Color, 1999, 104 mins.

Directed by Katt Shea

Starring Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Amy Irving, Zachery Ty Bryan, John Doe / Produced by Paul Monash / Music by Daniel B. Harvey / Cinematography by Donald M. Morgan / Written by Rafael Moreu

Format: DVD - MGM (MSRP $24.98)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital 5.1

Pillaging the horror classics of the '60s and '70s seems to be a popular sport these days, thanks to the recent mudballs dollied at Psycho and The Haunting, among others. Horror sequels have become big business, too, thanks to postmodern teen slashers and the recent reappearances of Chucky and company. So the next logical step would be... a sequel to Carrie? Well, that may not be exactly what the world needed, but that's what viewers got. Judging from the lukewarm box office reception (and icy critical response), another sequel probably won't be coming around the corner anytime soon, but all things considered, The Rage: Carrie 2 could have been a lot worse and, on its own terms, offers some decent thrills along the way.

Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl), a standard goth girl who finds herself isolated from the popular kids at school, has a secret. Like the infamous Carrie White, she can move objects with her mind, but luckily self-control has kept this little talent well hidden. Her mother wound up in an asylum after finding this out, so Rachel's extreme denial keeps her shuttered away, kept under the thumb of her foster parents. When her best friend, Lisa (American Beauty's Mena Suvari), commits suicide after being used by a heartless jock in a sexual "points" contest, Rachel realizes the truth about her cold-hearted predatory surroundings and decides to do something about it. She strikes up an unlikely romance with Jesse (Dazed and Confused's Jason London), who tells his football buddies to back off and leave Rachel alone. Unfortunately, Jesse's jilted girlfriend, Tracy (Charlotte Lopez), cooks up a scheme with the diabolical jocks to teach Rachel a lesson. Of course, they never counted on Rachel's secret power...

A strange mixture of the powerful and the mundane, The Rage starts off uneasily with a gag-inducing retread of the usual idiotic high school cliches (all but one of the jocks are evil, cool girls are the devil incarnate, outsiders are all trendy and really better than everyone else, etc., etc.). Fortunately, the film pulls itself up thanks to the unexpected romantic element, which could have carried the film completely had it been developed even further. Bergl and London are both excellent in their roles and alone make this worth seeing; without this much-needed core of human warmth in the center of the film, the rest would simply collapse into a trivial heap. Director Shea (a Roger Corman alumnus who picked up shooting after Robert Mandel) exhibits her usual traits as a director, with haunting, surprising scenes alternating with dull, television-style ones. (See Poison Ivy for a textbook example.) She handles all of the actors very well and pulls off the gory climax with enough panache to make one wonder how on earth it managed to get an R rating. The interesting last minute shock is also skillfully delivered, and the use of black and white footage to represent Rachel's telekinetic moments is used with taste and restraint. While The Rage could have functioned perfectly well on its own terms, the script unfortunately trivializes itself at too many turns by trying to deliberately link back to the first film. Flashbacks (both visual and aural) abound, and thanks to the laughably superfluous use of Amy Irving as Sue Snell (the original's lone survivor, now a high school counselor), the plot even tosses in an unnecessary twist linking Rachel directly to Carrie. These debits aside, the film is at least worth a rental and may be worth owning for the teen-horror crowd.

Not surprisingly, MGM's DVD is an immaculate showcase for the film, with a delicately rendered anamorphic transfer and a spacious 5.1 sound mix. The plentiful extras include commentary by Shea and a handful of deleted scenes, also introduced by the director. Most of these scenes are basically filler, though at least one does explain Rachel's current relationship with her mother. An alternate last scene is also included and was thankfully jettisoned from the final cut. Strangely, the theatrical trailer is conspicuously absent.

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