Trying not to let outside influences hamper your judgment of a horror movie is nearly impossible in the Internet age, which is a big part of why I usually end up liking “the worst movie ever” and being hugely disappointed in “the best movie ever!” Hell, that’s why I rarely bother to even blog about the movies everyone loves. YAWN.
But why not take on some overhyped movies and give them the credit they deserve (or not)? So today, it’s You’re Next, Carrie 2013, and World War Z.
Expecting to be majorly disappointed in this one because it’s not a major Hollywood horror movie but got way too much hype by horror fans, I was thrilled to discover that I fricking loved it. Even in all its predictability and its veiled attempt to be a genuine “horror” movie (I personally think it’s more of an action/thriller), it’s a fun ride of violence sprinkled with subtle doses of humor.
Rather than your typical slasher with everyone getting killed by one masked dude until he’s down to one girl, You’re Next is about an entire family under siege by a group of killers wearing animal masks. Unfortunately, these baddies messed with the wrong family, because one chick was raised as a survivalist. And she’s bad ass.
That’s pretty much why You’re Next isn’t a horror film. There are some cool and even suspenseful horror setups at the beginning, but it’s not long before you’re really just watching an alternate take on Straw Dogs. Once we know the identity of the baddies the film is not “scary.” Yet they still continue to wear the masks. And the whole “You’re Next” painted on a wall occasionally after a kill is a pointless attempt to follow a horror pattern. It should really just read, “You’re ALL next” because the message is never meant for anyone in particular, and people die left and right!
And of course there’s the fact that we can tell right from the start that the main girl is bad ass and a pro at taking on dangerous situations. So we are never scared for her. We are completely confident that she is a superhero. It’s not is she going to take them down, it’s how is she going to do it. And that’s when the fun begins.
I’m actually glad the film takes a humorously dark and action-filled turn, because the first half was getting on my nerves. It’s a case of NO ONE doing the smart thing. The biggest problem for me is everyone (including the smart survivalist) not staying away from the fucking windows once they know arrows are being shot into the house and specifically keep saying that they need to stay away from the windows. The other obnoxious part is when they all reach for their phones right after the first attack and one of the characters immediately says something like, “They must have used a jammer!” Cell phones have ruined horror movies forever.
Aside from being one thrill ride that never lets up, You’re Next also has a great cast, including lots of horror alumni: leading lady Sharni Vinson (Patrick, Bait), AJ Bowen (The House of the Devil, Hatchet II, Chillerama, Creepshow 3), and Joe Swanberg (V/H/S, Cabin Fever 2). The reason AJ and Joe are in this film is probably because they were both in Ti West movies and Ti West appears in this movie…as a movie maker.
But most amazing of all, the cast includes Barbara Crampton, who has been in horror for decades: Castle Freak, From Beyond, Chopping Mall, Re-Animator, Body Double. If they were going to cast an 80s scream queen, couldn’t they have just pretended it was the 80s again and that cell phones don’t exist?
And here it is. The moment when I’m a big dick and say that the Carrie remake isn’t the original Carrie and is therefore inferior in every way. I’m sorry, I can’t unsee the brilliance of Brian De Palma’s original. But I’m going to be as objective as possible. So I’ll start with some of the problems:
Sissy Spacek isn’t Carrie
Betty Buckley isn’t the gym teacher
Sissy Spacek isn’t Carrie
Amy Irving isn’t Sue Snell
Sissy Spacek isn’t Carrie
There’s no P.J. Soles
Sissy Spacek isn’t Carrie
The number one issue with the movie is that poor Chloe Grace Moretz was put up to the impossible task of playing Sissy Spacek. And the reason I say this is because, unlike the television version of Carrie with Angela Bettis, which was at least more of an adaptation of Stephen King’s original book than a remake of the first movie, the new remake is strictly a remake of the original movie. Virtually scene for scene with the exact dialogue.
So therefore, Chloe doesn’t stand a chance. She comes across as a combination of trying to bring her own distinctly inferior reading of the tragic character to life and an exact mimicking of every nuance of Sissy Spacek’s brilliantly meek performance. Chloe sounds different but she imitates all of Sissy’s gestures and body language. It creates a huge mess. Chloe behaves like an actress pretending to be an introvert while her performance comes across like Lindsay Lohan’s confident hesitance in Mean Girls. Carrie’s personality is too strong. You just never believe that she’s had the self-worth pounded out of her her whole life.
I guess I should warn that there will be spoilers going forward, but if you’ve seen the original, there’s not much to spoil here.
The level to which Carrie is loathed by classmates is lessened considerably. A large part of it has to do with how rushed the movie is in an effort to keep the attention of modern audiences rather than build suspense. For starters, one of the few original additions to the remake is a moment in which a sweet kid in the library voluntarily shows Carrie how to enlarge a window on a computer. Also, before the infamous shower scene, there’s a volleyball scene in which Carrie accidentally serves the ball into Sue Snell’s head. Rather than all the girls ragging on Carrie, they rag on Sue for getting hit, and Sue is more annoyed with her friend Chris Hargensen for laughing than she is at Carrie. A few minutes later when Carrie runs out of the shower, she touches Sue’s white shirt and gets blood all over it. When Chris points out that it’s period blood, Sue sort of laughs! WTF? There’s PERIOD BLOOD on you. Even if you don’t get mad at Carrie, you don’t laugh. You throw a hissy fit of disgust.
Speeding up the pace is the main downfall of the film as are some of the sterilized characters, both of which lead to a stiff reading of the script. Sue is quick to feel bad for Carrie (right in the middle of the tampon scene she feels guilty and stops) and in general, she’s weak in her convictions and decisions—she feels like a virtually irrelevant character who’s motivations all have to be outlined for her by other characters. Amy Irving was perfect at bringing across the battle of conscience and the ultimate determination to help Carrie. The same goes for the gym teacher. I’m a Judy Greer fan, but she doesn’t bring the tough love that Betty Buckley brought to the role of Ms. Desjardin nor the genuine compassion for a hurting teen. Instead, she sounds like she’s just politely reciting Betty’s lines.
And not to bash Chloe more, because a majority of her performance is based on the direction she was getting, but she looks like a spell-casting witch (despite insisting to her mother that she’s not a witch). Sissy Spacek did nothing but raise an eyebrow, wrinkle her forehead, or turn her head to work her telekinesis—camera work was used to signify the influence of her energy. Here, Chloe waves her arms in weird, exaggerated gestures and makes dumb faces to wield her power while a fan blows her hair around to let us know that something is happening. During the prom scene she breaks into what can only be called an interpretive dance. It looks ridiculous. And then she flies. She doesn’t levitate. She FLIES. She soars over the crowd like Superman in a blaze of CGI stupidity. And speaking of, aside from lacking De Palma’s stunning use of lighting, sound (or lack of), musical cues, camera angles, and a split screen, the attack at the prom becomes a wave of modern disaster movie CGI, with pretty much the entire senior class being wiped out at once.
There are a couple of unique moments at the prom, but overall, it is completely anticlimactic and as rushed as the rest of the movie. Chris and her boyfriend are up in the rafters, not under the stage. When Sue comes in, she IMMEDIATELY looks right up and sees them and the bucket! To “build tension,” the rope jams momentarily, yet it’s still over in an instant…but then we get like five repetitions of the blood splattering on Carrie from various angles to drive home the fact that she was hit. Carrie pretty much scurries off the stage, so we aren’t given that seemingly excruciating, endless experience of her standing there completely humiliated. The class hardly even laughs at her, she doesn’t have that moment of magnifying the laughter in her mind, she never imagines even her gym teacher laughing at her, so you can’t help but wonder why Ms. Desjardin is the first person she tosses across the gym. Carrie mows down the entire class and all of the chaos and panic is done. And then…she looks up and sees a pair of sunglasses way up in the rafters and we’re to assume she totally recognizes them as those of Chris’s boyfriend Billy. Which is why she goes on a hunt for them…. Yeesh.
When Carrie takes on Chris and Billy in a long battle with their car, she literally stomps on the ground with her foot to create a massive split in the road that again creates the kind of CGI destruction you see in modern action and action hero films. There’s a bunch of bullet time shots of Chris and Billy during the car crash scenes (yes, there’s more than one) to make sure that we understand that they got the payback they deserved rather than dying in a quick burst of flame as in the original.
Finally, once Carrie’s battle with her mom back home plays out…Sue Snell shows up. Earlier, there was a hint of her having morning sickness. Well, Carrie can apparently predict the gender of your baby as well because she looks at Sue’s belly, says, “It’s a girl,” and then tosses Sue out of the house and into the street with one wave of an arm. Instant miscarriage, anyone?
My only minor quibble is that the big crucifix in Carrie’s closet is, well, smaller and not nearly as creepy looking as the one in the original. Although, it does bleed early on and we’re left wondering if it really happened or if Carrie was imagining it.
What’s good about the Carrie remake
The most obvious good thing about the remake? Julianne Moore. As a seasoned actress, she’s smart enough to not even attempt Piper Laurie level of wackiness. She plays a much more subdued, internally conflicted religious nut and you actually pity her. Her amazing performance is given the added nuance of her controlling her emotions by cutting herself. The only time she looks ridiculous is whenever Carrie is tossing her around like a CGI rag doll.
Ansel Elgort also makes a fine Tommy Ross, coming across as genuine and lovable as William Katt did in the original, although he never seems to reach that level of sort of falling for Carrie like Katt did.
I also have to give props to this chick Portia Doubleday who plays Chris. She never tries to imitate Nancy Allen, and the only weakness in her character’s portrayal is that some key parts of Chris’s building rage at Carrie from the original are left out (some of them are deleted scenes on the disc), so it’s not quite convincing in the final product that she would go to the extents she does to hurt Carrie.
Doing a fine job of filling John Travolta’s shoes as Billy is the fricking gorgeous Alex Russell from Chronicle. While he looks ridiculously like The Situation when we first see him, he plays a perfectly psychotic boyfriend who you could totally believe would come up with the pig blood idea. Unfortunately, some of the scenes that would better demonstrate his craziness—the same scenes that would have helped Chris’s case—were also deleted from the movie.
And finally, the story is brought into modern times without letting it hamper the plot. The girls even film the tampon scene on a phone and upload it to YouTube. The only problem with this part is that a video as awful as that would have gone VIRAL in the age of online bullying. It would have been talked about on the fricking nightly news! Instead, it gets quickly swept under the carpet when Chris refuses to hand over her phone. The video makes another appearance, showing up on the big screens in the gym right after Carrie gets the blood dumped on her. Guess Chris’s dad never insisted on seeing the phone after she stormed out of the principal’s office.
In a desperate attempt not to have a totally predictable finale for those who have seen the original, the movie suddenly reverts back to the book and we see Sue Snell being interviewed about Carrie White. Her narration becomes a voiceover as we watch her walking to Carrie’s grave to place a flower. Are we going to get the hand grab??? Nope. Instead, Sue walks away and the tombstone cracks. LAME. But that’s what alternate endings too shocking for theaters are for, right?
Alternate ending and deleted scenes
Aside from the scenes that would have better established Chris and Billy’s insanity, there are a few more notable deleted scenes on the disc. Chris kisses one of her female friends and gives Billy a BJ. The famous scene from the book (and the Angela Bettis movie) in which Carrie sees the neighbor’s “dirty pillows” while she’s sunbathing and then the house gets hit by hail was shot and should have been in the movie. During the fight over her going to the prom, Carrie swings her mother in the air much more, which is one of those moments when Julianne Moore looked even more like a rag doll. It was smart to edit that part. And the scene when Carrie and Tommy kiss on the dance floor was shot but left out of the movie, as was the scene of Carrie’s mom prepping knives for Carrie’s return from prom.
And finally, there’s the alternate “shocking” ending. Will it be the hand??? Well, sort of. The interview part is left out, so we just see Sue walking to the grave. She places the flower on the grave, has a painful contraction…and suddenly she’s in the hospital giving birth to her baby! And then…Carrie’s fricking hand pops out of her va-jay-jay and grabs her. I’m not kidding. Sue wakes up screaming with her mother trying to calm her down as in the original.
Hey. Young audiences who think the original is long and boring – or never even saw it – get an okay reshoot of it that satisfies modern horror movie pacing and conventions. It just lacks the soul, suspense, and talent of the original. And without all of that, I just don’t see it as being an unforgettable movie.
WORLD WAR Z
I never read Max Brooks’s book (although I do have his zombie survival guide) so I didn’t go into World War Z with the chance to be jaded because the movie was nothing like the book. Even so, this movie is still awful. I take that back, it is an amazing experience of awesome CGI zombie hordes. I’ll give it that. Cool zombie action. It’s everything else that sucks.
Let’s start with the beginning. When the shit hits the city, Brad and family are in traffic. Despite not knowing what the hell is happening, he immediately knows he has to follow this big ass truck that is just plowing through the cars in order to get away from the city. So smart.
Then we get a great empty apartment building scene that eventually has his family being chased to the roof. Yeah, I know. We’ve seen it all before. They’re rescued by a helicopter because they’re special. Then Brad drops his family off at a base and goes exploring the world for the rest of the movie. Seriously, Brad’s family is absolutely unnecessary in this movie. Well, not totally true. I’ll get back to that later.
Brad spends the remainder of the movie fighting and running from zombies around the world. It’s one disjointed scene after another, but hey, there are CGI zombie hordes, remember? Then he suddenly bonds with this female soldier who was meant to protect him. Okay. Then Brad’s ends up at a lab and learns that there might be a substance that repels zombies…but it’s trapped in a part of the lab with all the zombies. So Brad and some others sneak into the lab…and brilliant Brad steps on glass not once but TWICE and alerts zombies.
Finally, Brad alone gets to the samples he needs. But now Brad, zombie fighter, is trapped inside a room…by ONE zombie. He doesn’t know which sample is the one that will work, and some might kill him, but he guesses and injects one to get past Mr. Zombie. Amazingly, it was the right one. He walks out toward an oncoming zombie horde in a swell of gorgeous uplifting Hollywood movie music.
And that’s why he needed a family. So we can have a happy ending of him reuniting with them and running into their arms. Ugh. Give me the Carrie remake instead.