Kimberly Peirce's Carrie remake starring Chloë Grace Moretz isn't quite the campy horror classic as Brian DePalma's 1976 original.
That seems to be the consensus from top critics who are expressing mixed feelings about this new big-screen reimagining of Stephen King's seminal 1974 novel—though they do give the Boys Don't Cry director props for putting a modern-day spin on the story and tying it into the very topical issue of bullying.
Part of reviewers' ambivalence stems from Peirce sticking too closely to her predecessor's template minus his operatic camp and the excess of digital effects that make for a drawn-out reckoning when the telekinetic Carrie gives her high school bullies they're post-prom comeuppance.
Either way, despite a reliably good performance from Moretz, most say the Sissy Spacek version is still tops, though Julianne Moore does give Piper Laurie a run for her money in the crazy department as Carrie's mother, Margaret.
Here's a sampling of Carrie's mixed reaction:
• "If De Palma's version was one part adolescent dream, three parts nightmare, with a sly streak of satire running through it, Peirce's is a more earnest yet still engrossing take on the story that should connect with contemporary teens," opined The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney.
"Moore is terrific, bringing just the right restraint. She's less of a fire-and-brimstone loon than Piper Laurie…but still plenty crazy," wrote the critic. "Moretz is an imperfect fit for the role but as always a captivating presence…She doesn't come close to the heartbreaking fragility and ethereality of Spacek in the part, but who could?"
• "The special effects depicting Carrie's revenge against her tormentors (and her mom) may be superior to 1976, but nowhere near as much of an improvement as you'd expect after 37 years. And her telekinesis is deployed way too frequently early on," railed the New York Post's Lou Leminick, giving it one star. "The new version of the endlessly imitated final scene? So utterly lame, you'll want to go out and watch the original on Netflix. Save yourself some time and money, and bypass this new Carrie altogether.
• Giving the film a B minus, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman wrote: "The original film had…De Palma's voluptuous operatic style, which gave the story the quality of a daydream-turned-nightmare. When you take away that style and serve up the plot fairly straight, as Peirce does here, we seem to be watching a Carrie that's been flattened, robbed of its over-the-top emotional extravagance."
• "Rather than offering new blood, Carrie is a purely cosmetic revamp," panned USA Today's Claudia Puig. "There's nothing inventive in the retelling of this American horror story based on Stephen King's best-selling 1974 novel… Peirce's version lacks the immediacy of Brian De Palma's original. The result feels like a pale imitation."
She added: "Moretz and Moore do their best with the one-dimensional material, but they deserve better."
• The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey praised the performances, but was underwhelmed: "Peirce pulls out a sensitivity and depth in [Moretz] that brings her performance to a new level. And Moore has never had a better handle on demented. But except for a ridiculously sanitized new ending, new Carrie is not that different from old Carrie. And that's a crying shame."
• Variety's Justin Chang, on the other hand, was more forgiving: "Carrie sustains interest as a moody psychological/paranormal drama with a melancholy undertow that at times tilts into genuine pathos. If the film never quite shakes off the feeling of having been constructed from a well-worn blueprint, it has a sensitive interpreter in Peirce, who…here offers a fresh, intelligent spin on certain key aspects of a largely familiar tale."