Friday, June 12, 2009

The Rage: Carrie II (USA, 1999)

Well, nothing to get excited about here. It only took some 23 years, but some executive somewhere finally got the idea to do a sequel to Brian DePalma's classic, entertaining but overrated teen horror film Carrie (1976). Carrie, of course, isn't around anymore, though one does see her in a few indiscriminate flashbacks. Instead, this time around the movie deals with her half-sister Rachel, but The Rage: Rachel naturally lacks the supposed commercial drawing power of The Rage: Carrie II.
Needless to say, no matter how deep of a runt Brian DePalma's career was in (again) at the time, he had nothing to do with this film. Originally, Robert Mandel, who years ago made a half-way decent film called F/X (1986) was set to direct but he pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by Katt Shea, the director of such instant non-classics as Stripped To Kill (87), Stripped to Kill II (1989) and Poison Ivy (1992). No damage done to the final product, in all likelihood.
They did get Amy Irving to return to play Sue Snell, the only survivor of the original bloodbath. But then, Irving's movie career really hasn't ever been too hot anyway, the downs being definitely deeper than the highs are high (the biggest examples of both being her Oscar nomination for Yentl (1983)). In The Rage, she returns in a rather pointless role as the school's counselor, a part that could've been played by anybody and whose only real function is to work the only returning character from Carrie into the sequel. At least she won't be back for Carrie III, if and when it finally comes around. In The Rage, like the concerned gym teacher in DePalma's original, her character also bites the dust for interfering. (One must admit she does die in a surprising and gruesome manner, all the more unexpectedly due to the big build-up created by her illogical and unbelievable involvement in helping Rachel's nutty mom to escape from the loony bin.)
Is The Rage any good? Well, it depends how you look at it. Is it original? No. Is it well written? No. Is it well made? For its type, sure. Is it well acted? For its type, sure. And overall? Well, basically it is little more than one long build-up to a predetermined final, a final that is nicely bloody and violent but hardly anything new. Like most sequels, it simply rehashes the original story, changing a few specific details but nothing major and adding one or two new things – sort of like chicken chop suey vs. pork chop suey.
The young actors, most of whom must be mental retards to have flunked school so often as to still be in high school at their ages, do well enough in their roles: the bitches are bitches, the jocks are jocks, the nerd is a nerd and Rachel is, well, looking for love and understanding and dreams of being a shiny, happy person. A film like this offers and promises so little it is hard to say it is either good or bad, especially since it eventually delivers on all the small promises its title infers. Still, The Rage is definitely much more entertaining and enjoyable if you check all your expectations in at the door before turning on your DVD.
Oddly enough, though it features a bit more realistic gore than most, The Rage feels and looks more like a typical Stephan King film than the original Carrie does. But, unlike most King films, the plot holds a bit more water. (Which, in the end, isn't saying much at all considering the plot holes in most King films.)
For fans of early appearances of shooting stars doomed to be forgotten, The Rage also features an early appearance of Mena Suvari, whom everyone now knows from American Pie (1999) and American Beauty (1999), as a semi-goth suicide. (Her butt seems smaller here than in American Pie, but she still isn't quiet the nymphet she was in American Beauty.) As Lisa, her screen time as the best friend of Rachel (Emily Bergh) is brief, since she takes a swan dive off the top of the high school when she learns that she gave her prized virginity up to an asshole jock who saw her as nothing more than a point on his score card. It seems that the jocks of the school have a contest going between them about who can screw the most girls, but when Lisa kills herself the contest suddenly jeopardizes their chances for future college sport scholarships. Rachel, an outsider who lives an unhappy life with foster parents – we see her real momma getting taken away in an absolutely ridiculous opening scene in which momma decides to repaint the living room red to candle light on a dark and stormy night – earns the animosity of the popular in-crowd when she first hands incriminating photos of the jock and Lisa to the authorities (who end up doing nothing) and then also inadvertently angles Jesse (Jason London), the jock with a heart, away from the superficial but beautiful and popular Tracy (Charlotte Ayanna). Of course, the in-crowd ain't gonna let no skanky white trash upstart rock the boat, so they set up a situation to video the unsuspecting Jesse and Rachel the night she finally gives up her prized cherry. Monica (Rachel Blanchard, an Alicia Silverstone look alike best known for having taken over Silverstone's character Cher in the television series of Clueless) wins Rachel's trust and gets her to come to the big end-of-school party which, as anyone who has seen or read Carrie knows, is this film's version of Prom Night. Rachel's dream night of peer acceptance quickly turns into a bloodbath, and the film finally delivers the blood and guts the viewer has been waiting for since the movie began.
A long wait for a short finale, but there are worse films out there…like Salem's Lot (1979), Cujo (1983) Firestarter (1984), Children of the Corn (1984), Cat's Eye (1985), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Pet Sematary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (1990), Sleepwalkers (1992) The Dark Half (1993), The Tommyknockers (1993), The Stand (1994) The Mangler (1995), The Langoliers (1995) and the numerous sequels to all those just listed and others not….

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