I’ve waxed poetic about nostalgia in the past, expressing a longing to return to the last great decade of pop culture decency. Well, being away from this blog gave me time to think.
I came to a realization.
Some of this shit was embarrassing.
The cardinal rule of Hollywood marketing says a successful movie means there must be at least six more like it to cash in. In 1996 that movie was Scream, which kicked off a renaissance of mid ’90s-to-early-’00s contemporary suspense/thriller/slasher films. These were movies where the teens weren’t just cut up, but were also vindictive, edgy, and unpredictably scary enough to do the cutting themselves. They stared at you from their video box covers, eerie light filter behind them, a sociopathic glaze over their eyes like they belonged to a blood sacrifice cult.
The Rage: Carrie 2, is one installment of many in that “kids are gonna kill you” nu-horror fad. I heard about it years ago, bought it ten years later, and never watched until now. To paraphrase the high school classmate who introduced me to The Rage:
“Most of the movie is talking, lots of talking. People just talk and talk. But you gotta wait until the end, because at the end, after all the talking, that’s when knives start flying around and people start getting killed and catching fire and…”
Now that I have seen The Rage: Carrie 2, I can confirm that yes, it’s one of “those” movies. Describing it to a person means telling them it meanders until the last 10 minutes. Movies can work that way if good writing and direction precedes the big payoff. Build tension, build suspense, create a foreboding sense that something isn’t right, and then have it explode in a cataclysmic catharsis. The original Carrie pulled that off.
Unfortunately, Carrie 2 doesn’t have the same tasting flavor. Instead it’s almost two hours of space either silly or empty. Sure, the climax is fun for those waiting patiently for exploding eyeballs and CDs improvised for throwing knives. Is it worth the wait, though? Not really.
Carrie 2’s heroine/ticking time bomb is Rachel (Emily Bergl). Aside from dealing with grimy foster parents, Rachel isn’t the social pariah the titular Carrie was, as she’s able to talk to people with more confidence and bravado. Her adversary is the old truism, that no matter how nice you are in high school at least one person hates you.
Rachel’s best friend is Lisa, played by 1999’s painfully hot sex symbol, Mena Suvari. Speaking of sex, Lisa is excited over having had her first with alpha jock Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan, whom you may remember from Home Improvement.) Lisa’s thrill turns to shame when she realizes she’s a number in the local Neanderthal jocks’ hit-it-and-quit-it game, where they pass around a notebook listing who they’ve banged however many times. Faced with this knowledge, Lisa turns to the only option avaliable to her: she swan dives into a windshield from the school roof.
The local police want someone to blame for Lisa’s suicide, so they turn toward charging Eric with statutory rape. When Eric and his football pals find out Rachel wants comeuppance for her friend’s death, they take to harassing her into silence. One of the jocks, Jesse (Jason London, Dazed and Confused) falls in love with Rachel, drawing the ire of the local bitch brigade. They form a bitch-jock alliance to destroy Rachel.
Meanwhile, mounting pressure triggers erratic telekinetic abilities in Rachel. Enter Sue Snell (Amy Irving) the remorseful girl who reached out to Carrie in the first film. Now the school’s guidance counselor, Sue recognizes Rachel’s superpower as a dangerous threat, and tries to intervene before a psychic rampage melts this generation’s graduating class.
Will she succeed? Oh, come on.
There are a few reasons why The Rage: Carrie 2 didn’t work for me. First, it tries to create unease by employing ambient editing techniques such as grayscale saturation and weird filters. This happens every time Rachel uses her powers or some external threat presents itself. When used properly, these techniques can be effective at evoking a psychological disturbance. Here it feels like someone playing with features in their new video editing software.
Second, The Rage makes clumsy attempts at being a Carrie reboot as well as a sequel, going as far as a psycho religious mama (J. Smith-Cameron) in Rachel’s background. Jesse is the movie’s Tommy Ross, and the coven of mean girls stand in for the first movie’s coven of mean girls. History repeating itself? No, The Rage just doesn’t have enough originality to be independent of its predecessor. For added context, they even throw in archive footage flashbacks to Carrie at random intervals. Hey, you got your ’70s aesthetic in my ’90s! Well your ’90s aesthetic is stuck in my ’70s!
Despite all of the movie’s problems, it does one thing that I like. Sue mentions that telekinesis is a genetic trait inherited from the father. This isn’t a Midichlorian-like factoid the screenwriter pulled from his ass; it comes straight from the original Stephen King novel. I appreciate the extra research, as it adds a nice touch. I just wish the same effort had been put into making Carrie 2 its own thing, or better overall.
The climactic gore effects are effective enough, displaying the amount of blood and suffering one hopes for after waiting two hours. Unfortunately, everything preceding that is too dry or contrived to recommend sitting through. If you’re in this for the blood, chapter skip to the end. Your patience will thank you.
Keep or purge? If The Rage: Carrie 2 were a standalone disc, I would ‘purge.’ However, it’s in a three disc collection value pack, and since the set contains the much better 1976 Carrie, it has to stay for now. I suppose I could replace the set with a standalone Carrie DVD or Blu-ray. Keep in mind that the box also contains the 2002 Carrie remake/TV pilot, and as of this writing I haven’t watched that.
FINAL GRADE: D+