearly as bad as this, and at the least rather entertaining.
Paranormal 5 is an offshoot of the franchise set in the Latino community in California. Two best friends Jesse and Hector, who conveniently love to film everything they do, discover that their neighbor living in the apartment below them is a witch using her powers and the powers of the Coven (as illustrated in Paranormal 3) to possess Jesse who had been chosen at birth. They come to this conclusion slowly over the first two-thirds of the film and the last third is spent re-visiting the Coven house from the end of Paranormal Activity 3.
This sequel does work on some levels. The friendship and lifestyle of the two leads is built up nicely and the acting is of a decent quality. For people who love film there is always something intriguing about films where the actors seem to be working through improvisation and the acting is of a decent quality. Altman it is not, but take out all of the ‘paranormal’ references and you would still be left with a charming little film about life in the American Latino community.
The only downside to this film, and maybe the reason why audiences haven’t warmed to it is that it is a strange combination of realism and implausibility which results in moments of comedy. For instance at one point Latino Gangsters with shot guns walk around blasting witches. Also as all the footage is shot handheld by one or other of the characters there comes a point in proceedings where everyone in the audience would have dropped the camera and legged it.
Paranormal 5 also ties in with the lore of the previous four films. They revisit the set from 3, in one scene they arrange a meeting with a character from 2, and in the ‘twist’ ending they revisit the house from the original film. The ending in my opinion was the only really disappointing part of the film because it happened so fast that, although I got the general idea, I still don’t really know what actually happened. It also seemed way too similar to plot points from the Insidious films. On a lighter note it is nice that modern film franchise’s are sticking to an overarching idea now as I’m still waiting to find out what happened after Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and that was almost 19 years ago now, just think about that for a while. Paul Rudd is having a resurgence so maybe 2014 will be the year for a green-light on that imaginary project.