Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Aaron Lowe: And we’re back! Throughout the past couple months we’ve been discussing Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie (1974), and the various filmed versions that resulted from it. So far we’ve discussed the original novel and De Palma’s 1976 movie. Most people are aware of that adaptation, and the more recent remake from 2013, but there are also a pair of lesser known films in between that seem to have made no waves at all. When we decided to cover Carrie as our first novel, I was actually most excited to finally catch up with these forgotten films. I made no assumptions as to their quality, but I was sure the movies would have some interesting facets to explore.

And so, without further ado, let’s get straight into our discussion of the 1999 theatrical release, The Rage: Carrie 2.

The Rage: Carrie 2

Aaron: As I said above, I had never seen The Rage before last week. Not only had I never seen it, but I had mostly forgotten about its existence. This is actually a bit odd for a pretty big-budgeted film ($21 million, for a horror film, in 1999!) given a nationwide release from a big studio (MGM). It’s also surprising for a film based on a book by one of my favorite authors, and a direct sequel to a beloved horror film. I vaguely recall seeing trailers for this film back in 1999, but it quickly slipped out of my awareness. I worked in a video store for years, and every time I’d come across the DVD case it was like seeing it for the first time. “What? They made a sequel to Carrie? Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.” And yet I never watched the film.

It does seem a bit odd, doesn’t it? A Carrie sequel in 1999? I’m not sure why the idea to do a sequel was put forward when, at that point in time, a remake would probably have made more sense. The Rage: Carrie 2 came out twenty-three years after the original film, a film in which all of the primaries, including the title character, are killed at the end. Of course, not every character died at the end of the original, and Sue Snell’s survival provides the tenuous connection between the De Palma film and this one, which for all intents and purposes is otherwise unrelated.

So, Rik, I’m curious as to your history with this film. Had you seen The Rage before, or like me did it fall off your radar? And what do you think of the very idea of a Carrie sequel in the first place?

Rik: Nope, it did not fall off my radar. In fact, I was not only aware of the film when it came out, I actually saw it in a theatre. I will likely get into some of my specific reactions to seeing it later in this discussion when we touch on story points, but it will not be surprising to find out that I was disappointed, even though my expectations were not great in the first place. Instead of being mad that I spent the money on a movie ticket, I owned my purchase from the start, knowing that I was probably not going to see anything decent.

Since then, I did see the film again on video a couple of years later when I decided to watch both films back to back in conjunction with the 2002 television adaption being released (which we will get to in our next edition). I watched the film, for no real reason at all except that I had pretty much forgotten it, for a third time in 2010. (Hooray for film diaries and Letterboxd!)

There is another connection between the films, and even though it is supposed to be a big reveal in the film at a certain point, knowledge of this connection was widely used in the film’s promotional materials. Otherwise, how would you answer the question, “How is this film connected to Carrie?” Rachel Lang, the main character in this film (she is not named Carrie), and Carrie White from the first film are supposedly half-sisters, because the man who impregnated Margaret White, Ralph White, also got Rachel’s mother, Barbara Lang all knocked up before the events in this film take place. It is also not a surprise that the ultra-fundamentalist Ralph ends up with two women with basically the same whacked-out viewpoint on what is going on with their daughters, and treats them both in an equally shitty way. (He apparently has no problem sleeping around, despite the supposed morals espoused by his religious fervor. Oh, temptation…)

Truth be told, the film could have existed without any such trumped up connection and just had it be the tale of another case of a person with telekinesis whose powers are unleashed under tragic circumstances. The film didn’t even need Sue Snell, but it is interesting to find out that actress Amy Irving, who played the role in both films, sought the blessing of Brian De Palma before taking the role in the latter film. I know Hollywood is in love with sequels and remakes, and they don’t trust original stories or for films to stand on their own feet at all, but I think the half-sister connection is too much of a stretch. I would have rather seen a film, if it had to have any connection to the first film, that saw Sue Snell just move on to another school as a counselor a number of years after the incident, meet a girl who reminds her eerily of Carrie White, and then do everything she can to avoid another similar tragedy. That is essentially what we get here, but the filmmakers have to trick it out to force a double connection.

How did you feel about the Ralph White connection, Aaron?

Aaron: Well, this is awkward, because your entire statement covers, almost to a T, the exact same sentiments I had prepared to continue this piece. How do I feel about the Ralph White connection? Well, the man certainly had a type, didn’t he? It also suggests other sequels. The timing is a bit odd already; Rachel in this film is roughly the same age as Carrie was in the previous film, which means there’s at least a 22-year gap between the births of his daughters. What about the intervening years? Could Ralph White have been hopping from reclusive religious zealot to reclusive religious zealot, staying just long enough to father telekinetic children before leaving the harried, ill-prepared mother to deal with the consequences? Twenty-two years; we could have over a dozen films about telekinetic teens causing havoc in high schools.

In all sincerity, the half-sister revelation is wholly unnecessary, as you say. I had the same thought you had; a superior sequel to Carrie could have been made by focusing on Sue Snell and her attempts to deal with lingering PTSD while also trying to atone for her part in the original film’s tragedy by helping a kid in a similar situation. We get glimpses of that film here, as that roughly describes Amy Irving’s arc, but she is in the end a fairly minor character. Sue Snell shows up a handful of times to pretty much remind the audience of what happened in the first film through the use of some helpful flashbacks.

Unnecessary is a word that could very well describe the entire film. I’ll admit that I didn’t hate this movie quite the way I expected to, but I also didn’t think it made a very good case for its existence. I normally dislike that type of critique, because I don’t think a movie always needs a “point,” and it certainly shouldn’t need one that fulfills our preconceived notions. And yet, I kept asking myself “Why a sequel to Carrie?” as I watched The Rage. I think this movie would have been improved if the connections to the De Palma film had been lessened. The Rage does nothing to deepen or extend the original in any meaningful way, and instead tells a similar story with an updated setting.

While The Rage is not exactly a carbon copy of Carrie, we can still use your tongue-in-cheek synopsis of the original to accurately describe this film: the wrong teenagers pick on the wrong girl with the right superpower at the wrong time. There are some fairly large differences between Carrie and Carrie 2, most notably in the demeanor and social standings of the two films’ main characters, but The Rage: Carrie 2 still feels awfully familiar. Rachel and Carrie both get a taste of popularity through flirtations with popular football players, which serves to further the anger felt by those who seek to punish them. Both films feature a scene in an English class where the aforementioned football players get a chance to prove their soulful sides. And both films have a scene where the heroine bashfully tries on lipstick in a department store while a disapproving clerk looks on.

Those are just surface similarities, while of course there are the broader similarities inherent to stories about a social misfit running afoul of some popular kids and exacting her revenge through the use of telekinesis during a party at the end of the film. But The Rage lacks a central metaphor as rich as the menstruation/puberty metaphor in Carrie, which increases the feeling that this film is a pale imitation of the original. I’m not even sure if there is a central metaphor to The Rage, other than the typical “high school sucks” attitude most teen horror films adopt.

Rik, this film was originally titled The Curse, which seems more thematically relevant to the first film, although it would of course have fit for this one. I kind of see the title change as one of the many indications of when this film was made in the late nineties, as part of the trend to label all youth oriented marketing as “extreme” in some way. There are a lot of wonderfully stupid details that mark this film as dated to a very particular time period for me, including the lead being a cute goth girl (or goth-influenced, we should say), the random black and white moments in the film, and the fact that someone is killed with a stack of flying CDs. As someone who spent his entire teen years in the nineties, these moments were equally endearing and annoying. How did they strike you?

Rik: Obviously, I couldn’t relate to them in the same way, since my teen years started the year after the first Carrie came out, but I did recognize them as being of their particular time. They were neither bothersome or endearing to me, merely details in what I found to be a rather by-the-book affair. The fact that it is that way is not surprising to me, given that the director is Katt Shea (sometimes credited as Katt Shea Ruben). The Rage: Carrie 2 probably represents what was supposed to be her highest point in her filmography, after having a small critical (but not financial) success with Streets in 1990 (with Christina Applegate in what was supposed to be a breakthrough dramatic role) and then some decent notice with a Drew Barrymore thriller, Poison Ivy in 1992. Neither film really thrilled me at all, being what I considered fairly average films, though I am slightly more fond of the films with which Shea started out her career “stripper thriller” subgenre: Stripped to Kill (1987) with Kay Lenz, and even better, Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls, with Maria Ford. (Because of Maria, I was definitely more fond of Stripped to Kill 2 when it played on Skin-emax and other cable channels a zillion times over back in the day. Not sure if I would be into her today though. Tastes, as well as tassels, change...)

I think the most striking difference between the films (apart from quality) is the fact that Rachel and Carrie are not similar at all in social status. Carrie was, almost by complete force of her mother’s will, an outcast amongst her peers at school, whereas Rachel not only seems to be fairly well-liked by many, she even obviously has her own complete group of friends. Sure, those friends tend not to be among the actual “popular” set at the school, i.e. jocks, cheerleaders, and rich kids, but what I am saying is that she is not hurting for friendship and attention amongst her peer group. At home is another matter, where her mother – nearly a clone of Margaret White – has been institutionalized (rightly) and she lives with foster parents (the father is played by John Doe of the punk rock group X, one of my all-time favorite bands; he is not that great here as the foster dad though, but pretty stiff, though he is fine in other parts, especially Border Radio and on TV’s Roswell).

Rachel is especially tight with Lisa, played by Mena Suvari, who frankly looks better in this film than most of the ritzier, more popular girls at the school. (While The Rage was released in the same year as both films, Suvari was just breaking through in 1999 with her appearances in both American Beauty and American Pie). Rachel and Lisa even have matching tattoos on their arms to show their bond, so naturally you know something horrible is going to happen to Lisa to make Rachel go bonkers. This is where The Rage gets any real drive it has, as the boys on the football team are involved in an unseemly game with dire emotional consequences and crippling physical abuse. And, no, I am talking about far beyond just the sport of football itself. The football players keep a “notebook” (I’d call it a diary, but they would probably try to beat me up) in which they assign an arbitrary point system each time one of them sleeps with one of the girls in the school. Since they pretty much dump each girl once they tag her, hearts and minds are broken but the team thinks it just great fun. For Lisa, once she becomes yet another victim of the game, it will drive her to suicide fairly early in the film, when she walks right off the surprisingly easily accessible roof of the high school. (Suvari’s relatively small role would be considered barely above a cameo had she already been famous when The Rage was released). Lisa splats into a car window below, and one of the jocks is even brazen enough – and quite settled into being completely unafraid of any repercussions from their “prank” –  to mock her openly in front of the shocked crowd that gathers.

The filmmakers apparently based the game on a real life incident that made the news in 1993 when a group that called themselves “the Spur Posse,” pulled an exactly similar stunt on teenage girls in their hometown of Lakewood, California. In watching the film again with the Trump “locker room talk” conversation in the air everywhere, the discussion and playing of the points game added an even grimier layer of filth to the proceedings for me than it did the first three times I saw it. It was already there and creepy enough as it was, but current circumstances can often alter one’s view of information already gained. How did this section of the film play for you, Aaron?

Aaron: That’s an interesting question, and one I’ve actually been pondering since first watching this film. I’m not surprised to hear the jocks’ game of scoring their sexual partners was based on a true story, as I’ve come to realize that in the vastness of the world and human history, everything under the sun has been done, and human cruelty knows no bounds. Surprisingly, however, this view of the jocks was not at all in line with my own high school experience, so I found it to be one of the more tone-deaf aspects of the film.

I have always been a bookish and not particularly physically gifted individual, and yet for a few years I was, strangely, involved in the world of organized competitive athletics. In junior high and high school, I was on both the swim team and the cross-country ski teams. Admittedly that crowd is a far cry from the football team, but I still spent time in the company of people who did play football and other more popular high school sports, and I will say that none of them behaved as unconscionably as the kids we watch in The Rage. The “jocks” I socialized with or shared science class with were, almost uniformly, polite, intelligent, and friendly. There were a few outliers, of course, as with any large group, but they tended to experience an inverse popularity and were not immediately granted acceptance due to their sports aptitude.

Likewise, I feel that the guys who would behave this way would not have been so popular with the ladies. The girls I knew in high school would, I believe, not have been fooled by the guys in this film. Before you accuse me of romanticizing my high school years, it should be said that this is not a time in my life that I view through rose-colored glasses. I think it’s entirely likely that there were some fairly piggish discussions I was not around for, and certainly my own views of women could be far from enlightened at that age, but I’d say it was just your standard, ill-informed and ignorant talk among adolescent boys with limited experience when it came to the opposite sex. Whatever Mr. Trump would like people to believe, what he said would not be considered locker room talk in the real world, although it would not have sounded out of place coming from the mouth of one of the football players in this film. There’s a brazenness about the boys in The Rage, a shamelessness and entitlement that made it all worse (taunting a girl dead from suicide is a case in point).

Honestly, my first impression of this aspect of the film was that it was all way too over the top. It all seemed to be a bit of “broadcast news expose” fearmongering. “Do you know what your daughters are doing with the captain of the football team?!” Hearing that it was based on true events doesn’t erase my initial feelings, but I will admit that the film effectively made me hate every single one of The Rage’s villains. Very early on it got to the point where I couldn’t wait for Rachel’s ultimate revenge, but I also couldn’t understand why she was buying into their facade. As you pointed out, Rachel is not without friends, she has a job, a fairly stable home life, and seems generally to be well-adjusted. She certainly doesn’t seem like someone who’s always admired the “in crowd,” so I’m not sure why she suddenly gets so excited when she’s invited to parties with them. On top of that she already knows her best friend committed suicide because of one of the football players, and is in possession of proof of the boy’s involvement, proof that could get the boy charged with statutory rape. Why isn’t she more suspicious when all of the football players, and their girlfriends, suddenly start being nice to her?

This is all facilitated by Rachel’s own burgeoning relationship with one of those football players, Jesse (Jason London), again a development she really should have been more suspicious of. But their feelings are real, as Jesse befriends Rachel out of guilt for his own behavior, and a genuine attraction to her. But that presents another problem for me. Jesse is the male hero of this film, the love interest that is meant to break Rachel out of her shell, in an echo of Tommy Ross from the original. And yet his involvement in the notebook game, and the fact that he sleeps with his girlfriend in front of, and for the amusement of, his teammates is fairly repulsive. Jesse treats his girlfriend, Tracy, pretty coldly after he’s done, and it’s supposed to be because he feels shameful and is turned off by how he’s going along with his teammates just to fit in, but he just seems like a real dick. He’s ostensibly one of the heroes of this film, and I get it, you do what you have to to survive high school. During those years your judgment is not the best and you do some bad things that, if you’re a decent person, you will eventually regret, but I found it hard to overlook his shitty behavior just because he felt real bad about it.

You mentioned that a lot of this film was re-contextualized for you when viewed in light of Donald Trump’s disgusting comments (and actions, let’s not forget about those) about women and his sense of sexual entitlement. I agree with your sentiment, but there’s another instance of real world events changing perceptions of this film that I’d like to discuss. The Rage: Carrie 2 was released on March 12, 1999. One month later, on April 20, two students would walk into their high school in Colorado and exact their own revenge on the classmates they felt had wronged them. It’s hard to remember now, after 18 years of school violence and increasingly common mass shootings, but the cultural climate in early 1999 was very different than it is today. In early 1999, it was acceptable to have a black-clad, industrial music-loving, social misfit kill a large number of their classmates, but by late 1999, this film would not have been released.

The Rage cannot be held responsible for Columbine, even indirectly. At the risk of opening up a huge can of worms, I’ve never agreed with the argument that onscreen violence causes real life violence. Possibly I’m biased, because I watch a lot of horribly violent movies and have never been in a fight in my life. For all the pitchfork rattling regarding onscreen violence in the months and years after Columbine, it is interesting to see that apparently no one thought to include The Rage in those condemnations. I don’t mean to completely derail this piece, but it is a sad truth about our lives these days, and I believe it should at least be mentioned here. Of course, Carrie movies did get released after 1999, two of them, and I believe they will each entail their own discussions about American culture as a whole. I’m just wondering if this knowledge affected your viewing of Carrie 2 in a way that maybe you didn’t process when you first saw this in 1999, before schoolyard violence had become such a prevalent part of daily life in America.

Rik: I certainly thought about the film briefly post-Columbine, because I had seen it only weeks before, and when the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode titled Earshot started up a controversy a few months later, I do remember scenes from the original Carrie being used in news reports on the air, but do not recall any scenes from The Rage being shown in a similar way. This is not to say they weren’t used as examples of school violence in movies at that time, but just that I really just recall Carrie being served up because it is a far more memorable and famous film, and therefore more jarring when scenes from it are used to perhaps overdramatize a point on a news program.

I think that from all the evidence collected from the Columbine case that The Rage: Carrie 2 was never mentioned as a possible trigger for the killers. It is my guess, although the film came out just a few weeks before, that the murderers never saw the film. I saw the film in a theatre (because I am a dope), and a couple of my friends who were with me, but it seems nobody else did. With worldwide figures added in, The Rage came close but did not quite make back its $21 million budget (though that figure is not taking into account marketing and print costs, which would drive it up even further; why these are not added from the outset to the final budget figure is beyond me).

There are a couple of aspects of this film that I do really like. The first is Emily Bergl’s performance. It is a thankless task to be brought in for the sequel (albeit 23 years later) to a film where the actress who played the title role was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. I don’t want to make this a “Oh boo hoo, poor pampered Hollywood actress gets an opportunity for which most people would kill” scenario, as it really wasn’t that. The part of Rachel was not only Bergl’s very first theatrical role, she only had one other credit on television previous to this film. She was a babe in the woods. While I have problems with the way her character is handled late in the film (some of which Aaron mentioned above), I think Bergl’s performance is about as good as you could hope under the circumstances. She has an appealing presence, enough so that it is hard to believe that every single person in that school isn’t in love with her (or at least has some secret crush on her) in some manner. That may be a failure of casting, if that wasn’t the intent, but it is not Bergl’s fault. When I first saw the film, Bergl seemed to remind me of somebody else, and I eventually figured out it was Carrie Hamilton, Carol Burnett’s late daughter, who appeared in Tokyo Pop (a film that I, at one point, had some familiarity).

The other aspect that I did enjoy is the relative bloodiness of the film, in a way that far surpasses the original film (not counting that bucket of pig’s blood, of course). The filmmakers seem to take a small delight in its violence, whether having Lisa throw herself off a roof through a car window and then have everyone gawk at her or adding the gratuitous detail of having Rachel’s beloved dog run over in the middle of the night. (Don’t worry… the dog lives; he’s just a device to get her together with Jason London and to lead to all the sex stuff.)

When Carrie had her big prom meltdown, there was a real sense of otherworldliness to her, as if her soul had transported out of her body, and she was just pure vengeance unleashed. There was supposed to be a disconnect between when she used her powers and her real self, so even when the violence is unleashed on those who have caused Carrie great pain or torment (even her mother), while the audience takes great satisfaction in seeing Carrie take her revenge, it seems less personal to Carrie herself. The prom scene is (for the most part) exits being barred, hoses being moved about and sprayed at people and musical equipment, people getting shocked from the meeting of water with electricity, the gym catching on fire, and then Carrie flipping and blowing up Billy’s car. The only scene (besides Miss Collins getting crushed) that seems overly gratuitous is the final battle with her mother, where Carrie thankfully impales the psycho with every sharp object in the kitchen.

With Rachel, while she too seems to go into a sort of trance while exhibiting her great power, it almost feels like the revenge is a lot more personal. Let’s say the stakes are amped up anyway on the embarrassment level: being ridiculed over a lack of knowledge of one’s own feminine hygiene and then tricked into being prom queen where blood is dumped on your head versus having your best friend and yourself tricked into having sex with jocks and then getting mocked publicly about it (and with a suicide resulting in her friend’s case). I think Rachel really has it all over Carrie in the “Need to Get Revenge” department, and I think the results show that Rachel, despite her trance, seems to take a little more delight in her executions.

After we see another example of the “X-treme” culture influence (and CGI effects) on the film – where Rachel’s arm tattoo grows and lengthens down her arm to her hand before her attack, like a loyal snake or a vine – the attacks starts out with the party crowd being sprayed with shattering glass, which even beheads one victim. Naturally, a fire will break out and consume many of the guests, but mixed in there is a harpoon that Rachel manipulates and whirls around looking for a victim, finally embedding through a jock’s head but also through the front door where it goes through the peeping eye of one Sue Snell, effectively killing the only original Stephen King character left. 

Unlike the De Palma film, this film delights in seeing the blood splattered everywhere and dripping down from wounds. One of the big moments occurs when Rachel uses her power to pick up an entire stack of CDs from near the stereo, fans them out in the air, and then shoots them across the room like so many shuriken into the heads, faces, and chests of several partygoers. It would be a real nifty trick if the Cenobites hadn’t already pulled this gag first (and with far more gore) in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth back in 1994. Finally, there is a bit where one of the most obnoxious jocks who has ended up in the pool has the pool cover closed slowly over him by Rachel and then we see long shots of him trying to fight his way out of being trapped before he finally gives up the ghost. For a girl who is surrounded by chaos, fire, and screaming victims, and who seems so intent on murdering everyone within range in her blind rage, it is a decidedly dedicated amount of time to spend on one victim, no matter what he has done.

Aaron: You mention that the stakes for Rachel – with her best friend driven to suicide and then heartbroken and publicly humiliated by the people responsible – are higher than they were for Carrie – mocked for her ignorance and then embarrassed publicly at Prom – but I actually felt like they were lower. Carrie was a true social misfit, someone who was so far outside of society that she was effectively an alien species walking through high school life. The brief taste she gets of normalcy is so intoxicating, so foreign and earth-shaking, that to have it pulled brutally out from under her understandably destroyed her grasp on sanity for awhile. In The Rage, Rachel is just too normal for the film’s own good. She’s socially adept, and despite the stigma of a mother in a mental institution, and probably some deep-seated psychological issues stemming from her childhood, she seems remarkably well adjusted. I kept expecting her home life to be the source of some tension, because movies tend to only show adoptive parents when there’s going to be some abuse involved, but that development never came. Sure the foster parents seem a bit strict at times, probably not the most loving couple, and maybe a bit flummoxed by Rachel’s teenaged attitude, but they don’t particularly seem like monsters who mentally or physically abuse Rachel. They seem like a pretty normal family to me.

Rachel has a small group of friends at school, a regular job, and a stable home life. In other words: she is a normal teenage girl in middle class America. This normalcy works against the film’s goals, because I never quite bought the Rage of the title. Rachel doesn’t seem to be harboring any vast reservoir of pent up aggression, aside from a few scenes where she experiences her powers. I can certainly empathize with a spectacular explosion of anger after what she goes through, but I didn’t quite feel like the depth of her rage was proportionate to what we had seen of her behavior so far. Of course, high school is a time of extreme emotions, and sudden outbursts of rage are to be expected, but the film doesn’t quite set up the extremity of the finale. Carrie White in the original film was an avatar of rage, taking her revenge to biblical levels. Rachel Lang goes bloodier, more brutal, more creative with her telekinetic powers, and I didn’t feel the film had earned that. Although, I also believe that it is to Katt Shea’s credit that she never tries to match, or outdo, the tour de force finale De Palma masterminded.

There was one pleasantly dark surprise for me in the finale, which you already mentioned above: the sudden and gory death of Sue Snell. Throughout the film Sue had been trying to help Rachel control her anger and her powers, and had finally struck on the idea of reaching out to Rachel’s mother. It is here that Sue, and the audience, learns of Rachel’s parentage, which gives Sue the idea to smuggle Rachel’s mother out of the mental institution in the hopes that some maternal love could help avoid a catastrophe. Arriving at the party, Sue chooses the exact wrong time to look through a peephole and meets a shocking end. This effectively echoes the journey of one Dick Halloran in Kubrick’s version of The Shining: a character who seems poised to become the deus ex machina that swoops in to save the day, only to be killed in a hilariously perfunctory manner. This does have the unfortunate effect of highlighting just how unnecessary Sue Snell was to the film, but it did make for a memorable moment.

In the end the rampage is stopped by Jesse arriving to the party and admitting he loves Rachel, which she disbelieves until she hears him saying the same thing on the sex tape that is still playing (filmed from an angle strategically chosen to not show genitalia, which was awfully considerate of those football players). Rachel saves Jesse as he’s about to be crushed by a falling beam, but is crushed in his place. She uses the last of her powers to push Jesse to safety before dying herself. What follows is an odd echo of the first film’s finale, as Jesse looks up from his studying a year later to see Rachel has climbed in through his dorm’s window. Before anything can be said, she kind of burns up and fades away before Jesse jumps awake. I’m not sure how I feel about this ending. On the one hand it underlines a point the film fitfully made, which is that trauma will haunt a person for their entire lives, but on the other hand the film failed to set this up or imbue it with any real emotion. Had the film focused more on Sue Snell, or at least developed that theme more fully, I think it could have been pretty effective. Once again I find myself imagining the movie this could have been, and that’s a little unfair to the movie that we did get, so I’ll leave it off at that.

Rik: While Carrie has been now remade twice more (one for TV and a recent theatrical remake), The Rage: Carrie 2’s failure at the box office seemed to have destroyed any thought of continuing the original series at a ridiculous Children of the Corn pace (thankfully). We will get into those other versions of the story in future installments, and whether they were worthy attempts or not, but I have to look at The Rage: Carrie 2 and say that they really fumbled the ball with this one, despite the couple of high points that I mentioned and the fact that they did try to coax a more modern and perhaps reflective story from the source material. The chief problem is that Rachel’s actions do not remain consistent late in the film to what we had seen earlier, and it therefore makes her character ultimately annoying. I would have rather seen her become more self-aware and in control of her powers, and then use them to not just gain her vengeance but to play the boys all along. (Yes, I know it is called The Rage for a reason, but perhaps that could have been the obstacle she truly has to overcome to grow into her true self.) They give us all the ingredients to make us believe that Rachel could turn into a true badass, but then have to ruin it all by being accidentally crushed by her own power. I would have much rather had her live instead of London’s weak character, where she has to live with the regrets of her actions but is strong enough to carry on through a world that is always going to be afraid of the implications of her power.

Aaron: That would be my complaint with this film in a nutshell: The Rage continually suggests the better movies that could have been made instead. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate this movie, or even particularly dislike it. I think it’s clear I have some serious problems with the film, but in general I enjoyed watching it, at least more than I initially thought I would. I found myself looking forward to a second rewatch, because at the very least Katt Shea creates a world that is enjoyable to inhabit for 90 minutes or so, despite the continual ugliness within the film. As you say, Emily Bergl does probably the best you could hope for with this material and character, and in fact I think most of the cast acquits themselves respectably (though, side note: it always bothers me when high school films use actors clearly in their twenties or thirties for the main characters, but populate the extras with age-appropriate teenagers). There is the basis of a good idea in this film, one that would have worked better under the original title The Curse, about how the tragedies of the past inform our daily lives no matter how we run from them, yet the film seems generally disinterested in that. I don’t even want to lay the blame on Katt Shea, who took over as director a few weeks into the production and was given very little prep time and a bunch of reshoots. Perhaps the original script described a better movie. I don’t think this is a film I’ll be adding to my Halloween rotation, but it’s also one I’m pretty sure I will revisit at least once or twice in the future.

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