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Carrie/The Rage: Carrie 2 Double Feature

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
David Carson
Katt Shea
Angela Bettis
Emily Bergl
Bottom Line: 

Scream Factory has a wave of double-feature Blu-rays coming down the pike this spring and summer, and most of them look like an absolute blast! Sadly, this double feature presentation of 2002’s TV “Mini-Series” of Carrie paired with the abysmal The Rage: Carrie 2 isn’t one of them.

For obvious financial reasons, Hollywood can't leave well enough alone when it comes to Stephen King, making movies out of virtually anything the guy scribbles down (Colostomy Bag: A Night of Horror probably isn't far around the corner). Most of the film adaptations of King's work have been downright awful, but there have been some exceptions; most notably Brian De Palma's campy and creepy take on King's first novel, Carrie. In a perfect world, De Palma's classic would have been the last word on Carrie White, but, of course, this is not a perfect world, and, in 2002, more than a decade before the brain trust behind 2013’s polarizing (and equally unnecessary) Carrie with Chloe Grace Moretz, NBC television revisited the world of Carrie and her troupe of teen tormentors, and gave it a late 90s/early oughties twist in a mini-series that also served as an extended pilot for a television series!

That's right; welcome to Carrie's Creek.

If you don't already know the story of Carrie, here it is in a nutshell. Carrie White (Angela Bettis) is a high school outcast raised by a religious zealot mother (Patricia Clarkson) and brutalized by her peers. When Carrie discovers she has the ability to control things with her mind she keeps her cool until a night at the prom turns into a blood bath (literally) and Carrie goes ape-shit and lays waste to everything in her path. Call it a coming-of-age-and-then-killing-everyone-you-know story. That's really all there is to the tale, which is why King's book, and De Palma's film worked so well. Simplicity.

David Carson’s 2002 TV remake took the wonderfully sparse tale and busied it up with a clumsy new narrative ploy revolving around Detective John Mulchaey (David Keith) and his interviews with survivors of Carrie’s wraith, telling the tale through a combination of flashbacks. While the bulk of the story is the same, Carson and Bryan Fuller’s script "hips" things up with a whole new lexicon of slang to mirror "modern" teens speaking habits, including loads of "Yo's", "Aight's" and "What-everrrrrrrr's", set to a background of grating alterna-pop and rap songs. The film’s few saving graces are Carrie, herself, as Bettis’ certainly does fit the mold of King’s character, and further expands on the character’s insular nature with bizarre ticks and mannerisms that, unlike Spacek’s gentle-natured take on the character, hints at the truly disturbed personality barely masked by her mousy exterior.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the addition of some characters and plot points from the novel that weren’t used in either Kimberly Peirce or Brian De Palma’s versions of the film, making this a closer adaptation of King’s work (at least technically), but, sadly, whatever goodwill this afforded is pissed away by a terrible open ended conclusion that sets up the potential (and, thankfully that’s all it ever was) series which looked as though it would involve Carrie having Hulk-like adventures whilst traveling the country and avoiding the law.

The film does have a few good moments, but, sadly, they are spread out over nearly two-and-a-half tedious hours that even the most forgiving of King fans will demand back by the time the end credits roll. The film's pacing is plodding at best, and not helped by the disorienting cinematography of Victor Goss whose style is a mélange of soft-sell coffee commercial and amateur wedding videography.

Just as with 2013’s offering, there was no need for a new Carrie back in 2002, either (and, at this rate, I’m assuming we’ll get another come 2023), especially one as poorly conceived as this one.

Personally, I thoroughly disliked The Rage: Carrie 2, but my cohort, Suspiriorum, was able to glean a few positives from it, so, just to balance things out, here’s what he had to say about the film in a previously published review - Take it from here, Suspiriorum!

Coming 23 years after the original, The Rage: Carrie 2 ranks alongside the likes of Blood Feast 2 & Psycho 2 as one of the longest delayed sequels in horror. Sadly, whilst the wait for those sequels gave rise to reasonably inventive and worthwhile films, the same cannot really be said of Carrie 2, which is basically just an excuse for a poor post-Scream remake of Carrie, complete with attractive young cast, rock soundtrack, and more teen angst than you can poke with a fish. After my first cinematic viewing of the film, I came to the conclusion that it was a boring and detestable piece of trash with neither the reason nor the right to exist. However, upon re-visitation, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t really all that bad; it’s just merely unnecessary.

The Rage falls foul of the most basic rule of sequel making; that of not simply remaking the first film but not nearly as well. It can’t seem to really decide if it wants to be a sequel or a full-blown remake, and might actually have benefited had it not had the connection to the original Carrie. The basic narrative is essentially identical to that of Carrie, albeit with superficial changes made. The trouble is, every change weakens the material, and it can’t shake the memory of the original hanging over it, reminding us how much better the first film was. As some examples, Rachel, this films’ protagonist, and Carries half-sister (same father), has a mother who spends the majority of the film in a mental institute leaving a noticeable hole, and when she does reappear for some religious dialogue, it all seems hopelessly irrelevant compared to the original’s fearsome Piper Laurie; the climactic party is simply a random one after a football match, losing the huge force of the original’s Prom setting; we don’t know what the inevitable humiliation will be before it occurs (and it’s not even a particularly good one, particularly bearing in mind the shocking extremism of the original’s), thus dramatically reducing the tension and there’s nothing like the awesome tragic power of Carries final moments of glory; the boy falls for Rachel immediately, which doesn’t carry anything like the subtle impact of Tommy’s slow realization of Carrie’s nature; I could go on.

The Rage is unusual for a horror film in that it is both written and directed by women. However, the contribution of neither is without its problems. Rafael Moreu’s script, aside from the obvious and numerous problems already highlighted, has some very weak dialogue, and often simply doesn’t ring true, and many times, particularly in the references to Romeo and Juliet it over-reaches itself. The climax even has to track in the line "They’re all going to laugh at you", since there’s nothing here to compete with it, and it seems intrusive and superficial since it has no real purpose in Rachel’s story, which is what this film should be. Director Katt Shea (Poison Ivy), who was brought in two weeks into shooting to replace Robert Mandel (F/X), deserves some credit for actually managing to make the film at least vaguely watchable in difficult circumstances. However, too many of her stylistic flourishes – black and white to represent the telekinesis, video footage, the white flashes and pulses of sound that presage every one of the far too many and intrusive flashbacks – quickly become wearisome and intrusive. The film frequently feels like a TV movie along the lines of Omen IV, rather than a decent cinematic experience, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that this film merely exists as an exploitation of a chance to make money, rather than for any genuine need for a sequel.

However, I must begrudgingly admit that there are redeeming features to this film. It is fitfully watchable for most of the running time, even if, like the original, there’s little horror until the climax. There are times when it comes close to capturing the feel of youthfulness where things that are perhaps not all that huge can seem like the end of the world. It’s biggest plus is actually the cast, which is very strong, including Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, and Amy Irving, who it’s great to see back on screen, even if her role runs the risk of diminishing her fine turn in the original by association. The best turn comes from newcomer Emily Bergl as Rachel, who makes for a strong and sympathetic lead. I had hoped that this film would not kill her career prematurely, since she clearly had more acting talent than many of her peers, but, alas….

But these things are merely flashes of what the film could have been, a distraction from what it is, as it lumbers slowly from modern teen comedy and teen angst to an almost half decent climax that’s really too little too late for horror lovers. This is really one only for the teen crowd who don’t normally like horror films, and the extremely undemanding. It is, sadly, as unnecessary as any Carrie sequel would inevitable be, and deeply mediocre at best. I like to try to pretend that Carrie doesn’t have a sequel. I find its better that way.

Thanks Suspiriorum! Now go back to summoning witches or whatever it is you Argento Three Mothers fanatics do!

As mentioned at the outset, Scream Factory has paired up these films as part of their budget double-feature series, and both films are making their Blu-ray debuts. In terms of image quality, the films look quite solid, with The Rage sporting a much crisper and more “cinematic” look than Carrie mainly due to the latter’s TV origins. Both films handle fine detail fairly well, but, once again, Carrie falls short a bit here due to the aforementioned soft-focus photography employed by cinematographer, Goss, but it’s still better than expected. Both films get their original 2.0 mixes as well as slightly more robust 5.1 DTS HD MA tracks, but, while I found that only The Rage benefitted from the wider audio spectrum, with fuller, more aggressive bass, and a noticeable sense of sound separation.

While one doesn’t typically expect much by way of extras for a double feature set, Scream Factory always manages to sneak in a few, and here is no different. Carrie is bolstered by the previously available DVD commentary track from David Carson, as well as the “trailer” (which is really an extended television commercial), while The Rage features an all new commentary track by director Katt Shea and director of photography Donald Morgan, moderated by cult horror filmmaker David DeCoteau as well as the original DVD commentary track! Other features carried over from the DVD include a collection of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

While most double feature discs usually pair up a decent flick with a complimentary (albeit lesser) film, I have a hard time recommending either of these films. While Carrie does offer a bit more material from the original source than other versions of the film, it’s sloppy narrative gimmick, television production values, and the very fact that it was intended as the introduction to a bigger story (had the series been picked up) makes it an unsatisfying watch, and The Rage: Carrie 2, while merely an okay diversion, is a wholly unnecessary addition to the Carrie universe. The good news is Scream Factory’s presentation is, as always, well above par, and the included extras add value to the set.


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