The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) d. Katt Shea (USA)
Attempting a sequel to Brian De Palma’s sensational screen version of Stephen King’s breakthrough novel is a pretty thankless gig, but screenwriter Rafael Moreu’s approach is so clumsy one can only wonder what the rejected ideas looked like. In the town next door, another odd duck female adolescent, Rachel (Emily Bergl), experiences the rise of telekinetic powers coinciding with her sexual maturity, and wouldn’t you know it, her mom (J. Smith-Cameron) is a Christian loony-toon just like Piper Laurie in the 1976 film. (I’m not sure if the “rage” of the title is supposed to be a riff on “Rache” – I’m going to ignore it so I don’t have to slap anyone.)
Sue Snell (played again by Amy Irving), the lone survivor of the Bates High School Pig Blood ’n’ Fiery Death Prom, is back as Bergl’s high school guidance counselor, and surprise, surprise, she’s still a little shook up over having seen her classmates crisped 22 years earlier. When she starts to notice that her goth chick charge exhibits the ability to mentally move things about, Sue wonders if there could be a connection between Carrie White and Rachel Lang.
Well, of course there is, the kind of link that could only occur in sequel-land. Seems they have the same father, one who carries the telekinetic gene in his loins, which means that the randy dan has likely peopled the whole valley with snow globe-crushing and locker door-slamming offspring.
But instead of pursuing this potentially intriguing premise, Moreu and director Katt Shea are content to recreate the same by-the-numbers character arc as before: watching a shy social outcast blossom, have her dreams smashed to pieces by cruel peers, whereupon she rips the joint up and burns it all down.
Mean girls Nancy Allen and P.J. Soles have been replaced by meathead jocks (led by Zachery Ty Bryan) and (Dylan Bruno) who log their sexual conquests in a competitive “scorebook,” mom’s been incarcerated in a mental asylum, and the relationship between handsome stud (Jason London) and Rachel is emotionally genuine (as opposed to an act of contrition), but one wishes that all involved would have explored fresher ideas instead of recycling what went before. (One also wishes a kibosh could have been put on the “authentic” teen dialogue, which was probably dated from the get, Yo. Word.)
Actress-turned-director Shea (Stripped to Kill) directs the action efficiently, although her attempts to inject a little style into the mix via some puzzling black-and-white sequences don’t seem motivated by anything other than idle whims. On the other side of the camera, Mena Suvari, who enjoyed a banner 1999 with American Pie and American Beauty, appears in a brief but significant role as Rachel’s best friend (the two share matching rose tattoos, leading to a creative but ultimately silly set-piece that leaves Bergl looking like she’s been attacked by a Sharpie-wielding pre-schooler.)
While the third act definitely delivers the object-flinging, blood-slinging goods, the sequel’s redundancies and ham-fisted plotline are its biggest distractions/demerits; a complete do-over or blatant rip-off might have played better than Moreu’s combination of the two. As it stands, The Rage is a decent telekinetic-chick-flick, but doesn’t deserve its pedigree when cheap thrills are all it has to sell.
Some may raise their eyebrows at seeing not one, but two commentary tracks featuring Shea – I know I did – on Shout! Factory’s recent Blu-ray release. However, it’s refreshing to report than almost no anecdotes are repeated. The director is articulate and effusive during her solo turn (recorded for the initial DVD release), detailing the challenges presented and obstacles overcome; for the second, newly recorded track, prolific genre staple and uber film-buff David DeCoteau moderates (and occasionally dominates) the conversation between Shea and her cinematographer Donald Morgan.
Though some might contend The Rage isn’t worthy of three separate viewings, the two commentaries are quite entertaining and comprehensive; even semi-fans will come away appreciating the film a bit more than before. DeCoteau’s informed input is a master class in Audio Commentary 101 and the feting of his two co-stars is so charming and sincere that one can’t help smile. Whether singing the praises of Shea’s capacity for presenting dirty, sexy thrillers (Poison Ivy, Dance of the Damned) or celebrating Morgan’s contributions to Skatetown U.S.A. as exuberantly as his more lauded work with John Carpenter (Christine, Starman), Decoteau is an absolute treat and the guests rise to his level.
The Rage: Carrie 2 is available now (paired with the quite capable 2002 Angela Bettis-starring TV remake) from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine