Near as I can tell, we were supposed to see this thing in 1996 – which would have been Carrie 1‘s 20th anniversary. Perfect time for a remake – though you notice they missed their chance in 2006, and couldn’t wait until 2016. Production delayed things until after Scream hit it big and made Horror Movies a thing you could say you made in polite company for a second. That wave was already rolling back by 1999 and this movie was part of the tidal force that helped pull it, eventually forming the wave of shitty remakes and torture porn that drowned us all during the Second Bush Administration and made me so bored with most modern horror movies I have to go back to my own teenage years.
Carrie 2‘s one of those Horror movies studios sacrifice to Dionysus every Spring – March 12th, in its case. They don’t need to be good, just to’ve appeared in a theater. That way, vague memories of that will linger in the minds of shoppers when they notice the DVD in Wal-Mart (or the Dollar Store, as in my case) around Halloween Time. Those vague memories automatically give the sacrificial horror film a leg up on justly stigmatized “straight-to-video” features…even if it totally is one.
But wait, you say – MGM/UA paid to put this in movie theaters – they must’ve seen something in it, right? No. No they didn’t. After I fell in lust with Full Moon Video films as teenager, I began to suspect studio-made sequels to old horror movies were all just straight to video features in disguise. I had to wait until the New Millennium before the major studios proved me right by giving up all pretenses. See also, Starship Troopers 2 & 3 and the continuous downward spiral of the Hellraiser series. Or don’t. No don’t.
So Carrie 2 was justly crushed on its opening weekend by Analyze This, debuting at Number 2, which is appropriate, since it’s shit. It was out of the top ten by the weekend after that, and well on its way to being forgotten by the 31st, when The Matrix made us forget pretty much everything. Thank the Oracle – unless you were working the festival circuit, early 1999 sucked. Examples: Wing Commander movie. Baby Geniuses. The Phantom Menace. And Carrie 2.
Oh, I’m sorry – I mean “The Rage: Carrie 2.” Because this was during that brief period when people pretended to be ashamed of their sequels. (Sometimes justifiably.) So they put the subtitle before the title, totally fucking up my filing system forever and ever, amen. See also: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Or don’t. No, don’t, because they’re both awful for the same reasons. In both cases you can tell someone, deep down in the shadowy past of pre-production, really, really really wanted to remake the first film. Only with Prettier People in front of the camera and cheaper, less-famous people behind it. Standard operating procedure for cheap bastards everywhere and that’s usually where their thinking stops. But someone’s thought-train continued barreling down this track, and they realized remakes are a one-way ticket to disaster. Half your core audience will hate them sight-unseen on general principals, forcing you into an uphill fight from Day One.
Ah, but if you – as so many shitty horror movies still do, to this very day – wed the original story to a contemporary, Hot Button Issue, suddenly your Remake becomes a True Sequel. Twenty-years-after-the-fact, but still – Worked for Halloween: Water, right? These, too, are treated with suspicion by a minority In The Know, but the hope is everyone else will go, “Huh? What? Carrie…2? For realz, yo? Shit – can’t help it. I gotta know what the fuck’s goin’ on with this, here.”
What’s going on’s immediately apparent. The first movie played its credits over half-naked faux-teenage girls. A great big, heaping helping of Male Gaze to make you uncomfortable if you’re smart, or horny if you’re not. Either way – by that time that “Directed by” credit fades out you’re either sitting up and paying attention or dead. At least I can show you Carrie 2‘s credits without violating my video host’s “no porn” rules. But a crazy woman painting a red swath around her living room is nowhere nearly as arresting as Feminine Hygiene Fu.
[3:19 – “I have an idea!”] Smart kid! Exactly the right idea! Call 911 and have the ambulance haul your Crazy Mom away before she accidentally paints you out of existence with latent superpowers. Which she obviously passed down to you. There’s a bunch of bullshit later on about telekinesis being genetic and tied to Daddy’s sperm, which makes no sense if you remember that worksheet they made you do in high school biology, with Gregor Mendel’s beans and fruitflies. Unless nonexistent dad turns out to be the Devil. That would make more sense, despite still sucking. [52:58 – “He was [Carrie’s] daddy, too. His name was Ralph. Ralph White.”] Oh, Discordia!
So meet Rachel Lang – long-lost scion of the White Family. [Fucker was setting up franchises.] How else could you explain it popping up in two young women, twenty years apart, if they aren’t related? Better question: do you even need to? No – not unless you’re trying to convince everyone this is a sequel instead of the remake it was plainly designed to be. Example: the nice young men in the clean, white coats taking Rachel’s mom away (ha-ha) prompts her first, crude, pre-adolescent use of powers. Novel Carrie’s reported to have made stones fall from the sky when she was Rachel’s age, and scenes showing that off were concieved but never filmed back in 1976. The special effects didn’t look good enough for De Palma, so he said “fuck it.” Watching this, for a fleeting second, you might think Carrie 2’s going to incorporate those few bits of the novel Carrie 1 left out, potentially justifying its existence.
Then we spin-transition to 1999 and find out, no, we’re just going to do the same damn thing all over again. Rachel’s a teenager, living with a proud mullet owner and a complete non-entity for adopted parents, and for a second, you think Carrie 2‘s bravely plunging ahead into uncharted territory. Instead of the abusive potential of growing up in a one-crazy-adult household, we’ll be exploring the potential of an Abusive Foster Family. For about five seconds. [6:20 – “Well, where we gonna make up that $300 a month?”] And that’s it. There’s a grand total of two more, postage-stamp-sized scenes featuring these two, and then they disappear. At least Terminator 2 had the decency to kill its protagonist’s lame foster family. Closure’s nice, you know? Oh, wait…you probably don’t. After all, you’re “The Rage: Carrie 2” where closure is for wimps and losers.
The very next scene reveals exactly how the rest of the movie will go. Whereas Carrie 1 was a gangly, freckle-blighted invisible woman, the target of everyone else’s abuse, even the so-called “good” kids…Carrie 2 is BFF’s with Angela, from American Beauty. [7:11 – “Best blood!”] A.k.a. The Ultra Heather from those American Pie wastes of time. Seeing her – the perpetual It Girl of high school-centric comedies from this era – reduced to a mid-level nonentity on the fringe almost gave me a stroke. And that’s before she throws herself off the roof because a jock douchebag popped her cherry, securing himself a few more points in the jock’s on-going Laying Game. [13:59 – “Oh, man….whose car is this?”]
Ugh…seriously? There’s a right way and wrong way to make a joke about teenage suicide. That was the wrong way. If you want directions to the right way, watch Heathers. [They’re playing our song! “Teenage Suiciiiiideeee! Don’t do it!”] In fact, do yourself a favor and just watch Heathers, period. It’ll inoculate you against vapid, tedious depictions of high school life in Small Town America (i.e., suburban LA). Even when said depictions are Based on a True Story. Like this.
See, back in 1993, the LA County Sheriff’s Department swept up a group of jock douchebags from suburban Lakewood High on various statutory rape charges. The boys’d started assigning points to their sexual conquests and, like most dumb jocks, they made the dumb jock mistake of writing it all down and then bragging. Unfortunately, the dumb jocks at the LA County DA’s office decided not to prosecute, rewarding the little shits with fifteen minutes of daytime talk show fame and a form of immortality as stock villains in crap stories set in high schools. (Pretty sure one of the CSI’s has gone to this well at least once.)
Stephen King’s harsher critics dismissed Carrie as just that when it first came out – a nihilistic revenge fantasy by some hack schoolteacher from Maine who obviously just wanted to fuck all his lady-students. Turned into a movie by some hack Hitchcock fan from New Jersey who obviously just wanted to get his lady-cast members topless. And bottomless. [And there was much rejoicing. “Yay.] They had no idea how much worse it could be. Here we have the same story with all the verve, drive, and point surgically removed by drunken, slippery fingered doctors who all graduated last in their class. Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
A teenage girl with latent telekinesis discovers how to control her power after a traumatic even at school stresses her right the fuck out. In between superpower strength training sessions, she romances a one-dimensional dude with a heart of gold who’d normally be way out of her league but, through the magic of plot convenience, has actually grown a conscious. Teen Girl Protagonist is also stalked by a nosy adult who thinks she must help because she’s using that as way to avoid her own sublimated guilt. In the end, Girl Protagonist is publicly humiliated in front of her whole class, kills everyone, and then dies so the story can wrap itself up. There’s a final jump scare and then credits.
Swap Tommy with the identical twin of that guy from Party of Five – who was busy doing TV movies at the time – swap Chris Hargensen’s gender and change his name to Mark [“Oh, hai, Mark.”] and swamp Miss Collins for Sue Snell. Interestingly (and that’s the last time I’ll use that word in the context of Carrie 2), there’s no New Sue Snell in the student body of Generic High. Just another Mean Girl – Identical Twin’s vindictive ex-girlfriend. It’s the worst kind of the sequel – circling the original like a shark, biting off the chunks it likes and swallowing them whole. Literally, in some cases. Flashbacks of Carrie 1 keep intruding, as if to taunt us with the fact better movies exist and we could be watching them right now. Instead we watch weird and pointless camera tricks, gratuitous over-use of slow motion, drum hits stolen from a Mark Snow score, changes to black and white that might symbolize Carrie 2’s power coming into fruition…if they weren’t also used for dream sequences, flashbacks, and everything else.
The worst part? One more re-write might’ve dragged some of the ideas swimming around this film’s subtext up into the light and it might’ve at least been interesting. There’s a shit load of fertile ground underneath all this toxic waste of a plot, but someone needed to fly in there, declare the whole thing a Superfund site, and start the clean-up. Original director Robert Mandel probably got himself fired for trying to do just that, so the reins passed to Kat Shea…director of Poison Ivy (no relation to the Batman villain) and Stripped to Kill 1 & 2. And since her name is the only one on the final film, they probably wasted even more time re-shooting whatever Mandel actually managed to get done. And then edited the fuck out of Act One so we could get to the so-called “Good Part” faster and have nothing of Mandel’s in the final film.
How bad a job did they do? Well, we never see Ultra Heather’s funeral, for one thing. In fact, all that depressing Suicide business is pretty much dropped by the halfway mark. Wouldn’t want to dwell on depressing, awful things in a horror movie, would we? For another, a character who should’ve been a major supporting player doesn’t even get introduced for half an hour. [36:11 – “Pardon me but is hanging out with Jock Boy such a hot idea?” Wait…who the fuck are you? Was your character cut out of Act One to save time? ] And then he disappears again. The IMDB tells me he’s supposed to be Carrie 2’s Friend Who Happens to Be a Boy. Named after the protagonist of King’s other “high school sucks” novel, Christine. But so what? You’ve got a real Stephen King character in the councilor’s office – why should we care about the fake one? Nothings done with the real one besides turning her into her own one-time rival and killing her off, like every other reoccurring character in every other bad slasher sequel. [Friday the 13th Part 2, Nightmare 3, Halloween: No Erection] What was the point? At least Miss Collins tried to get Carrie 1 out of her shell. Carrie 2 has no shell. Yeah, her foster parent’s suck but they apparently don’t suck enough to rate their own death scene.
Everyone in America knows high school sucks so hard it drives some people to kill themselves and other people to kill as many as they can catch. In the same way, we all know the local politics of inbred American communities will inevitably move to protect high school sports stars with Important Daddies, no matter what horrible things they do. Just guys being guys, everyone will say. Ya know?. [“It’s not about evidence, is it, Jay? It’s about elections?”] Obviously. What better reason to have your Carrie rampage through this decadent suburban hellscape, raining down fire like the teenage Angel of Death she’s clearly designed to be?
Oh, but that might’ve been interesting. Certainly would’ve cost money. So we and the film wind up marking time with a hackneyed “romance” plot (Hey, lady – you’re best friend just swan-dove into a parking lot!) until the final insult – a needlessly complex revenge scheme hatched by the Mean Girl and Jock Douchebag Brigades – sets off the climactic massacre off. [1:15:21 – Oh, gee – an isolated, rural location for the third act, even though most of the first two took place in a comfortably suburban school. How familiar] Part of Carrie 1’s tragedy lay in the fact that Chris Hargensen’s plot against her was relatively small and personal – a decent guerrilla operation, carried out mostly under cover of darkness and double-talk. Mark & Mean Girl’s plan is blatant, and with the full cooperation of everyone with a speaking role. Except Identical Twin. So instead of two villains who clearly represented two of the evilist Evil Forces in our world, Carrie 2 takes place in a world where everyone’s a fucking asshole. This would be fine if they were the same breed of narcissistic asshole that peopled the first film, and most of King’s work, but they aren’t. Outside of football scholarships, they exist only to torture the protagonist. Except Love Interest, but Carrie 2 has no reason to trust him either. He was in on the game until he did it with Mean Girl Prime, felt icky afterwards, and didn’t know how to deal with it. Carrie 2 should’ve outright killed him.
And what is the use of all that telekinesis if you can’t lift a bloody log? Honestly, girl, you made your tattoo go Super Saien – like to know how you managed that without sending big clots of ventricular-choking ink through your bloodstream – you could’ve escaped the blast and become a vigilante superhero. The cops’d mistake you for a serial killer, but Frank Castle’s down with that, and I think you and he would get along. You could call yourself “The Rage” and then your movie’s title could actually make sense. But that might deviate too much from the plot of a certain other movie with part of the same title. And Carrie 2’s as slavish devoted to Carrie 1 as it is dedication to missing the later’s point. We even have a tacked-on jump-scare ending that’s even more pointless than the first…
[TV clicks on – begins Playing Carrie 2002 remake.] ME: Oh, what the fuck is this, now? [Carrie 2002 Titles] Oh, no…no please…please god, no!