Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Figured that, having reviewed both versions of Carrie, I'd take a stab at the original film's oh-so-'90s sequel.

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

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This movie has a bad reputation among Carrie fans, and watching it, it's not hard to see why. Instead of a psychological thriller, this is a fairly rote teen slasher flick that contains awfully little bloodshed until the final twenty minutes, its connection to the original largely tacked on so as to make it more marketable. Instead of menacing villains like Margaret White and Chris Hargensen, The Rage has a group of jock caricatures and their bitchy cheerleader girlfriends whose motivations become increasingly muddled as the film goes on. Suspenseful moments are completely undone by ridiculous over-styling, using enough monochrome/color switches and camera tricks to make such moments look more like music videos than scenes in a horror movie. And yet, I couldn't bring myself to truly hate this film. It's bad, yes, but it's an enjoyable kind of bad, one that moves at a nice pace and is rarely outright boring.

The plot of the film is a trainwreck. Let me start with the villains. I can completely understand high school students being as evil as those in this film. I was ready to throw up my hands and cry foul when they started making necrophilia jokes about a girl who had killed themselves because of them, but then I remembered the awful case of Phoebe Prince, whose tormentors continued to mock her after her suicide, and more recently, the high school football stars in Steubenville, Ohio who turned date rape into joke fodder. Hell, this film's own jock villains were, sadly enough, based on a group of genuine, real-life douchebags. On paper, these guys would make for a great replacement for Chris and her gang from the original.

Where their motivations fell apart, though, is in why they would specifically target Rachel. Is it because she knew about their sex game and how it drove her best friend Lisa to kill herself? Last I checked, a major subplot in the film involved Eric, one of the jocks, getting suspended and facing a criminal trial over what happened to Lisa, and it was resolved with the guy, and by extension the team, being let off. It would be like if, in the original film, Chris continued to go ahead with the pig blood prank even if she had been allowed back into the prom. A change that could have helped this film for the better is if they weren't let off, and the football team's chauvinistic sex games erupted into a scandal due to Rachel, giving them a far more direct reason to hate her. As it stands, though, the jocks' villainy comes off as almost cartoonishly petty. By the end, they've already won the big game, gotten the attention of the college scouts, and buried the sex scandal, so why are they still trying to hurt Rachel?

But that is only the second worst thing in the script. Number one would be the entire subplot involving Sue Snell. As alluded to above, The Rage was not originally written as a sequel to Carrie, but as an original horror film. After spending two years in development hell, however, the script was retooled into a sequel, with Sue, one of the main characters from the original, brought back to work as a guidance counselor at the new school. This shoehorning in of an entire subplot is obvious. Not only does it seem as though Amy Irving (reprising her role as Sue) was sleepwalking through her performance, but the scenes with Sue clash badly with the rest of the film, having little impact on the plot and feeling as though they belong in an entirely separate film. Sue could've been cut out entirely, along with the related subplot about Rachel being Carrie White's half-sister, and it would not have changed the film one iota. In fact, it would have helped it immensely, helping it flow much better.

The problems extend into the directing side of things. Katt Shea, maker of the trash classic Poison Ivy, is way out of her depth directing a straight horror film, shooting it like a music video. This is a decision that just does. Not. Work. When this film goes into full-on horror mode, it all goes screaming downhill into a mess of monochrome, slow-motion, colored filters, motion blur, and jump-cams that is nearly incomprehensible. When I was supposed to be on the edge of my seat, instead I was either on the floor laughing or I was struggling to figure out just what was happening on screen. Rachel's climatic rampage lost a lot of its impact because of this.

What makes all of this wasted potential that much worse is that there are a lot of very good kernels within this otherwise moldy ear of corn. Emily Bergl is no Sissy Spacek, but she is solid as Rachel, imbuing her "goffik" stereotype with life. Furthermore, Shea's direction is not always a waste. For much of the film, specifically the slower dramatic portions, her hand behind the camera is actually quite solid, favoring long shots that focus on the characters rather than quick cuts, a style that I am quite partial to. (If only she had favored that more restrained style throughout...) 
Rachel's rampage also contain some rather nice kills, ranging from conventional stuff like skewers through the skull to creative moments like a harpoon ripping a guy's jewels off and throwing them into a pool, and a girl's eyes getting gouged out with her own glasses. Overall, outside of the scenes with Sue, I can never say that I was truly bored or angry watching this movie, and was usually having some fun with it even at its low points.

Score: 2 out of 5

I've read that this film had a fairly troubled production, and it shows. This could have been a much better film, but instead, it reeks of studio tampering made worse by an overly kinetic direction style, and a lot of the good sits buried under a mess of bad decisions. It's entertaining, but this is the kind of movie that you watch with friends and beer, not if you want to be genuinely scared. Otherwise, it's only worth watching for diehard Carrie fans. If you wanna see a gory B-movie version of Carrie, go watch Tamara instead.

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