Making a sequel is never easy due to the scrutiny that the film will come under. It is inevitable that the sequel will be compared to the original and not seen as an independent entity. You have to have guts to make a sequel to a classic film. And you have to be really gutsy (or slightly crazy) to wait 25 years to make a sequel to a film that most consider to be a classic. In cases like this, the new film has little chance of making it. I believe this is why critics blasted "The Rage: Carrie 2." While the film doesnít (and canít) live up to its predecessor, it does offer some fun and has a nice look.
The film opens with a woman painting a red stripe around the perimeter of a room, while chanting. She paints indiscriminately, covering paintings and furniture. We then see that there is a terrified looking young girl in the room. An ambulance arrives and takes the woman away. We learn that the girlís name is Rachel, and her motherís abrupt departure has upset her. As she runs through the house, doors slam and windows open and close on their own. Finally the girl seeks refuge in a closet, with her dog, Walter.
We then jump forward several years and see Rachel as a teenager (played by Emily Bergl). Rachel lives with foster parents and isnít very happy. She sports the Goth look and is seen as an outcast at her high-school and has only one true friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari). As Rachel arrives at school, Lisa teases Rachel by saying that she has a secret that she will tell Rachel later. But before Rachel can learn the secret, Lisa leaps from the roof of the school, killing herself.
As it turns out, Lisa had gone out with Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan of "Home Improvement"), a jock whoís a member of an elite group that is having a contest to see who can get the most girls. Eric denies any knowledge of Lisa to his friends Mark (Dylan Bruno of "Saving Private Ryan") and Jesse (Jason London of "Dazed and Confused"). However, Rachel finds a picture of Lisa and Eric together and confronts him. Frightened that he may be charged with statutory rape, Eric enlists Markís help to intimidate Rachel. Meanwhile, Jesse becomes infatuated with Rachel and crosses societal boundaries to go out with her. As the pressure on Rachel mounts, strange things begin to happen around her. Objects begin moving by themselves. School counselor Sue Snell (Amy Irving, reprising her role from the original "Carrie") tries to help Rachel, but Rachel refuses. Mark and his gang decide that they will make Rachel feel accepted and then administer her comeuppance. Big mistake!
Having read the scathing and savage reviews that "The Rage: Carrie 2" received during its theatrical run, I wasnít expecting much from the film. Therefore, I was surprised that the story is intriguing and that the film is very well made. As you can see from the synopsis above, the basic storyline is very similar to that of "Carrie." Social misfit girl with telekinetic powers becomes the target of the popular kids and therefore must wreak havoc. However, the script for "The Rage: Carrie 2" by Rafael Moreu (who also wrote "Hackers") adds some new elements to the story. Gone is the overbearing, bigot mother who dominates the main character. In this film, Rachelís mom is an insane asylum (called "Arkham Asylum" which should have the Batman fans rolling their eyes), and has little to no influence over Rachel. Rachel has created her own prison in which she lives. She chooses to be different from the popular kids. (And reading even further into it, just how different are Goth kids anymore? Goth has gone very mainstream.)
Also, Rachel seems to be perfectly aware of her telekinetic powers -- she just chooses not to use them. Over the course of the film, we learn that intense stress causes Rachel to lose control over her abilities. Despite her social status, Rachel seems to have some self-confidence and isnít afraid of speaking her mind. This is truly a "Carrie" for the 90s.
Despite the updating of the story, the plot is still very predictable. This is the major flaw of the film. We know that Rachel is going to get bullied. We know that Jesse is going to fall for her. We know that Rachel is going to lose it and kill everyone in sight. The story doesnít offer many surprises beyond that, although there is one death that I didnít expect. And the finale, which does have some nice touches, doesnít come close to the fiery conclusion of "Carrie." Taken on its own, the ending is OK, but when compared to DePalmaís vision (especially the split-screen) "The Rage: Carrie 2" definitely pales.
Kudos must definitely go to "Poison Ivy" director Katt Shea, who came into the project after original director Robert Mandel exited. Shea gives the film a great visual style. One nice touch occurs whenever Rachel uses her telekinesis -- the film goes to black and white. Sheaís camera rarely stays still, offering unusual, and sometimes dizzying, views of the action. Every scene involves some sort of unconventional camerawork, but never enough to draw the viewer out of the story. However, Shea has made one odd choice. In the classrooms in the school, the lights are always off. Apparently Rachelís school is run by the same people who operated the hospital in "Halloween II."
Shea gets help from her young cast. Bergl (in her motion picture debut) is good as Rachel. As she is in almost every scene, Bergl has to keep her momentum up and she does a fine job with this. Jason London continues to prove that he is a much better actor than his brother Jeremy and overcomes the daunting obstacle of having the audience feel sympathy for a nice-looking jock. Bruno (who looks likes Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray) oozes evil as the cruel Mark, and we instantly loathe his character. Adding Amy Irving to the cast was a nice touch and offers a concrete connection to the first film.
MGM Home Entertainment hasnít given "The Rage: Carrie 2" second-class treatment for its DVD debut either. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The framing of the film appears to be accurate, as the picture doesnít warp and there is no obvious deletion of visual information. The picture is crystal clear, especially during the daytime exterior scenes. Shea has chosen to light these scenes in a very natural way, and they appear incredibly crisp on the DVD. There is no artifacting present and no obvious flaws in the source material. The only visible grain comes during the black-and-white footage, which is typically inescapable.
The audio on the DVD is Dolby Digial 5.1. The surround sound is active throughout the film and is put to good use. During a storm, thunder reverberates from the speakers, and during the finale, we hear "Theyíre all going to laugh at you." circling the room. (Although why Rachel would hear Piper Laurieís voice is beyond me.)
The DVD offers some special features, of varying quality. First, we have an audio commentary by director Katt Shea. Shea is able to talk non-stop throughout the film and offers a great deal of insight into her imagery, pointing out many interpretive items that can be missed upon a casual viewing. She talks at length about the challenge of taking over the film after it had been started. She speaks highly of her cast and crew and remembers everyoneís name (a definite plus). A question that wasnít answered was the origin of the script -- was this written specifically as a sequel to "Carrie" or was it a spec script that was tailored to be a sequel? As "The Rage: Carrie 2" was filmed in my hometown of Charlotte, Iíd hoped that Shea would talk more about locations, but she doesnít. Actually, she never says the word "Charlotte", but uses "North Carolina" as a blanket term. Hey! People know about Charlotte -- home of the Hornets and the Panthers! Donít get me started.
There are three deleted scenes that can be viewed with or without commentary by Shea. She also offers an introduction to the deleted scenes. One scene, showing Rachel visiting her mom in the asylum, should have been kept in to show that she still had some connection with her mother. An alternate ending is also featured, with an analysis of how the CGI effects were done. Shea states that the ending was replaced because audiences didnít get it. Well, I didnít get it either and she offers no explanation for what it means. Surprisingly, there is no trailer or talent bios on the disc.
I found "The Rage: Carrie 2" to be a nice surprise. While itís nowhere near as good as "Carrie" it has its bright spots and a couple of surprises. The film is very well-made (despite a low-budget and cramped schedule) and looks very good on DVD. You donít have to be a psychic to figure out whatís going to happen in the film, but if youíre up for a telekinetic firestorm, then check it out.