We all know a weirdo. An outcast, the odd one out. I’d bet we all consider ourselves weirdos with pride, but for some the label carries a negatively physical and psychological burden. Whether we cast ourselves into that category or another comes to mind, we’ve all observed the cruel behavior and judgement of others towards the soul who just doesn’t fit in. In many ways, sequels are the stereotypical ‘weirdos’ of the genre. They’re different from the popular originals, they’re pretty harmless when it comes to title competition, and hardly stand out from the crowd unless they’re being relentlessly mocked. Ironically, I don’t have to justify my eternal praise of horror’s popular girl, Carrie White of Stephen King’s Carrie, but I would like to validate the unseen one standing behind her in Carrie’s neglected film sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2.
With the original novel written by Stephen King, the man responsible for half of horror’s greatest tales, and the original film adaptation by Brian De Palma, the visionary director behind Scarface and Phantom of The Paradise, The Rage’s female director, Katt Shea, had an enormous seat to fill with almost all odds against her. Shea, whose biggest directing gig before this project was 1992’s Poison Ivy, and writer Rafael Moreu, whose only prior writing credit belongs to 1995’s Hackers, dared to go where hardly anyone had gone before with The Rage: Carrie 2. How could they follow up an established, horror heavyweight classic like Carrie? Sequels, in general, are already branded with the stigma of being second best, if accepted at all.
“In many ways, sequels are the stereotypical ‘weirdos’ of the genre.”
The Rage: Carrie 2 continues one of the genre’s most beloved stories of teen revenge at a time when horror was peaking high in the originality department. The Blair Witch Project, Sleepy Hollow, Audition, The Mummy, Deep Blue Sea, and The Sixth Sense were all released that same year! Giving Carrie the sequel treatment must have seemed like a bad prank that would undoubtedly backfire on the jokers when all was said and done. However, Shea and Moreu’s collaboration spawned a successfully underrated, modern version of the teen hell Carrie White endured with a newly relatable anti-heroine, Rachel Lang. Like the timid social outcast herself, these two underdogs took control of King’s story and added effective parallels with topical twists setting fire to everyone’s expectations.
Set up with a pretty fantastic late-90’s cast, The Rage: Carrie 2 stars Emily Bergl (Shameless), Jason London (Dazed and Confused), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), Rachel Blanchard (You Me Her), Zachary Ty Bryan (Home Improvement), Dylan Bruno (Numbers), Smith-Cameron (Rectify), and De Palma’s wild card: Amy Irving reprising her role as Sue Snell from Carrie. Rachel, living with foster parents since her mother had a mental breakdown trying to kill her when she was a young girl, is a dark loner trying to make her way through high school in one piece.
“…relationship blossoms, intentions are questioned, horrific truths emerge, the past repeats itself as some familiar telekinetic abilities are inherited… and used.”
When her only friend, and fellow outcast, Lisa, commits a heartbroken suicide, Rachel turns to the popular jock, Jesse, and experienced school counselor, Ms. Snell, for support. The Rage pushes Carrie’s original social coming-of-age story forward in a fun rebirth of characters, setting, and meaning all with some pretty relevant modern edges. As Rachel and Jesse’s relationship blossoms, intentions are questioned, horrific truths emerge, the past repeats itself as some familiar telekinetic abilities are inherited… and used.
You’re wrong if you think this smells like teen spirit. The Rage: Carrie 2 reeks of teen revenge.
Pubescent angst is oftentimes steeped in the rebellion teenagers enact towards their family superiors. Both Rachel and Carrie are birthed to unstable families broken by one member in particular: their father, Ralph White. As we learn in The Rage: Carrie 2, White slept around and is responsible for linking these two characters in tragic fashion. Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, is an overbearing, abusive religious zealot who has tormented her poor daughter from inception to their disastrous end. Rachel’s biological mother, Barbara, suffers from mental illness and schizophrenia, and tries to kill her daughter to save her soul from the devil. Both frightened over their daughters’ telekinesis to the point of homicide, these mothers acts as catalysts for the impending doom Carrie and Rachel would eventually meet.
The Rage: Carrie 2 adds a modern layer to the repetition of Carrie’s home life with the induction of Rachel’s foster parents. Remaining cold and indifferent to her, the couple that have taken Rachel in further push the theme of rejection and loneliness revolving around this teenage girl. What should be a source of strength and support, is an isolating, careless environment of unwelcoming emotion. While it is upsetting, Rachel’s broken home is no different than most of the ones we are surrounded by everyday. It’s a break from the industrial family structure and a sad, yet realistic supporting factor driving Rachel to the brink of pure rage synonymous with her iconic, paternal half-sister.
The Dream Guy
Carrie White, Sue Snell, and Margaret White are not the only characters resurrected from their stoney graves. The archetypal “Dream Guy”, (See: Tommy Ross) is reincarnated in The Rage: Carrie 2 as Rachel’s unlikely love interest, Jesse Ryan. Tommy, the handsome, wholesome boyfriend of Sue Snell was coerced to court Carrie to prom as an act of repentance. Jesse is the sensitive football player caught between right and wrong when he falls for the school’s weird girl, Rachel. Even though each of the guys have mostly pure intentions, they’re out of the ladies’ leagues by superficial high school standards.
Indirectly, Carrie and Rachel suffer at the hands of their paramours. Carrie is staged to be the choice for her high school’s prom queen where the damning pigs blood deed is committed. Rachel’s intimate affair with Jesse is broadcast for all to see at a party hosted by the taunting teens who, like in Carrie, set her up for public humiliation.
“The Rage: Carrie 2 shows us that not much has changed in high school behavior since the 70’s…”
Though Tommy genuinely enjoyed being Carrie’s date to the prom, he unfortunately met his end there. Jesse, however, has a more serious role to play. Jesse takes a stand against his less sympathetic friends and has a true bond with Rachel that carries over long after she is gone (in one of the scariest end scenes that still makes me jump no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I might add). Rachel’s violation is hurtful, but Jesse is not truly the bad guy he’d typically be written.
The Rage: Carrie 2 shows us that not much has changed in high school behavior since the 70’s, but the character of Jesse is a fresh take on the jock-turned-lover. Jesse is genuine and sorry for his indiscretions, cutting himself off from the negative crowd and truly choosing Rachel out of love all on his own accord. It’s a modern technique to flesh out Jesse’s character, adding heart to that irresistible crush factor of his. Viewers see it and, sadly, so does Rachel in the end.
Suicide is hardly ‘trendy’, but is unfortunately more of a trend among statistics spiking in the 70’s when Carrie was released, both in text and as a film, to a steady rate from the 90’s through the early 2000’s when The Rage: Carrie 2 was released. While Carrie’s initial trauma focuses more on her budding puberty with the appearance of her first period, Rachel’s is a direct effect of losing her best friend who has taken her own life due to the disappointment of her false romantic hopes and realization of being taken advantage of for sex games. Sadly, teen suicide is currently hitting its highest numbers, making Moreu’s inclusion of Lisa’s death relevant and cautionary still to this day.
When it comes to “the game” the jocks play with the young women of their high school, and the political pull used to cover up their crimes and indiscretions, the issues of sex and abuse take a very conventional platform in The Rage: Carrie 2. The demeaning way these young men treat the young women of their school, as objects of sexual conquer, is still a prevalent problem within our society. While Carrie’s tormentors are portrayed as immature bullies fit for typically cruel high school hi-jinks, the students Rachel is surrounded by, boys and girls alike, are true predators waiting to play with whoever they set their targets on.
“What makes The Rage: Carrie 2 so important and relevant now more than ever is that Katt Shea, a female director, had the guts to play with fire.”
In the end, we’re rooting for Rachel as she demolishes the house party, and everyone in it, the same way we did for Carrie when she set her entire Senior Prom ablaze. These two lead a fiery path of thorns fit for the outcasts, the loners, and the misfits. The Rage: Carrie 2 differs in all the right ways and closely glides gracefully behind its crowned predecessor by giving it a new, contemporary life. Is it a perfect film? No. Are the parallels a little obvious? I’m aware. What makes The Rage: Carrie 2 so important and relevant now more than ever is that Katt Shea, a female director, had the guts to play with fire. She brought back the spirit of the downtrodden young woman who finally took a stand for herself, a horrific one at that, and I can’t help but stand with her.
While each of these women walk the route of blood-soaked revenge resulting in their demise, Carrie and Rachel teach everyone a very valuable lesson: Don’t fuck with the weirdos.