Dave White
Chronicle Review

Dave's Rating:

3.5

16 candles of doom.

It'll be interesting to see what transpires on screen when the planned Carrie remake takes place. The 1976 version starring Sissy Spacek allowed its tormented teenager the telekinetic powers required to take out each and every bully intent on destroying her life, but sending everyone at prom to Hell was presented as something almost beyond her. She might have bug-eye-stared everyone's doom into existence, but ultimately she was still an innocent victim. In the first decade of feminism's pop culture ascendance, young women still weren't allowed unbridled power unless they were the protagonist in I Spit on Your Grave.

But when the movies give a young man otherworldly whammy and his first taste of testosterone, he'll probably get proactive and wreck everything that gets in his way. That's what goes down when shy loner Andrew (Dane DeHann), his intellectual nerd cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and popular jock Steve (Michael B. Jordan) stumble upon a mysterious alien-deposited crystal, touch it and become telekinetic. It's a given that at least one of them is going to use his new abilities to get even with everyone on his secret kill-list.

Obviously, it's introverted punching bag Andrew. And you hardly blame him. He's physically and emotionally abused by virtually everyone in his life. He's starved for validation. His mother is dying and there's no money for the insurance co-pay. He's got nothing but unreleased rage. And when he and his friends learn that their telekinesis is a muscle they can work and grow, when he finally learns to literally fly around above his brutal little world, that taste of intoxicating power is license to start getting his way.

Young adults themselves, filmmaker Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis don't condescend to their characters and that makes all the difference. They take these guys seriously, like if John Hughes decided to give The Breakfast Club kids the ability to electro-zap their way out of detention. Pile on cool special effects that explode off the screen without upstaging the emotional pain of its troubled teen and you've got a fresh take on the troubled teen movie.

Of course, if there's a point to any of this besides "high school sucks," it's the equally easy "power corrupts." But that's not a huge crime in the context of the exhilarating action crashing all around you; it's an easy moral presented with swagger, like its creators just thought it up and then decided they didn't care too much about a moral in the first place. And even though this boy quickly turns from Carrie-like victim to menace to society, when his narcissism explodes into monster shapes, when you start to think, with more than a little annoyance, "Would it kill you to use your newfound superpowers to cleverly make your dying mother's life a little easier before you run off to invent virginity-loss scenarios and revenge plots?" you still want to see him take them all down.

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