A remake and a sequel collide, forming a cinematic vortex of doom with the TV remake of 'Carrie' and 'The Rage: Carrie 2.' Actually things aren't all that bad here with this dual release, this twofer from Scream Factory in fact offers some genuine entertainment with some "so bad its good" fun added to the mix for those ready and willing to give these two movies a shot.
"Does everyone think they can go on playing tricks on me?"
The 2002 TV remake of 'Carrie' is a bit of an oddity. On one hand, it perhaps could be argued that it is a bit more faithful adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel, but then on the other hand it is fully unnecessary. Yes it does contain some events and characters from the book that didn't make it into the previous film so I guess it gets points for that, but this adaptation's made for TV roots and low-fi production values and content restrictions really work against this one. It's probably a moot point to rehash this story since it's already pretty famous by now but I'll give it a go just the same.
High school can be a tough time for any kid. For Carrie White, Angela Bettis, high school is hell on earth. Her daily existence is absolute torment as the kids of her school find any flaw or weakness to poke, prod, and ultimately torture her with. She doesn't look like other girls in school, she doesn't act like other girls in school, and her hyper religious background doesn't help matters any. When the school day is over she has to come home and face her mother Margaret, Patricia Clarkson, who finds any random wording in the bible to denigrate her daughter into further submission.
After Carrie is thoroughly tormented after experiencing her first menstrual cycle - all of the girls in the locker room scream at the terrified girl who thought she was bleeding to death. The damage is exasperated the next day when all of the girls in school fill Carrie's locker with tampons and write "Plug It Up" on the door exposing her to even more public embarrassment. When things calm down, after gym teacher Miss Desjarden, Rena Sofer, has it out with the offending girls, Sue Snell, Kandyse McClure, attempts to make things right by Carrie. Sue even goes so far as to give up her date to the prom so Carrie can go and feel like a normal girl. Only things don't turn out as intended.
Like I said, this is pretty much a blow by blow remake of the original, only with some content changes to fall in line with standards and practices. The majority of the sex talk is now gone. Being a TV film there obviously isn't any nudity, and blood and gore has been substantially mitigated. What we get instead is a story structure akin to the novel as Detective John Mulchaey, David Keith, interviews the young Sue and other survivors gleaning information about Carrie White in the aftermath of the school massacre.
Overall the performances are solid. Angela Bettis makes a decent enough Carrie, even though her tormented twitchy schtick gets kinda old after awhile. Patricia Clarkson plays a much more subdued form of crazy than Piper Laurie did for the original. She may not be as sinister or threatening, but I gather that's largely due to the previously mentioned TV content restrictions. The inclusion of the Detective Mulchaey character and the more police procedural elements are a welcome addition, but in the end they become a device that only works to break up the movie ahead of commercial breaks. As a whole the cast feels genuinely committed to making a good movie rather than playing imitations of previous performances which actually lends itself well to this movie. If the cast were any less committed, the whole show would have fallen apart and become a sad cliche.
Then there's the low-end effects work. Since this movie was designed at a time where HD television sets hadn't even come close to dominating the market this was a production that wasn't designed to stand up to much cinematic scrutiny. Where this movie is interesting is as an early introduction to writer/producer Bryan Fuller, who would go on to successfully reinvent Hannibal Lecter for NBC. Fuller does a decent enough job adapting Stephen King's novel and attempts to chart a new course for the character.
To be fair, as far as remakes go - especially ones that are made for TV, this 'Carrie' isn't the worst I'd ever seen, it just doesn't have any reason to exist beyond being a potential springboard for a 'Carrie' TV series. Part of me wonders if bypassing the movie adaptation and going straight to series wouldn't have been the wiser choice. As it stands now, it is probably best to view this movie as the pilot of a series that never took off rather than a remake of a horror classic. It's worth a look at least once if for no other reason than to see a different story telling perspective of the same material.
The Rage: Carrie 2
"Man, we're missing one killer party."
I had forgotten that because of a single sheep, genetics became the dominate cinematic plot contrivance of the late 1990s. From 'The Island of Dr. Moreau' to 'Alien Resurrection' to 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,' genetic traits and gene splicing became the means and motive to explain or give purpose for a particular film's existence. On top of being an oddly unnecessary sequel to a 70s horror film, 'The Rage: Carrie 2' falls into this same plot pitfall.
Rachel Lang, Emily Bergl, lives with her foster parents. Not a complete social pariah, Rachel isn't without her share of friends, but they belong to a different clique than all of the other popular kids in school. It's probably a good thing that these social circles don't interlock as the jock football players are keeping their own scorebook. This particular scorebook doesn't have anything to do with points on the field, but points for the girls in school they manage to bed and dump in the same night. One of the girls targeted just so happened to be Rachael's best friend Lisa, Mina Suvari, who later jumps off the roof of the school to her death after being dumped by Eric, Zachery Ty Bryan of TV's 'Home Improvement' fame.
One of the players of this game is Jesse Ryan, Jason London, who seems to have a greater sense of maturity about him and actually feels regret about his past actions and his own perceived complicity in Lisa's death. Whether out of guilt or genuine attraction, Jesse befriends and even begins a romantic relationship with Rachel - all under the watchful eye of school counselor Sue Snell, Amy Irving reprising her role from the 1976 original film.
Sue, being the only survival of the original massacre caused by Carrie White's vengeance, starts to recognize in Rachael a certain set of familiar behaviors and unexplained phenomena. Determined not to see a repeat of past events, Sue sets out to protect young Rachel. First she must confirm a suspicion that these strange psychic manifestations are some kind of genetic anomaly that is passed down from father to child. After visiting Rachel's insane mother in a mental institution, she learns that Rachel does in fact have the same father as Carrie White. It then becomes a race against time as the evil popular kids set out to embarrass Rachael and splinter her budding romance with Jesse.
I guess some credit should be given to director Katt Shea and writer Rafael Moreu for even attempting to make a sequel to a film that was already 23 years removed by the time 'The Rage: Carrie 2' was released. Where the expectation would normally be that Rachael would be the unknown daughter of Carrie White, she turns out in fact to be her half-sister and because of their shared father, they have the same psychic midi-chlorians that allow them to kill people with their mind grapes when they get really angry. Genetics! If ever there was a piece of plot that didn't need to be explained, it was this. How Sue knows that there is a psychic gene and that it is hereditary is never explained beyond "she's done her homework." It's not like we ever meet Carrie and Rachel's father Ralph White, which actually would have been cool. Instead he's just a name here and seems to have a need to sleep with unhinged women with strong religious devotions. Not explaining things, and keeping the notion that tortured personalities are capable of unspeakable violence is much more horrifying and would have worked better here. It then would have become an effective anti-bullying allegory. In this case, the need to explain becomes a drastic waste of screen time that could have been used to better establish some of the thin character relationships.
This isn't exactly a terrible movie by any stretch, it just has a hard time explaining its need to exist. The kids are a bit more balanced in this one, they're not as overtly cruel as they were in the original film. Director Katt Shea also goes the distance to show how the football players are under enormous pressure and ridicule of their own helping to humanize them to some extent, but they're still evil and get their just lethal comeuppance in a fiery display of psychic fury. And that brings me to the main event. Anyone willing to plug 'The Rage: Carrie 2' into their player is really in it for the final bit of carnage. It's here where this sequel actually delivers the goods. It is a bloody affair and some of the deaths are particularly entertaining and rival some of the kills in the 'Final Destination' films.
'The Rage: Carrie 2' is one of those movies that is entertaining to some extent but at the same time is equally difficult to recommend. I don't hate this movie by any stretch, in fact I think it's entertaining in its own way. The original 'Carrie' is just such a seminal horror film that experiencing it as a double feature to a lesser sequel is kind of unfortunate. If 'The Rage' had just been a remake or a similar film and completely unrelated to the original, it might have turned out better. Audio clips and scenes from the original 1976 film inter-spliced thematically into this one only work against the efforts of 'The Rage: Carrie 2' to stand on its own feet, rather than be beholden to its predecessor.
'Carrie' - 2.5/5
'The Rage: Carrie 2' 3/5
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Carrie' and 'The Rage: Carrie 2' make their Blu-ray debut thanks to Scream Factory. Each film is pressed on their own BD50 discs and are housed in a double disc Blu-ray case. AS with other Scream Factory releases, there is reversible artwork featuring various scenes from the films and mirror the original 1976 film's original theatrical poster artwork. Each disc opens to a main menu that is in keeping with other Scream Factory titles offering a navigation panel while clips and music from the films play throughout.
I guess you need to ask yourself how much you like the look of video before reading my scoring for this HD transfer. Shot digitally, this movie's 1.33:1 1080p look and appearance is subject to the technology of the time. Digital cameras were just coming into wide use and offered a cost effective method for creating a big budget look for standard definition TV broadcasts. Detail is strong when the camera is steady, but since this movie was largely shot handheld, the digital motion blur effect is alive and well pretty much throughout this entire movie's run time. Part of that is by intent, since this movie is supposed to have a bright, dream-like haze to it, but at the same time it looks smeary and soft. Again, that's not a fault for this transfer, it's the way the filmmakers deliberately intended this movie to look. As such, this is actually a very strong transfer. Detail levels are far richer than its standard definition presentation. All you have to look at are the credits and title cards to see that little if any artificial sharpening or digital smoothing has been employed here. I will say the prom massacre scene and the aftermath is where this movie looks its best as detail levels, blacks and shadows are rich and offer a nice sense of three dimensional depth to the image. Colors are similarly effective throughout as primaries are giving the range they need to come through with great clarity - especially the color red. Again, I'm not scoring this based on cinematography choices by the filmmakers but strictly as to how it now appears on Blu-ray compared to DVD - in which case this is a marked improvement all around.
'The Rage: Carrie 2'
For a movie that was hardly a hit during its original theatrical release, I wasn't expecting much for this transfer. Thankfully being of recent vintage, 'The Rage: Carrie 2' actually looks pretty darn good on Blu-ray in this 1.85:1 1080p presentation. Shot on film, grain is subtly present giving rise to rock solid detail levels. From trees, to Rachel's intricate dress sense, to blades of grass on the football field, everything is sharp and clear. Black levels are also rich and strong here offering a great sense of dimensional pop. While this isn't a fresh restoration effort by any means, there are a few nicks and scratches in the print, but they're hardly noticeable enough to knock the score. Colors and flesh tones are also nice and healthy. Primaries are strong and none of the characters appear overly pink or too sickly pale to be realistic. There are some slight crush instances in the darker scenes, but their fairly minimal and not a big enough issue to knock the score for. All in all a great HD presentation for this release. Fans of this one should be pleasantly pleased.
'Carrie' - 3.5/5
'The Rage: Carrie 2' - 4/5
Sporting a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track, this 2002 remake of 'Carrie' actually wins some high marks. making fine use of imaging, sound effects move about the channels in a nicely realistic and clear way. There is plenty of separation of the elements from the dialogue to the soundtrack keeping things clear and free of any kind of distortion or unintended audio dropouts. The meteor shower scene, while rather silly, is probably the best example of the film's imaging as objects sound like they're falling from top to bottom and side to side as they move about the channels. I would stick with the 5.1 track since the surround channels work to offer some more atmosphere to the presentation. While quiet throughout most of the film, they do come in handy during the final act.
'The Rage: Carrie 2'
Just like its counterpart, 'The Rage: Carrie 2' offers a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Again I preferred the experience of the 5.1 track over the stereo offering. The 5.1 makes better use of the lower registers and atmospherics to help create a nice sense of looming dread to the film. The 2.0 is strong in its own right, but at the same time feels a little more "hollow" somehow as it forces everything through the center channels. Imaging for the 5.1 is strong - especially during the party massacre as all sorts of action, death, and destruction are given space to live over the sounds of screams and the heavy score. If you're a fan or interested in this movie at all, you should find a pleasing auditory experience here.
'Carrie' - 4/5
'The Rage: Carrie 2' - 4/5
Between two films that I wouldn't have thought would see the light of day on Blu-ray in any meaningful way - Scream Factory has done a pretty good job assembling some worthwhile extra features for a bargan dual release.
Audio Commentary with Director David Carson and Cinematographer: This commentary is nice enough as the Director and his Cinematographer detail the production, shooting style and the execution of the Prom Massacre shots. Perhaps the most telling part is where they discuss shooting delays because they couldn't get their digital cameras to focus correctly!
Trailer: (HD 2:04) Pretty routine TV promotional material, works at least to showcase how the reframing of the movie for widescreen televisions looks comparatively.
'The Rage: Carrie 2'
New Audio Commentary: Moderated by David DeCoteau and featuring Director Katt Shea and DP Donald Morgan. Recorded some 15 years after the original film's production, it offers a lot of interesting tidbits about the film. One caveat though is this track has numerous breaks in it that often occur while people are talking and I imagine this is some sort of side effect of legal editing pieces out rather than keeping the flow going.
Original Audio Commentary: Ported over from the original DVD release features Director Katt Shea flying solo, it's an interesting track, but it isn't as fun as the newly recorded track since Katt doesn't have anyone to bounce her comments off of or prod for details.
Alternate Ending With "Before and After" Special Effects Sequence: (HD 1:06) Ported over from the original DVD release this was a wisely cut alternate ending as it just makes no damn sense why a snake would come out of Rachel's mouth, fly across the air, and slither down Jesse's throat. Director Katt Shea offers some insight with a commentary track that plays over throughout.
Additional Scenes Not Seen In Theatres: (SD 7:27) Ported over from the original DVD release, this is a collection of some of the more quiet and interesting character moments, that while didn't necessarily move the plot forward, they did help enrich some of the characters who get only fleeting screen time. Accompanied with Director Katt Shea commenting throughout explaining where they fit into the film and why they were cut.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:16) This trailer basically gives away the whole show - but then again with a movie titled 'The Rage: Carrie 2' you already have a pretty good idea what you're in for.
Considering Scream Factory genuinely focuses its attentions towards niche genre films with a specific audience in mind, I really have to tip my appreciation hat to these guys for even considering releasing the 2002 remake 'Carrie' and 'The Rage: Carrie 2' on Blu-ray, let alone giving them their own Blu-ray discs to occupy. With so many sequels and remakes out there in the world, these two may not be the best, but they're hardly the worst of the bunch. Each of them offers something worth watching, whether it be a closer to the book adaptation or a wild and crazy sequel that is in and of itself a remake of sorts. For these kinds of films, entertainment is the name of the game and I'll say they certainly offer plenty of that. Now that there are four entries in this franchise, folks interested in the complete 'Carrie' experience should be very happy to add this set to their collections. This is a release that is definitely for the fans but it's worth a look for those willing to give it a try.