HCF REWIND NO. 172: THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 [US 1998]
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 96 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Barbara Lang paints a barrier around her living room, using red paint, to protect her telekinetic daughter Rachel from demons. Barbara is put in an asylum. Years later, Rachel is a student living with foster parents. Her best friend Lisa Parker commits suicide when it turns out the Erik Stark, the boy she lost her virginity to, was part of a group where the members sleep with girls and receive points. Sue Snell is now a school counsellor and finds out that Rachel’s father, Ralph White, was also the father of Carrie. Rachel is befriended by Jesse, one of the gang, but his mates start to harass Rachel when she tells the local sheriff about Jesse and Lisa, who was underage….
So at the end of Carrie, Sue has that nightmare, and we are left with the impression that she will be haunted by Carrie for a long time to come, the telekinetic teenager’s ghost obviously not letting the fact that Sue was actually on Carrie’s side for much of the time bother her. Maybe, despite her powers, which obviously extend from beyond the grave, she mistakenly thought that Sue was part of the plot to embarrass her at the prom? In any case, if they had to make a sequel to Carrie at all [always a questionable endeavour when the original film is a classic], and one 23 years after, the idea of Carrie’s ghost haunting Sue for decades is a decent one. Carrie could haunt other people’s dreams or possess someone. But no, for The Rage: Carrie 2, they just decided to do a semi-remake of the original and tenuously link it to Carrie. It has its moments and certainly isn’t a complete and utter disaster, but seems to have little point to it, especially when it appears to invite comparisons with the 1976 movie throughout, even to the point of having flashbacks to it dotted throughout, flashbacks which just made me want to put Carrie on again and not bother any more with this contrived sequel.
It wasn’t originally intended to be anything to do with Carrie…well, except for the huge plot and character similarities. It was called The Curse, and merged a Carrie-like plot with a real-life incident where a group of high-school jocks known as The Spur Posse were involved in a sex scandal. Scheduled to commence production in 1996 with Emily Bergl in the lead, the production stalled for two years. By then, screenwriter Rafael Moreut had been asked to rewrite his script, now called Carrie 2: Say Your’re Sorry, to link it with Carrie, Carrie’s producer Paul Monash rather shamefully being behind this decision. Amy Irving agreed to appear but Sissy Spacek turned down the offer to appear to in a cameo, though she gave permission for the filmmakers to use Carrie footage of her. A few weeks into production, director Robert Mandel quit over creative differences and Roger Corman stalwart Katt Shea hurriedly took over the reins with less than a week to prepare to start filming, and two weeks’ worth of footage to reshoot so the film didn’t look like the work of two directors. Some footage was deleted from the final cut, notably the jocks eating raw steaks to show how ‘manly’ they are, another visit by Rachel to her mother, Sue having hallucinations featuring the silhouettes of girls running and screaming reminding her of the havoc she witnessed the night of the prom in 1976, and an extended version of Rachel and Jesse’s date in which Jesse teaches Rachel how to bowl. The ending was reshot, with a snake originally intending to come out of Rachel’s mouth. The film was a moderate box office success though it’s hardly talked about now.
You know you’re watching the work of a different director within seconds, where young Rachel’s seemingly bad mother paints around her, and even on her face, to supposedly protect her. Instead of De Palma’s more graceful, if still often ‘showoffy’, style, we are bombarded with quick cuts [though not as stupidly fast as it might be now], a variety of sometimes odd angles, and black and white shots. This film certainly looks very different, but its approach sometimes gets muddled: for example, the black and white usually seems to be when Carrie either uses her powers, or is getting agitated, but sometimes it isn’t. Still, the first ten minutes or so of The Rage are quite strong and certainly grab the attention. We are quickly introduced to the group of heartless jocks who sleep with girls to gain points, showing, as the opening shower scene in Carrie did, that real, and to some, ‘normal’ human behaviour is more horrible than any supernatural terror that we may later witness, as well as straightaway setting up folk who you can’t wait to get their just deserts. Then Rachel’s friend Lisa kills herself in a terrific death scene, rather elegantly jumping off the roof of the school in slow motion, her arms spread out either as if she’s trying to fly or on a cross [both were probably intended], until she plummets and bloodily smashes her head into a car. Good stuff, and it looks we are, at the very least, getting an interesting movie.
Sadly, things soon stall. The original film informed us that there was a prom very early on, and slowly but surely built up to that pivotal event, gathering more and more suspense as it did so. Here, there is little building tension and no sense of a build up to anything until, over an hour in, plans finally get underway to embarrass Rachel and she is invited to a party. Rachel uses her burgeoning powers a bit more frequently than Carrie, but too much of the film is spent on the cruel jocks, taking the attention away from Rachel. There’s also a romance between Rachel and Jesse, the gang member who has a change of heart, and it’s quite sweet and convincingly awkward, but it doesn’t tug at the heart strings like that dance Carrie had with Tommy, and is awkwardly alternated with two visits by Sue, at least giving her something to do, to Rachel’s incarcerated mother, a visit to the burned remains of the gym that Carrie burned down, and many other reminders of the original film to tell you that yes, “this is a Carrie film, it will get good, we promise, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to”. There’s even a really forced plot twist linking Rachel with Carrie. Meanwhile the whole thing seems to be trying too hard to be trendy with its emo/goth/indie edge, including a lot of talk about music. The original, despite its 70’s fashions, didn’t try to be trendy, and remains timeless as a result.
There are compensations of course. When Rachel finally unleashes her powers at the party, the vines of her rose tattoo spread over her body and we are treated to lots of graphic gore, some of it amusingly over-the-top in the manner of 80’s Italian horror, including glass in eyes, a harpoon going through into the back of a head and out of the mouth, and a penis being sliced off. Unfortunately the film never then leaves the party house and finishes rather suddenly, leaving the viewer somewhat unsatisfied, except to give us a lame coda which I assume was meant to recall the brilliant jump-scare ending Carrie but which wouldn’t make a five year old jump. A good effort has been made to differentiate Rachel from Carrie. She’s a stronger character, and less of an outcast, with certainly two friends of her own age, though she’s also somewhat cool [and not ugly either: when will they make a Carrie film when Carrie is not pretty? I guess it’s thought audiences won’t sit through a film with an ugly protagonist] in her Goth manner, which makes it hard to understand why she feels so lonely. Emily Bergl does her best to show the torment and changes in her character, but it’s not enough to make up for the weak writing. Carrie goes ‘psycho’ and loses control thanks to an abusive mom and years of bullying. Rachel, who seems to get over the death of her best friend very fast and fails to honour her memory by hanging out with the folk directly and indirectly responsible for her suicide, does it over the death of her dog and one sex tape, and seems to be in full control as well. Then again, Jesse is badly written too: we’re supposed to like him and believe he loves Carrie after he cheats on her just before he goes to meet her at the party.
Elsewhere the acting is mostly fine, J. Smith-Cameron especially doing a good job as Rachel’s poor mother, conveying her huge emotional pain, while the music score by Danny B. Harvey is serviceable, with two decent piano themes and some okay set pieces, though nothing nearly as memorable as Pino Donaggio’s Carrie theme. Interestingly, the massacre scene is scored with long slow notes like Donaggio. The pop songs, of which there are far more, are fairly well chosen and do sometimes back up the on-screen action well. The Rage: Carrie 2 could, truth be told, have been far far worse, and taken on its own it’s a passable watch. Its good elements don’t go anywhere near to compensating for the huge conceptual flaws though in what was a purely commerical, rather than artistic and creative, endeavour.