Carrie White is bright, intuitive, even pretty if you can see past that mop of disheveled hair.
But Carrie White is an outcast. She's awkward and too-quiet. And she's always just out of sight―hiding behind more than just her hair.
None of that is her fault, of course. She was raised to be that way. Carrie's mom, Margaret, is a religious fanatic. No. Margaret is a religious crazy woman who constantly warns her daughter against interacting with the "un-pure" youth of the town. In fact, if she spotted Carrie even talking to any of the kids in her school she'd likely lock her in The Closet for a couple of hours and force her to pray her way back into the good graces of God. (Well, back into the good graces of Margaret White, anyway.)
So, when Carrie experiences her first menstrual bleeding in the school's locker room showers, it ends up becoming a tragic crossroads event. Margaret had never prepared her daughter for this natural part of growing up (considering it a curse from God) and so Carrie is left to fear for her life when it happens. Then she's accosted, tormented and filmed by her female classmates when she pleads for their help.
The gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin, comes to Carrie's rescue. But in a way, that only makes things worse. For when punishments are handed out, Carrie goes from being an invisible geek to the troublesome idiot who got everybody in trouble, an enemy who must be dealt with.
There is, however, one girl in the group, Sue, who feels a little uncomfortable with her part in the unsavory shower room behavior. In fact, she's feeling so guilty that she convinces her boyfriend, Tommy, to invite Carrie to the prom as a way of privately making amends.
Sadly, that gesture only fuels another girl's awful ideas for a "sweet" destruction for that Carrie girl. Chris, in fact, has already created a crass, demeaning Facebook page featuring a screaming Carrie and scores of tossed tampons. And now she's got something even more devastating in mind.
There is one thing, however, that no one knows about Carrie. Not her mother. Not Sue or Tommy or Chris. Nobody knows that when Carrie got her first menstrual flow, something else started flowing inside of her. Something that's giving her more power than she ever knew was possible.
Turns out, as it only can in a Stephen King story, that the little outcast Carrie girl can now move things with her mind.
Carrie is a sweet girl. She truly is an innocent at movie's start. She's humble and kind. She loves her mother in spite of the woman's ugly obsessions. And even though she figures that people will likely pull yet another nasty trick on her, she really wants to believe that she can share the simple joys of having a friend and liking a boy.
Of course, all that changes when her telekinetic powers appear and things start flying. But even then, she only cuts loose with true destruction when she sees that someone she cares for has been maliciously hurt. Even in the midst of her preternatural rampage, there's a moment when the "real Carrie" resurfaces and we see her express grief over the things she's done.
Sue and Tommy are very earnest in their desire to make Carrie happy. Tommy is only going through the motions at first, but the initially self-focused guy starts to soften and warm up when he realizes just how kind and sincere Carrie is. And when Sue finds out about Chris' nefarious plans to hurt Carrie, she goes out of her way, risking danger, to try to stop the plot. Ms. Desjardin, too, takes on something of an encouraging, motherly role in the young girl's life.
Through their positive actions, as well as many of the very, very negative ones that pervade the drama, this film ultimately makes strong statements against bullying and pushing people to the point where "they break."
Although Carrie's mother is clearly unhinged, she's the only "religious" person portrayed, so it's easy to surmise that the story is throwing a bare-knuckle backhand at Christianity in general. It's implied, for instance, that angry Christians twist Scripture out of shape to suit their needs as we hear Margaret veer back and forth between Bible verses and prayers to "Mother Mary" to screaming curses and panicked calls for Carrie to repent (generally expressed over her daughter doing nothing more than wearing a sleeveless dress).
On the other hand, Carrie does point out that some of her mother's ravings about tainted blood and sexual sin are not actually inspired by the Bible. And when Margaret screams about God's hatred, Carrie counters with, "No, Mom, the Lord is good!"
Margaret locks her daughter in The Closet (which is covered with crucifixes and pictures of Jesus) and tells her to pray for forgiveness. Later, after becoming convinced that Carrie is a witch and possessed by Satan, Margaret asks her daughter to kneel and pray with her, tricking her into assuming a defenseless position so she can stabs the girl in the back with a butcher knife. She slashes at her while screaming, "The devil never dies. You gotta keep killing the devil over and over again!" Carrie responds by telekinetically crucifying her mother with knives, scissors and other sharp utensils.
Two teenagers are seen in the throes of sex inside the boy's van. They're both seemingly nude. (We see movements and bare legs and arms sticking out from under a blanket.) Sue and Chris both passionately kiss their respective boyfriends on several occasions. Chris wraps her legs around her guy, Billy, while standing and kissing him. Later she rolls around on her bed with him (while they're both dressed).
A guy mimes oral sex in Carrie's direction. We see a number of girls dressed only in bras and panties, and Carrie wrapped only in a wet and bloodied towel. Several young women wear cleavage-baring dresses. A group of girls jump around in one-piece bathing suits during gym class.
Margaret talks of being "taken" by Carrie's father and blanches at the sight of her daughter's "dirty pillows" (while the girl is wearing a prom dress).
As mentioned, Carrie throws her mother around a room and impales her with a drawer full of sharp objects. A girl is propelled face first into a plate glass window. A woman is set ablaze and watched as she's consumed by fire. A girl is lifted by her throat a good 10 feet up and then thrown aside. Groups of teens are sent flying in all directions to bash into doors, walls and ceilings. Twin girls are trampled by a panicking crowd. And on and on it goes.
The movie's opening scene portrays Margaret giving birth to Carrie and then moving to stab her baby with a pair of scissors. (She stops just shy of killing her.) Years later, when Carrie talks back, her mother slams a Bible on the girl's head. And we also see Margaret repeatedly slapping herself, rending her own flesh with her fingernails and other sharp objects, and bashing her own head in deluded self-punishment.
Tommy is knocked out by a falling bucket. A pig's head is on the receiving end of a sledgehammer (offscreen), and then a girl slits the animal's throat, which spurts blood all over her and some nearby friends. We're "treated" to slo-mo views of a car crash―a guy's nose and mouth being smashed and busted open and a girl crashing through the vehicle's windshield, leaving bloody shards of glass protruding from her ruined face.
On a broader scale, telekinetic power is used to break a road open, throw a car into a gas pump (which subsequently erupts into a soaring ball of flame), cause rocks and boulders to rain down like hail, and crush an entire house into a mound of rubble. A school is set ablaze (seen from in the midst of the deadly flames and from an aerial shot of the devastated building).
Crude or Profane Language
A half-dozen or more f-words and twice that many s-words. Handfuls of uses of "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑ch." Jesus' and God's names are misused 10 to 15 times, with "God" being combined with "d‑‑n" four or five. Crude and vulgar slang is spit out for male and female genitalia. And more foul profanities are spray-painted on school lockers and a graveyard headstone.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Groups of teens drink beer on several occasions.
Other Negative Elements
When Carrie gets her period, a group of mocking girls throw tampons at her while screaming, "Plug it up!" Chris records the whole event on her cellphone and then parades the video around to everyone at school.
The tale of Carrie, a young, awkward outcast who's given extraordinary, supernatural power, is often referred to as a horror story. And when you consider this yarn's bloody teen-grinding violence, that label makes sense.
Moviegoers, however, shouldn't expect typical jump-scares and red-eyed-monster-in-the-shadows tropes here. Based on a Stephen King-penned novel and the subsequent 1976 Brian DePalma film, this is a movie that's much more about rawness of reality than the weirdness beyond it.
Its titular teenage heroine/victim is a girl we can't help but care for. She's an innocent who longs for what we all long for: something normal, good and happy. And when wince-worthy torment is heaped upon her―from her oft-enraged mother and callous bullying classmates―we can't help but see her plight and suffering as a reflection of what too-often happens to real kids in this too-often cruel world. We recognize, here, shifting shadows of everything from child abuse to school shootings.
In that way, then, director Kimberly Pierce's updated 21st-century version of Carrie's story becomes a surprisingly emotional cautionary tale, a cry for protection for the innocents and compassion for those on the outside edges.
That real-world red flag, though, waves above a mess of bloody, deadly revenge and loathsome language―a vengeful and gory mayhem that's glazed with twisted, religious insanity.