Sequel to Carrie is more of a remake
The Rage: Carrie 2
Starring: Emily Bergl, Jason London, Amy Irving, Mena Süväri, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Charlotte Lopez, Rachel Blanchard, Zachery Ty Bryan, and Kayla Campbell
Screenplay: Rafael Moreu
Producers: Paul Monash, Patrick J. Palmer
Director: Katt Shea and Robert Mandel
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic horror violence and gore, brief strong sexuality, and language
Brian De Palma's Carrie is considered by many to be his finest film--his masterpiece if you will. And certainly, that would not be an unfair judgment. Carrie, nowadays, is quite tame as a horror film, and quite cliched as a high school drama. However, there is some undeniable quality of grandeur that surrounds the entire film. It originated many of the cliches we are now familiar with. Looking back, the religious zealot mother and high school teenagers are all stereotypical. Back then, they were fresh and new. It's almost unfair to judge it against those shortcomings now. One thing that can't be denied is the power of Sissy Spacek's performance and De Palma's grandiose storytelling. It would be safe to say that it is the finest adaption of a Stephen King novel to date (even The Shining wasn't as good).
23 years later, we get the sequel, one that nobody knew about or even really wanted. Carrie left room for a sequel, but after the first five years expectations were squashed. Now, it is upon us. Calling it a sequel, however, is inappropriate. It is more a 90s remake (the 90s are well known for remakes), following the exact same plot structure down to a 'T'. This is merely one of the problems the film must overcome: fans of the original won't find any surprises within the so-called sequel.
The Rage (also known as Carrie 2) begins with 4-year-old Rachel (Kayla Campbell) and her mother Barbara (J. Smith-Cameron), painting a red line around her room. She believes her daughter is possessed by Satan for one simple reason: the little girl can apparently move objects with her mind. The mother is hauled off to Arkam, the local mental hospital, and Rachel is adopted by two uncaring individuals. There, she grows up and must fend for herself, with only one real friend in her life. Rachel (now played by Emily Bergl) is the ugly duckling of Bates High School, a quasi-Gothic who doesn't fit it with her peers. Her only friend is Lisa (Mena Süväri), another so-called ugly duckling who recently lost her virginity to Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan), one of the jocks on the football team. After receiving his friends' disapproval, he tells Lisa that she was merely a conquest (reminiscent of the recent Cruel Intentions). After learning this, Lisa proceeds to throw herself from the roof of the high school, onto the parked cars below.
Rachel is devastated, and high school counselor Sue Snell (Amy Irving) wants to help. Quickly, she discovers that Rachel is telekinetic. Sue is very distraught by this fact--twenty-three years earlier, she watched as her friends were slaughtered at her high school prom by Carrie White. Meanwhile, Rachel begins to form a relationship with Jesse (Jason London), another football jock who actually has a kind heart. He grows fond of Rachel's moody passion, and quickly falls in love. His ex-girlfriend Tracy (Charlotte Lopez) is distraught that he's spending so much time with Rachel, so she plots out an evil scheme to exact revenge on Rachel. Of course, it's obvious what this will lead up to.
There are so many things wrong with The Rage that many of the good things are overshadowed. First and foremost is the unoriginality of it all. The Rage follows its predecessor so closely that no suspense can be derived, as we all know how it will end: in a fit of psychic glory. That's exactly what happens too, and for those ten minutes, the film achieves the same sense of awe that the original did (although, it pushes into absurdity quite often). It's a shame that everything leading up to it is comprised of nothing but tired dialogue and painfully slow plot elements. In fact, there is nothing even remotely as horrific as the opening moments of Carrie here. The final showdown is merely fodder as the filmmakers try to get a rise out of the audience. There is no real explanation for Rachel's anger, since she's treated moderately well by her peers throughout the film. Her fellow classmates do nothing as mean-spirited as the teenagers did in the original Carrie.
Another problem is the explanation for Rachel's telekinetic origins. Apparently her father was also Carrie White's father, which is a reasonably intelligent plot element. Unfortunately, everything nowadays seems to have genetic origins... by allowing us a scientific explanation (I say scientific with a tinge of sarcasm) of her telekinesis, the acts she does aren't nearly as terrifying. Sometimes the mysterious is scary enough--why ruin it with explanations? However, some explanations are warranted. In particular, why exactly are the ruins of the old Bates High School still there after 23 years? Sue Snell, one of the few survivors of the Carrie massacre, even questions this herself. Apparently the screenwriters thought including a line concerning the still-smoldering ruins was smart. Instead, it reminds us of how dumb the film really is.
This is not to say that there are not some good points to the film. Actress Emily Bergl, newcomer to the screen, is very talented, and she makes Rachel a likable protagonist. The relationship between her and actor Jason London is surprisingly mature, and whenever the two are together, the screen lights up. Amy Irving reprises her role from the original as Sue Snell, and her borderline psycho impersonation is actually quite effective. When she visits the site of the Carrie massacre, even she sounds rather disappointed that this film isn't better. Dylan Bruno is actually quite effective as the lead antagonist here, adding just the right amount of humanity to make him seem really evil. And of course, the final battle between good and evil is very gory yet well handled. It's a shame it goes on for too long, and shows too much.
Directors Katt Shea and Robert Mandel (Mandel directed some scenes, but Shea is credited as the sole director) try desperately to infuse their own stylistic flourishes here, just as De Palma did twenty-three years ago. Unfortunately, most of them come off as unnecessary (why the use of black and white?). Shea also uses an electronic zapping sound whenever Rachel uses her telekinetic powers--not even half as effective as De Palma's use of Psycho-like violin screeches. Speaking of De Palma's version, Shea occasionally includes clips of his superior film, merely making us realize how good it was, and how much worse this one really is. One of the most obvious problems, as I mentioned before, is Shea's lack of restraint. She feels necessary to show everything, in particular a gruesome moment when a dog gets struck by a truck (it lives, thankfully). De Palma showed very little of the actual deaths, but still got the point across. Besides, the bucket of pig's blood hanging above Carrie's head was infinitely more suspenseful than anything here.
The Rage: Carrie 2 is rated R for strong graphic horror violence and gore, brief strong sexuality, and language. The horror violence is mostly relegated to the final showdown at the end, though the sight of a girl's face smashing into a car windshield is quite horrific. It's a competently made film, but feels too reminiscent of its predecessor to be effective. Maybe twenty-three years from now, they'll explain to us why they decided to make this film.
** out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie