The Rage: Carrie 2
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1999
Stars : Emily Bergl (Rachel), Jason London (Jesse), Amy Irving (Sue Snell), Dylan Bruno (Mark), Zachery Ty Bryan (Eric Stark), J. Smith-Cameron (Barbara), Rachel Blanchard (Monica), Kayla Cambell (Little Rachel at 4), Gordon Clapp (Mr. Stark), Elijah Craig (Chuck), John Doe (Boyd)
"The Rage: Carrie 2" is a sequel-cum-updated remake of "Carrie," Brian De Palma's 1976 high school horror revenge fantasy. There's not much connection between the two films, and one gets the feeling that the producers weren't sure whether "The Rage" should be considered a sequel to "Carrie" or its own beast. After all, it could certainly work on its own, although anyone with any film knowledge would quickly realize the great debt it owes to "Carrie" in terms of its theme, characters, and storyline.
The two films follow exactly the same narrative path: An unpopular outcast is drawn into the "in" crowd only to be humiliated in front of a large group, at which time her anger becomes so intense that she unleashes the fury of her telekinetic powers on everyone around her. This climax--a mind-induced massacre of evil high school kids and the poor innocents caught in the crossfire--was the high point of De Palma's film, and director Katt Shea ("Poison Ivy") tries in vain to top it in "The Rage." Unfortunately, Shea has not an inkling of De Palma's lyrical camera strength or perverse sense of humor, and so she overwhelms the audience with gore instead of suspense.
Shea tries to be a visual stylist, swinging the camera here and there and incorporating black and white film stock and gaudy flash effects for variety, but none of it particularly works. It's style without meaning or logic. For instance, during the climax when the new character, Rachael Lang (Emily Bergl), is humiliated by her peers, the soundtrack is filled with the sound of Carrie's mother saying, "They're all going to laugh at you ... They're all going to laugh at you." In the first film, this made sense as it represented Carrie's thoughts and her horrifying realization that her mother was right. In "The Rage," it makes no sense because, after all, why would Rachael be hearing the voice of someone she never met?
Although it is rare that another director could be compared with De Palma and make De Palma look restrained (especially after last summer's overwrought "Snake Eyes"), but that is exactly the case here. The teenage massacre in "The Rage" takes place at a post-football game party instead of at the prom, and it includes graphic displays of teenagers spewing blood after being sprayed with flying glass, others being sliced and diced by flying compact discs, and one poor sap who gets shot point blank in the stomach with a spear gun and has at least one vital organ ripped out by the tip (a sly homage to Paul Morrissey's "Flesh for Frankenstein," perhaps?). This gory massacre is good only for visual shock value, and it carries little of the unexpected primal rage of Carrie's telekinetic vengeance at the prom 20 years earlier.
"The Rage" takes us back to Carrie's old haunting grounds, Bates High School (rebuilt after Carrie burned it down in 1976, although the ruins are inexplicably still standing). But, thankfully, screenwriter Rafael Moreu ("Hackers") didn't try to copy the Carrie White character when he created the new outcast, Rachel (Bergl). Rachel is not the pathetic, naive punching bag that Carrie was. Instead, she's a tough, little outsider who listens to Marilyn Manson and wears black clothes and has a tattoo of a heart encircled with thorns on her arm. Although she doesn't distinguish herself in the manner Sissy Spacek did in "Carrie," Bergl is a good actress with an expressioned face who does a fine job of showing Rachel's vulnerability beneath the tough girl exterior; she hides a good heart with cynicism. Hopefully, producers will take note of Bergl and she will find better work than this.
Jason London, who has been playing teenage roles for close to a decade now in movies like "Man on the Moon" (1991) and "Dazed and Confused" (1993), plays Jesse, a nice-guy football jock who falls for Rachel, an act that goes against the grain of his popular crowd. His friends, led by the cruel-hearted Mark (Dylan Bruno), have ample reason to hate and fear Rachel: her best friend, Lisa, recently committed suicide after being heartlessly laid for the first time and then dumped by another football player, Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan of "Home Improvement"), who is now facing statutory rape charges because Lisa was only 16 and he was 18.
This aspect of the plot makes for interesting comparison with the original film, because Moreu and Shea go through a great deal of trouble to explain why these kids hate Rachel so much. They establish early on that the in crowd is a heartless group--the girls are conniving minxes obsessed with their physical appearances, and the football players (including Jesse, initially) are involved in a "game" where they keep a list of the girls each one has slept with and how many points each girl is "worth." This makes for some callous dialogue, especially concerning Rachel's friend who killed herself. However, unlike Nancy Allen's sadistic tramp in the original film, these kids have an exterior motivation to destroy Rachel beyond their own intrinsic evil.
While the first film seemed to be saying, "Teenagers are inherently cruel in and of themselves," "The Rage" makes them into more complex schemers who are interested in hiding crimes. In this case, the former works better than the latter because De Palma did such an extraordinary job of using that exaggerated adolescent sadism to make the revenge fantasy really pay off. The pay-off in "The Rage" doesn't seem nearly as effective, maybe because this film is also more interesting in being a doomed teenage romance in the vein of "Romeo and Juliet," which takes away from its more sinister and satirical potential.
Somewhere in the plot mechanics, Moreu manages to work in Sue Snell (Amy Irving), the only surviving member of the original film. Now a guidance counselor at Bates High, she suspects Rachel's telekinetic abilities and tries to get her to admit it and work on controlling her power so that Carrie's prom night horror show doesn't get a replay (of course it will). Sue's involvement in the story is sketchy at best, and it feels like something thrown in at the last moment to make the connection between "Carrie" and "The Rage" stronger. She's almost completely unnecessary to the movie's narrative development, and her exit from the film is surprising and disappointing in its callousness.
One would think that the only surviving member of the original film would have a more prominent place in the story; instead, Sue is something of a glorified cameo, good only as an excuse to use her memory to show flashbacks of the original film. Maybe those short snippets of De Palma's movie are meant to give "The Rage" texture and meaning, but they work only in a negative manner: They remind us of how superior the original film was to this reheated mishmash of a sequel.
©1999 James Kendrick