AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: NOW, from 88 FILMS
RUNNING TIME: 103 mins
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, but is subsequently put in an asylum. Years later, Rachel is a student living with foster parents who don’t care for her. At her school where Sue Snell is now a counsellor, her best friend Lisa Parker commits suicide when it turns out that Erik Stark, the boy she lost her virginity to, was part of a group of football team members who sleep with girls and receive points. The death reignites Rachel’s dormant abilities. Rachel is befriended by Jesse, one of the gang, but his mates start to harass Rachel when she tells the local sheriff about Eric 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 endeavor 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 constantly, even to the point of having flashbacks to it dotted throughout, flashbacks which this time around just made me want to put Carrie on again and not bother any more with this contrived sequel, though I will say it’s a film that, for some reason, I’ve watched more often than many better ones.
It wasn’t originally intended to have anything to do with Carrie at all…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 then stalled for two years. By then, screenwriter Rafael Moreu had been asked to rewrite his script, now called Carrie 2: Say You’re Sorry, to link it with Carrie, Carrie’s producer Paul Monash being rather shamefully behind this decision. Amy Irving agreed to appear in it 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 that oft used term “creative differences” with United Artists, and Roger Corman veteran Katt Shea hurriedly took over the reins with less than a week to prepare to start filming, and two weeks’ worth of footage to re-shoot so the film didn’t look like the work of two directors – though UA didn’t give her two extra weeks in which to do this, causing production [which was largely shot in North Carolina] to be very hurried. Some footage was deleted from the final cut [see section about the Blu-ray special features], and the ending was re-shot because preview audiences didn’t take to an unconvincing snake coming out of Rachel’s mouth. Reception was reasonably positive and it was a moderate box office success.
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 ‘show offy’, 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 straight away setting up folk who you can’t wait to see 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 is on a cross [both were probably intended], until she plummets and bloodily smashes her head into a car. Rachel’s first sight of the carnage is viewed from within the car, a good example of the unusual angles and general stylisation that Shea employs throughout. Good stuff, and it looks we are, at the very least, getting a movie that’s interesting.
It’s Lisa’s death that release Rachel’s telekinesis, with lockers opening, forks being moved, windows slamming shut etc. However, things still soon stall. The original film informed us that there was going to be 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 of tension and indeed 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. Too much of the film is spent with the cruel jocks, including a subplot of Eric possibly being charged with statutory rape because Lisa had been underage that could have been removed with very little effect on the proceedings. All this takes the attention away from Rachel, though there is also a romance between her and Jesse, the gang member who has a change of heart, and it’s quite sweet and convincingly awkward for a while, 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 Amy Irving 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 very closely 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. This one probably looked out of date five years later.
There are compensations of course. Cinematographer David M. Morgan deserves kudos for helping to give us a film that’s good looking throughout, and there are some nice visual moments, like the video of a football match reflected on the football players inside a huge room. When Rachel finally unleashes her powers, 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. It seems mostly CG, but doesn’t look bad. Unfortunately the film never then leaves the party house and finishes rather suddenly, leaving the viewer unsatisfied, except to give us a lame coda which I assume was meant to recall the brilliant jump-scare ending of Carrie and possibly the ending of another and possibly even better horror film from 1992, but which wouldn’t even make a five year old jump. At least 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 or the Carrie substitute is not pretty at all as in the book] 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 video tape, and still seems to be in full control as well.
It’s hard to know how to take Jesse. It seems that we’re still supposed to like him and believe that he genuinely loves Rachel even after he’s been such a sod [though one of his possible actions is only hinted at for some reason]. This makes Rachel’s final action inexplicable, though her final scene with her mother packs quite an emotionally painful punch. 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 original 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 worse, and taken on its own it’s a passable watch. However, its good elements don’t go anywhere near to compensating for the huge conceptual flaws, even if Shea and some others clearly tried to make the most of what they were given.
The Rage: Carrie 2 DVD was an especially good looking release for 1999. Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray in 2015 on Region ‘A’, pairing it with that shoddy [though the closest of all version to the book] TV version of Carrie from 2002. The Region ‘B’ Blu-ray from 88 Films is probably based on the same transfer. It certainly showcases the film’s visual strengths, with lots of nice shots of faces illuminated by different lighting, and it being slightly darker than the DVD didn’t bother me. The texture and detail is superb throughout, and the whole thing looks so darn good that it could pass for a film made today. Honestly.
88 Films have ported over all the Scream Factory special features, which were in turn ported over from the DVD except for a new audio commentary where Shea and Morgan are moderated by David DeCoteau. While Shea and Morgan seem to be pleased to be looking at the film again, they only sometimes talk about what’s happening on screen, often preferring to chat about their careers [Shea loves going on about a film she made called Stripped To Kill], though we do learn a few interesting things, like that Morgan was also a replacement for someone else whose work didn’t seem appropriate for a horror film, that Shea had to be approved by not only Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving but Brian De Palma, and that she had to appear in one scene because they needed to re-shoot a scene and couldn’t afford to hire the actress in it again. There’s a bit of fawning, with DeCoteau continually saying how Morgan knows how to shoot faces, but it’s a nicely warm track overall. Watch out for three audio dropouts though, at least on the disc I received.
The DVD commentary from Shea on her own certainly makes up for the other one not being very scene specific. In that very soft voice of hers, she talks the viewer through the film, commenting on scenes continually and often going into detail about shooting them. The mother, grandmother and aunt of one actor coming on set to see being shot the scene where he has his penis chopped off is one of several memorable stories she tells. She also explains many of the decisions that she made and you do get an insight into her thought processes concerning this film which she came on as a hired hand. She seems to have really connected with the material, if only the film was better. Following this is the original ending with some pre-vis and Shea talking over it, then three time coded deleted scenes, though not the one glimpsed in some trailers where Sue has hallucinations featuring the silhouettes of girls running and scream. Rachel visiting her mother at the asylum is actually rather poignant because mum seems to show a tiny bit of love and Rachel feels that she has to lie to her. It should have stayed in the film. But Jesse joining his friends in a ritual where they eat raw steaks, and more of Rachel and Jesse’s date aren’t essential, though the scenes are not at all bad in themselves.
The Rage: Carrie 2 is one of those movies that I wish I liked much more than I do. It’s certainly well made in many respects, but I also fail to see why it was made at all, at least in this form. In any case, I thoroughly Recommend the Blu-ray release from 88 Films for fans of the film because it really does look stunning ….but maybe not for many others.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
*Limited Edition O-Card slipcase [First Print Run Only]
*High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
*DTS-HD MA 5.1 Soundtrack
*DTS-HD MA Stereo Audio
*Optional English SDH Subtitles
*New Audio Commentary with Director Kat Shea and DoP Donald Morgan
*Archive Audio Commentary with Director Kat Shea
*Original Theatrical Trailer