When Brian De Palma directed 1976’s Carrie, the Stephen King adaptation was hailed a horror classic. Dealing with a troubled teenaged girl’s coming-of-age through bullying and pressure from an overly religious mother, Carrie’s telekinetic powers led to a frantic and memorable finale and the film made Sissey Spacek a star. Fast forward 23 years and a sequel emerged: 1999’s The Rage: Carrie 2 arriving at what could be considered, in a way, a strong era for horror.
The genre had been going through something of a revival, with the popular slasher series Scream and fellow slashers I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend in the mid-late 90s doing well, so 1999 seemed like the perfect time to release a film about a troubled girl becoming empowered and getting revenge on those that taunt her, sequel or not. Although nobody could have predicted the impact of game-changing found-footage movie The Blair Witch Project that year taking all the plaudits and attention, and rightly so. But despite that, Carrie 2 does a pretty good job of tying in the events of the 1976 original and bringing them up to date, albeit in a very 90’s way.
Starting off with a flashback to a young Rachel Lang (Emily Bergi) in distress after her mentally ill mother gets sectioned right in front of her, we see the first hint of Rachel’s telekinetic powers. Much of this flashback is in black and white, which proves quite effective and is used a few times when Rachel uses her powers, including once in quite an affecting fashion after her best friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari), commits suicide after getting her heart broken by a local jock. It’s this that sets off the chain of events that spiral and lead to the film’s inevitable conclusion. Nevertheless, it’s still quite an enjoyable journey getting there.
With its stereotypical collection of high school jocks, geeks, outsiders, pretty girls and rich kids, The Rage: Carrie 2 could well cause a roll of the eyes. And the whole misogynistic objectifying of high school girls by the local jocks, as they score the girls they have slept with, could cause some outrage these days among certain quarters but this is unfortunately an account of how things were and attitudes at the time. Although you’d hope this is exaggerated a bit, at least. That aside, it does add to the feeling that revenge is sweet later on in the film and fortunately it isn’t something that director Katt Shea dwells on. Instead she looks at Rachel’s journey with her love interest, fellow student Jesse (Jason London), also a member of the local American football team, which obviously causes trouble for him as Rachel, like Carrie before her, is seen as the ‘weirdo’ or the outsider and therefore not good enough for Jesse.
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Aside from the slightly generic high school horror/thriller antics and its attempts at comic relief that sometimes work and sometimes don’t, it’s obviously Rachel’s telekinetic powers that are the main point behind the film, so it’s fortunate that the scenes that focus on those are Carrie 2‘s highlights. Using a few clips as well as a character from the first movie – Sue Snell (Amy Irving, reprising her role from Carrie), a former student who was at the same school as Carrie when that epic finale happened, and who is now a student counsellor – we find out how the curse/rage/powers that can make Rachel move things with her mind manifested. And with Rachel’s mind becoming more fragile in the aftermath of her friend’s suicide, the telekinetic events seem to become more frequent.
Carrie 2 does move at a decent pace, so the build up to that inevitable finale is quite well handled and when it arrives it’s all a pretty familiar set-up for Rachel: made to feel like ‘one of the gang’ only to be ridiculed and with her love interest nowhere to be seen. In 1976’s Carrie, De Palma used colours and quick camera work, zooming in on Carrie and those around her, disorientating the viewer to a point, but it was also dramatic and effective when the carnage began and certainly helped solidify the film’s reputation. So how would Katt Shea handle the climax of its sequel? By not attempting to recreate that powerful ending, of course! Naturally though, it’s a big ending for Rachel and those around her, and horror fans will be satisfied by some of the brutality involved in certain characters’ demises. And the final scene, like the original, does contain quite an effective jump scare. Despite it probably never becoming as iconic as the first movies’ hair-raising final moment, it’s a decent enough ending and The Rage: Carrie 2 is very much its own movie and should be judged as such.
Despite its flaws (there are a few misjudged and ill thought out moments), The Rage: Carrie 2 is a solid little horror for the most part. Whether we wanted or needed a sequel isn’t really important in 2019, but it has become a cult favourite over time despite being something of a box office bomb on initial release. The Blu-Ray, from 88 Films, is presented in a nice slipcase with a few extras including an alternative ending, deleted scenes, and audio commentaries.
The Rage: Carrie 2 will be released on April 8th courtesy of 88 Films.