WE HAVE two infamous shower scenes in American movie history, one from "Psycho" and the other from "Carrie."
The first offers the portentous spectacle of proto-slasher murder, the second a spectacle of humiliation, based on every teen's sexual anxiety and gnawing fear of being singled out and ridiculed by the pack.
In the new remake of "Carrie," Kimberly Pierce has the apparently thankless job of trying to improve upon the 1976 Brian De Palma/Sissy Spacek original, but she has a few things on her side.
One is the national obsession with bullying, exactly in keeping with the movie's story, culminating as it does with a picked-on girl's cathartic prom-night venting, abetted by telekinesis.
The other is technology. How could Carrie White's menstrual shower humiliation be made worse? With a smartphone, with the Internet and with YouTube, which turn a local, temporary humiliation into something potentially borderless and permanent.
Pierce's updating feels relevant, and she's made a few tweaks that make the story her own. In place of De Palma's satirical smirk, we get something less cynical - Pierce's screenplay plays up the genuinely remorseful feelings of teens (Ansel Elgort, Gabriella Wilde) who come to the aid of the ostracized Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz), and make the movie feel more humane.
So this new "Carrie" is thoughtfully done, and carves out its own identity. So why doesn't it hold us the way the original did?
I think it comes down to the partnership of De Palma and Spacek, one of those lucky accidents of history. The horror-movie fun of telekinesis appealed to the showman in De Palma, and Spacek, a virtual unknown at the time, was starting to reveal herself as a great actress.
I wish the same for Moretz, but right now she doesn't have Spacek's extensive emotional vocabulary, and since all the movie's psychology and emotion are funneled through her character, the movie often feels flat.
The better performances are in the margin - Julianne Moore as Carrie's wacko mom and Judy Greer as the sympathetic gym teacher.