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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
1 Stars

Directed by Katt Shea
Cast: Emily Bergl, Jason London, Amy Irving, Zachery Ty Bryan, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Rachel Blanchard, Mena Suvari, Elijah Craig.
1999 – 104 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, profanity, gore, brief nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 14, 1999.

In 1976, director Brian De Palma released "Carrie," based on the novel by Stephen King, which went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards (Sissy Spacek for Best Actress and Piper Laurie for Supporting Actress, respectively) and is now considered a horror classic, with almost everyone familiar with the shocking and surprisingly touching climax set at the senior prom. Twenty-three years later, a sequel seems pretty much like a desperate attempt for MGM to make some money, and after seeing "The Rage: Carrie 2," that is apparently exactly what the studio's goal was, since this low-rent, convoluted follow-up gives the great original a bad name.

In a brief prologue, a young girl who has the ability to move objects with her mind sees her schizophrenic mother taken away in an ambulance. Switch forward to the present-day, that young girl is now 16-year-old Rachel (Emily Bergl), a teenage girl who is living with an insensitive foster family. Rachel is a tough, strong-willed young woman who stands apart from the popular crowd at school, but is not actually made fun of or tormented the way that Carrie was in the original, and so we don't get to sympathize with the Rachel character in the same way. When Rachel's best friends, Lisa (Mena Suvari), excitedly tells her that she lost her virginity the night before, Rachel is devastated to discover later on that day that Lisa has committed suicide from jumping off the school's roof. Developing her late friend's pictures at the photomat she works at, Rachel discovers that Lisa had a picture taken with the guy whom she had sex with, Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan), one of the school jocks who is in a group where those initiated have sex with people and then rate them on a points scale in a little notebook. The one guy in the group who actually is growing tired of this cruel and juvenile game, Jesse (Jason London), starts to have eyes for Rachel, even though she initially finds it hard to believe that such a popular guy would be interested in her. Meanwhile, the school's guidance counselor, Sue Snell (Amy Irving, reprising her character from the original), the sole survivor of the town massacre two decades before, begins to recognize similarities in Rachel to Carrie, including her obvious power of telekinesis, so Sue sets out to find if Rachel is of any relation to Carrie. All of this finally leads up to the inevitable horrific climax, just like its predecessor, when the mean kids at school plot to play a prank on Rachel at a party, which subsequently pushes her over the edge.

The more you think about it, the more "The Rage: Carrie 2" really does come off as a shameful ploy to rip off the infinitely superior original, as it steals all of the major elements of that film and then attempts to put a spin on them, even though all they really are doing is tarneshing the memory of the first movie. For the first 85 minutes, the film moves at a very, very slow pace that is only a set-up for the climactic showdown. Although "Carrie" did the same thing, I was able to sympathize a great deal with Carrie, in her fight to be happy amidst constant torment from her fellow students (all much more memorably written and played by Nancy Allen, John Travolta, P.J. Soles, etc.), as well as her religious fanatic mother (Laurie). When the fateful moment finally did occur, we watched with horror and sadness as Carrie was humiliated and took revenge on everyone there, and the sequence was all the more touching, as well as frightening, because we cared about some of the innocent people (and, of course, Carrie) in which terrible things were happening to.

In "The Rage: Carrie 2," Emily Bergl, making her feature film debut, gives just about as strong of a performance as could possibly be expected, taking the thankless and underwritten role (even though she's the main character) of Rachel and making it her own. Perhaps this fact is where the first major problem of the film arises, however, since at least a little weakness and vulnerability needed to be shown so that we could care more about her. In retrospect, I can't even recall anything that terrible that anyone did to her in the movie (aside from at the party), and she was certainly not the ultimate class outcast. Because of this, when the ending arrived and Rachel takes out revenge on everyone, this plot development comes off as more of a gimmick rather than a natural occurrence. When Spacek did the same thing in 1976, we could see the pain in her eyes and were able to understand why she was doing what she doing. It is not Bergl's fault that she does not accomplish this same thing, but rather Rafael Moreu's clumsy and uneven screenplay. If this aspect of the conclusion doesn't necessarily work, it could have come off as exciting nonetheless, but director Katt Shea (1992's "Poison Ivy") even botches the technical aspect, and certainly lacks the style and overall height of raw terror that director De Palma was able to reach. To top it all off, when Rachel finally takes her vengeance, the tatoo on her arm wraps all over her body like a vine which, I seriously doubt, is a characteristic of a telekinetic person and makes no sense whatsoever. If anything, a few of the death set-pieces were admittedly original and shocking in its sudden surge of gore, but they also did not service the plot in any way.

One of the most irritating things in "The Rage: Carrie 2" is the pointless way that the film mixes color and black-and-white. One particular scene mid-way through that might have been effective only came off as cheesy due to the mindless decision to film certain sections in b&w, and because of this, the movie often felt like a direct-to-video movie.

Unlike "Carrie," "The Rage: Carrie 2" does an inadequate and disappointing job of writing its large cast of characters (many of which come off as simply an afterthought) and the story also does not hold such close scrutiny. The movie is never the least bit scary or even suspenseful, only occasionally bloody. Sure, there were a few unintentionally funny elements thrown in for good measure, such as when Rachel and Sue visit the school from the original that was burnt down 23 years before, and the firey remains still have not been cleaned up, but this ineptness was only a brief distraction from the lame proceedings. In the latest issue of Fangoria magazine, Amy Irving admits that the reason she agreed to make this sequel was because they offered her a sizable paycheck. At least she's honest.

©1999 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman