With her wide-eyed glare of grave intensity, the actress Chloe Grace Moretz appears destined for her share of artfully crafted, slightly unnecessary horror remakes. She starred in "Let Me In," the American version of the terrific Swedish vampire picture "Let the Right One In." And now she takes on director Kimberly Peirce's remake of "Carrie," a work of smooth confidence and a humane, dimensionally human brand of horror.
You'd expect this from Peirce, who made "Boys Don't Cry," among others. The director puts Moretz in the sad, fierce role of Carrie White, the put-upon telekinetic high school student introduced in the 1974 Stephen King novel. Carrie's psychotically fundamentalist mother, played in the new film by Julianne Moore, goes beyond the usual notions of "helicopter" parenting, and makes the concept of Bible-thumping literal. Moore seizes the day without going crazy with excess; like the rest of the film, her portrayal takes care to humanize the demonic cruelty on screen.
Those with little or no personal relationship to the 1976 Brian De Palma-directed "Carrie" will find themselves in a different situation than I am on this one. I admit it. If I didn't love Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie quite so madly in that movie — a film representing drive-in schlock elevated to Himalayan heights, with two of the great 1970s performances leading the way — I might've fallen further into the world of the remake. With all movies, really, we bring the baggage we bring.
Some things are different, others are the same. Peirce delivers none of the voyeuristic nudity of the '76 edition. Even with the various killlings in the prom-night climax, when Carrie, slathered in pig's blood poured by her enemies, takes revenge, Peirce stages and shoots the action tastefully by R-rated horror standards. Even this remake's arresting prologue, depicting the bloody birth of Carrie into the conflicted, scissors-wielding hands of her unstable mother, has an air of restraint.
The director, in other words, isn't an showboater or a sadist or a combination of the two, the way De Palma was behind the camera in the first "Carrie" movie, or the way Steven Spielberg tortured audiences with elan in that other '70s black-comic thriller classic, "Jaws."
The question is: Is tasteful better with this material? In its story contours the screenplay credited to Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Cohen wrote the '76 version) hits its marks. It stays faithful to King and (relatively) to the De Palma film and gets the job done in workmanlike fashion. The acting's strong; in addition to Moretz and Moore, Judy Greer is a welcome presence in the Betty Buckley role of the sympathetic gym instructor. But something's missing from this well-made venture. What's there is more than respectable, while staying this side of surprising.
"Carrie"- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content)
Running time: 1:39