I had a traumatic experience in high school. I tried to help someone, and it backfired horribly. ~ Sue Snell
The latter part of the 90’s saw a revival in teen horror. Scream (1996) lay the groundwork for a slew of imitators, some which became beloved amongst fans in their own right; such as I Know what you did Last Summer (1997) and Urban Legend (1998) while others vanquished into forgettable obscurity. This spike in horror popularity also resulted in reviving franchises from the genre’s glory days as the 90’s was yearning with nostalgia for the 70’s. In 1998 Michael Myers was resurrected to terrorize Laurie Strode in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) placing an updated, then-modern spin on John Carpenter’s classic. The same year, albeit from the 80’s, possessed killer doll Chucky slashed his way back onto blood-soaked cinema screens in Bride of Chucky (1998) following a seven-year cinematic absence. The teen horror movie iron was certainly hot, and it was time to strike by capitalizing on and revamping an iconic tale of terror, the one about the girl who could move objects with her mind, Carrie.
Unlike Halloween (1978), Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976) was adapted from the acclaimed debut novel by master of suspense, Stephen King, making a sequel released over twenty years later an interesting property when it comes down to the canon of both King and DePalma’s works. Even though this sequel is a product of its time and a result of the popular teen movie market during the late 90’s, it’s a timely one to explore whether fans choose to tie it to the Carrie films or view it as a standalone entry of the post-Scream era.
The Rage: Carrie 2 encountered turbulent beginnings within its production and entered the void of development hell for a couple of years. It’s unclear if The Rage was always intended to be a sequel to Carrie with its original title being “The Curse”. In 1998 the film finally went into production as Carrie 2: Say You’re Sorry before settling on The Rage. However, the film was always based on a real life 1993 incident where a group of jocks from Lakewood California became embroiled in a sex scandal. The real-life story is more extreme than what’s depicted in the movie, as some of the victims raped by these abhorrent individuals were as young as ten years old. The jocks kept a score book of their conquests, an element which was later adapted into this film. The Rage does bring to light some hard-hitting topics which are just as relevant today as they were back then, from statutory rape, teen suicide, personal humiliation and bullying. The Rage is a film about surviving high school and a cathartic viewing experience as the plot bubbles and brews eagerly anticipating for protagonist/anti-heroine Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl) to wreak her revenge.
The film opens with Barbara Lang (J. Smith-Cameron) painting a red barrier around the living room to protect her telekinetic young daughter Rachel (Kayla Campbell) from Satan. She is a clear sequel counterpart for Margaret White, Carrie’s fanatical religious mother. However, Barbara Lang, comes across as much more empathetic and misunderstood as she is sectioned with a schizophrenia diagnosis. Flash forward to the present day and Rachel is a high school teen, residing in a foster home with her loyal canine companion, Walter. Her world is further shattered when her best friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari) commits suicide by jumping off the school roof. Devastated, Rachel soon discovers that the group of misogynistic jocks provoked Lisa’s unnecessary, bittersweet death. Will they be able to win her around to the popular side and will Rachel be able to keep her brewing telekinetic powers at bay before its too late?
The Rage tackles an abundance of sensitive subjects from mental health to consent. On the most part it is dealt with respectfully however some depictions of individuals with mental health issues are glaringly stereotypical and it’s uncertain if they are meant to be played for laughs or to lighten the tone. Lisa’s suicide scene is played to a heart-breaking effect. The anguish on Mena Suvari’s face is distinctive as she is rejected by Zachary Ty Bryan’s repellent Eric. No dialogue is required, all we need to know is presented in the acting and expressions. Lisa slowly walks by oblivious individuals before plummeting to her death. The scene is surreal and dreamlike bringing about the shock effect of Lisa’s actions.
The reaction to her suicide is startling with Eric and his buddies callously hoping to cover up their involvement and ruthless, archetypal Queen B, Tracy (Charlotte Ayanna) deeming her as a “nobody”. The film makes a commentary on misunderstood youth and how money and corruption can come into play by counteracting justice.
When revisiting the film, it was difficult not to draw comparisons with the recent Netflix drama, 13 Reasons Why (2017), with thematic similarities of entitled jock culture and teen rape, proving that The Rage was ahead of its time for illustrating these subjects for a primarily teenage audience. Its also eye-opening in light of the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements with bold and raw subjects depicted, holding a poignant relevance today. Combining this with the film’s 1999 release just prior to the Columbine tragedy, the poignancy that the film carries doesn’t receive enough credit due to its “low culture”, teen horror status, a genre that is often accused of glorifying on-screen violence.
Returning to its position as a follow-up film to Carrie (1976), the glue that binds these films together is the return of Amy Irving as Sue Snell. Sue was the girl who empathised with Carrie (Sissy Spacek) even encouraging her boyfriend, Tommy (William Katt) to take her to the prom. Sue was as well-meaning then as she is in the sequel. She is now the school counsellor who senses a striking resemblance between Rachel and the tragic girl she knew in high school. In order to right the wrongs in how she believes she failed Carrie, Sue gets too close for comfort as she probes Rachel to confront her powers.
Sissy Spacek herself declined to cameo in the film but gave director Katt Shea permission to use archive footage of the original film featuring her character. The use of flashbacks feels unnecessary. They’re obviously included to draw comparisons between Rachel and Carrie and the cruelty of high school teens however homage or otherwise, these recaps feel forced with the target audience either having most likely viewed the original or if not, it’s hardly an inaccessible film to seek out. The familial connection between Rachel and Carrie White that is revealed by Sue, is all too convenient and doesn’t enhance the story by any means as there is little effort made to explore it further. Rachel is too caught up in her own angst to take much interest in the revelation or even believe Sue.
Unlike the mild-mannered Tommy Ross who Sue had asked to take Carrie to Prom, this film sees the conflicted, Jesse Ryan (Jason London) fall for Rachel much to the dismay of his so-called popular circle of friends. He doesn’t make the smartest decisions when it comes to Rachel resulting in unforeseen, blood drenched consequences. The film certainly tries to hammer home that Jesse and Rachel are tragic lovers by drawing parallels to Romeo and Juliet early on. At the same time, Jesse doesn’t exactly cut ties with his reprehensible football buddies and strives for that clean-cut, All-American jock image. He would rather integrate Rachel into his own crowd rather than seeing them for what they really are and moving on to possible happiness. He’s a pawn in driving Rachel’s story along, a reason for her to strive for social acceptance in the wake of her losses. Realistically, she doesn’t need a love interest to fulfil her and is more powerful and stronger than she knows. Jesse also plays a hand in the notorious sex score book, therefore he isn’t as likable as the film attempts to present him as.
Events culminate in the party to end all parties. Following the formula of Carrie, Rachel takes her revenge at a typical teen 90’s style house party at an affluent home following the final crushing humiliation at the hands of the jocks. Interestingly, other than Lisa’s suicide, there isn’t much of a body count with the carnage carefully built up and saved until the climax which is somewhat refreshing for a teen horror movie of that era. The death scenes are extremely satisfying and well deserved, taking on a darkly comic edge. The climax doesn’t shy away from one or two unexpected surprises. The sequence isn’t as epic as it seemed back when viewing it on its initial UK VHS release due to advancement in CGI technology however its still an entertaining and fulfilling way to bring the film to its conclusion.
The Rage: Carrie 2 does outstay its welcome with an unnecessary follow-up scene, which will never be on par with the nerve-shredding jump scare finale of the original. The final scene is quite laughable rather than creepy, but a sigh of relief can be breathed in that the alternate ending wasn’t chosen which seemed more of a CGI test than having any relevance to the plot itself.
The Rage: Carrie 2 is a decent follow-up featuring a timely concept and call backs to DePalma’s masterpiece. Despite all its flaws and jarring tonal shifts, it’s a product of post-Scream teen horror and the teen movies that were popular at the time. In summary, it’s an acceptable horror flick with a strong central performance from, Emily Bergl alongside empowering, feminist undertones. The film undeservedly acquired negative reviews upon its release, and no future Carrie sequels were made. King’s novel was however adapted to the screen twice more in 2002 starring Angela Bettis and in 2013 with Chloe Grace Moretz, respectively.
The Rage is reignited on Blu-ray through cult film label 88 Films, who present stunning new cover art, commentaries, deleted scenes, *that* alternate ending and the original theatrical trailer. Out Now!