Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… quite sad. I suddenly became possessed to watch this again [I had seen it in the theater when it came out!] and give it the proper review it deserves. It was even worse than I thought it was the first time.
So you obviously know that this is a sequel, made 20 years later, to Brian De Palma's Carrie, which is pure genius. If you think it was just silly teen horror, you need to watch it again. I'm mentioning this because it turns out that the only resonance this new film can dredge up is in its tenuous—though constantly alluded to—connection to the first, even though almost all that accomplishes is to make the first one seem better, and this one worse.
We open with some QUITE RED red paint, meant to suggest the blood from the climax of the first movie. We hear a woman's voice saying things like "No! Stay away! She's my daughter! You won't take her!" as we see the paint go all the way around the room, covering mucho religious statuary along the way—both the voice and the statues being references to the first film. For a while I was wondering if we were supposed to be back with Carrie and her crazy mama, but no—it's a new crazy mama! It's Rachel's crazy mama, who is all freaked out at her demon child, and gets packed off in the dark, rainy night to the loony bin! Then poor Rachel goes and snuggles with her beloved beagle—and we fade to her as sullen teen, curled up with the same dog. At least they had the grace to age the dog, unlike the famous immortal cat of Glitter.
So now Rachel is 18 and lives with her white trash step parents, whom she is snotty to, because they won't let her sleep with her pooch, a rule that she violates. She is all goth, wearing black stuff with ornate designs, but is best friends with Mena Suvari, who is total cheerleader material except that she dresses in Stevie Nicks' hand-me-downs. You know, if your actress can show up two movies later in American Pie, having changed only her clothes, as the epitome of a teen hottie, she's probably not that convincing as a social outcast. Mena and Rachel have matching heart-surrounded-by-thorns tattoos, because they are like TOTAL BFF. Anyway, Mena indicates that she offered the fragile membrane of her hymen to football player penetration over the weekend, and she's pretty excited about that. Next thing we know, she's leaping off the school's roof and landing face-first into the windshield of a car. Rachel sees this, freaks, and a bunch of lockers fly open by themselves!
This is where we catch our first glimpse of heavily face-lifted Amy Irving as Sue Snell, who apparently grew up to be the guidance counselor at the school! Sue, I hope you know, was the only survivor of the first film. I would have LOVED it if they threw continuity to the wind and had Nancy Allen be the guidance counselor, and if she was all snotty and demeaning to Rachel. But no, Sue is all earnest and concerned, and she just wants Rachel to open up and TALK. Why she has suspicions about Rachel is never explained, but she's on her like white on rice from the get-go. Sue also suspects what's happening, which is that the football players of the school are popping the cherries of girls, then dumping them, which is exactly what happened to Mena, leading to her earlier attempt at flight. Sue also reveals that she "tried to help someone and it backfired," which is where we have the first of our loud, unnecessary and embarrassing flashbacks to the original.
So first Rachel is at home doing dishes when she carelessly drops one, then causes a minor little earthquake with her emerging powers. This is one of the instances in which the movie switches into black-and-white for no reason whatsoever. Then her dog is outside, and I have to say this is not the smartest dog, as it bounds happily right out into the road and gets rolled underneath a passing truck [shown]. Amazingly, this event doesn't merit the merest psychic blip from Rachel, although she does use her powers to get passing jock Jesse—the one sensitive member of the football team, as you can tell by his retro-80s feathered hair—to stop and pick her up. They go to the all-night vet, then go out for a bite, where they relate over their mutual love of the band Garbage.
So the next day Sue decides to torment Rachel again—I mean she is really aggressively pursuing this girl and DEMANDING that she open up—and Rachel makes a snowglobe explode, another repeat of a similar scene from the first film. Meanwhile, the coach is making Mark, the really nasty [and somewhat hot] football jock lower his pants and is looking at his ass "to see if there are some tampon strings hanging out." Okay, is this appropriate? WHY is this here? I know, you don't believe me. Well, look at the photo at right. The curve on the far right is Mark's ass. Yup.
Anyway, Sue is trying to press charges against the jocks, and by a massive leap of logic they settle on Rachel as a target. Part of this is that she refuses to hand over Mena's photos [Rachel works at the local parking lot photo booth] to the jocks when they try to pick them up. It was during this scene, when she's telling the jocks to go take a hike, that it came clear that unlike Carrie in the first film, Rachel is completely socialized and well adjusted. We'll come back to this. So later the jocks come and torment Rachel in her home, making prank calls and throwing bricks through her window, which of course SHE gets blamed for when her step-parents arrive home a while later. Of course, her case is not helped by bitchily responding "How should I know?" when asked what happened.
So Jesse insists on a date, and they have one, making out in the car on the way back. But Rachel breaks away, saying she doesn’t want her cherry popped this way—NO! But if he brings a bouquet of daisies, he can count her hymen as his own. Sounds like Rachel is giving it away pretty cheap to me. Girl, get some jewelry out of it or whatever, something with some resale value. You only get one hymen, toots. Apparently Rachel is either ignorant or uncaring about the whole football-jocks-deflower-lasses-then-dump-them dynamic, because she doesn’t allude to it.
Meanwhile that pest Sue Snell is out to stir up more trouble by visiting Rachel’s mom at the loony bin, which is named Arkham asylum in a tribute to Lovecraft and/or Batman. But guess what? No one wants a tribute from YOU, The Rage: Carrie 2. You go stuff it. Did I mention that Sue revealed that she spent a little time in Arkham after the Carrie incident? Anyway, Sue now pesters Rachel’s mom, demanding to know who Rachel’s father was, because “Rachel has a disease, and the male is the carrier.” [Insert sound effect of tires squealing to a halt.] What? How the fuck do you know that, Sue Snell? What, you read this in The Biological Transmission of Telekinetic Powers Amongst the White Trash Populations of West Virginia, 4th Edition? Fucking dumb movie. Anyway, Rachel’s mom reveals that Rachel’s dad was also Carrie White’s dad! Working out the chronology of all this, we can infer that Rachel’s mom is like all into older men. Who’s to say the old geezer isn’t out there breeding a race of telekinetic teens right now?
So Sue decides to harass Rachel some more, taking her out to the ruins of the old high school, the one Carrie torched. Yes, that’s right, over 20 years later, the ruins are still just left there, untouched. Clearly property values in that city are low. Sue continues to insist that she wants to “help” Rachel [and how precisely do you plan on doing that? Enrolling her in community college?], and while this is happening, one can’t help but notice that the ruins are CLEARLY, OBVIOUSLY, INDISPUTEDLY the ruins of some factory, complete with tall brick smokestack, and do not in any way resemble any design of any high school ever seen on Earth.
SPOILERS > > > Meanwhile, some pretty girl just can’t believe that Jesse is all into Rachel, and mentions to Mark that they should “get” her, setting Mark’s seven brain cells to work. He makes up with Jesse [and stupid Jesse falls for it], while this blonde makes friends with Rachel at the mall. Mark has offered Jesse the use of some house for cherry-popping activities, the reason of which will become apparent later. Jesse and Rachel go there and make sensuous love, and through a whole bunch of other machinations Rachel is invited to the big football party after the game, and taken there by the blonde girl, while the Jesse’s old flame offers him a ride then pointedly keeps him away from the party.
Okay, so obviously the party is where this shit’s goin’ DOWN, but first I must mention that elsewhere, Sue is springing mom from the loony bin, which is apparently easier than beginner’s Sudoku. At the party, Rachel is trying to have fun and being welcomed by everyone, when suddenly the guys put on the video of her getting boinked by Jesse, which, through some sort of video-projection miracle, somehow appears in the large picture windows directly above the screen. Rachel feels so hurt, so betrayed, etc., and we have some more flashbacks to the first movie [no longer tethered to a character supposedly “remembering” them], including the use of the “They’re all going to laugh at you” line, which makes absolutely no sense out of the context of the original story. But no matter, right? Perhaps this is a good time to mention that they tried to get Sissy Spacek to appear in this movie, despite the fact that Carrie is clearly dead. Thank God the woman has some taste and dignity and spared mankind this humiliation.
Anyway, as I’m sure you've guessed, this whole video thing causes Rachel to release THE RAGE. Actually, first we have a bunch of people laughing around Rachel in blurry images that make them appear like wolves or such [so innovative], then, strangely, her psychotic break occurs when we see someone reflected in Rachel’s eye say three times: “Suck her!” I really have no idea where that comes from or what it is supposed to allude to. Rachel stands and blows out all the huge picture windows in the house, shooting shards of glass at our hapless partygoers and decapitating one poor lad. I forgot to mention that this is all occurring at a huge Beverly Hills-type mansion incongruously located in the white trash foothills, but there’s just too much to make fun of in this movie. Rachel then sets some people on fire, and completes a multiple through-the-door head impaling which, surprise, the ever-so-helpful Sue Snell is one half of. Nice! She was getting on my nerves, too. And you see how you get thanked for trying to help someone. She did bring Rachel’s mom there, though.
In this version, a stack of blank CDs can be launched by mind power and wielded like sawblades—never mind that their edges are not sharp. I forgot to mention that somewhere in here Rachel's powers are also used for tattoo expansion. Meanwhile, upstairs, Mark, the blonde girl and the guy who screwed Mena run upstairs where they raid the showcase of about 10 SPEAR GUNS. What, you don't have a showcase of your many spear guns at home? So Rachel comes after them, doing her best to walk with her hands all rigid like Carrie, and she shatters the blonde's glasses into her eyes—not bad! This causes the blonde to spin with the spear gun and spear the guy who schtupped Mena IN THE NUTS, whereupon she fires the gun, ripping off his genitalia and shooting it into the pool! [see below—that's not kielbasa on that spear.] Then Rachel dumps Mark in the pool and closes the cover, whereupon he drowns, because of COURSE all pool covers are airtight and absolutely flush with the surface of the water, as surely you know.
Then we have a touching poolside mother-daughter reunion! Except that Mom soon says "The devil is in you!" which Rachel doesn't take too kindly to, although I think she lets mom live. Then Jesse shows up, and Rachel uses her mental powers to rewind the video tape—suggesting a job at some Blockbuster location may be in the cards for her [ah, but DRAT the invention of DVDs!]—to where he tells her he loves her. She also, you will note, is able to slightly enlarge the image with every repetition. The woman is like a one-person psychic post-production house. Jesse screams that, like, he would never, like, DO that to her, and they're about to have the kiss of forgiveness when a piece of roof falls and lands right on Rachel. For some reason she can't just use her powers to move the thing [besides, she's a big drama queen and is running wild on this whole "Alas-no-I-must-perish" kick], but uses them to fling Jesse off the balcony and where he'll end up living, which he does.
But then… it's one year later, and Jesse is at college, with a hideously burned forearm. He is visited by Rachel's ghost… and now, you know the first movie ended up with the huge shocker where Carrie reached up out of the ground to grab Sue, right? Back when Sue was a sensible character? Well, of course they want to do something like that here, but have to think of something else—heedless to the fact that if you're EXPECTING a shock, it completely negates the shock. Anyway, so they have Rachel suddenly freeze and then shatter. Oooh! This is like SO appropriate, says the director on the commentary, because Jesse is shattered by Rachel's death. Anyway, if you think THAT was stupid, wait ‘til you see the original ending, also included on the DVD. Same scene in the dorm room, only Rachel opens her eyes and a giant SNAKE comes out of her mouth, and goes into Jesse's mouth. I had the director commentary on during this part and she talks about what a great ending this was [it's not] and what a great special effect it is [it's not], but that they had to cut it because it caused test audiences to LAUGH. Hmmm, not a good sign.
< < < SPOILERS END
This is even worse than I thought it was the first time. First of all, it's really just the same movie, it's essentially a remake, only without an intelligent script, decent acting and minimally acceptable direction—not to mention the genius acting and brilliant direction the first had. And because of all this you know precisely where the movie will go and it's just a matter of waiting for it to get there, and seeing what they're going to change. The problem with this is that it ensures that the story is not going to be able to generate any interest or suspense, since we know from the first frame how it's all going to come out. And this is not to mention all the individually ludicrous elements that have been detailed above.
But the fact that this is essentially a remake of the first is not the movie's biggest problem—a remake would be fine if they could come up with a compelling character and situation. But no. One huge issue is that really, Rachel doesn't have a whole lot of problems. So her step-parents are trash, but a lot, if not all, of Rachel's issues with them probably stem from the fact that she's a complete ungrateful cunt to them. At school she has a best friend and would probably have many more of SHE didn't choose to dress like Elvira. She's entirely well-adjusted and able to fend for herself. So WHAT is her problem, except that she's a narcissistic, whiny goth loser? Carrie HAD real problems, real gaps to cross before she could make any friends, and was doing all she could to fix them instead of sitting around feeling sorry for her self-involved ass. This gave the whole movie a tragic momentum—oh dear, what's the point in even going into it? The point is, Rachel never really generates any sympathy or involvement. I thought Emily Bergyl gave a good performance the first time I saw this movie, but let's just say that this time I did not have the same impression—though obviously the poor girl is fighting an impossible battle.
The other thing is that Katt Shea—her biggest film credit before this was the dreadful Poison Ivy—is, I'm afraid to say, not the brightest bulb. I would never make inferences about her mental capacity if I did not listen to large portions of the commentary, where she offers mucho evidence of having a number of extremely shallow ideas that she doesn't really worry about cohering into a sensible whole. She's fighting a largely unwinnable battle, seeing as she's going up against one of the most visually intelligent directors alive—and the original Carrie culminated in a brilliant orgy of genius direction and editing—which to me seems like you'd better bring it a little bit, instead of knock off some piece of shit that maybe a few people will pick up by mistake, thinking it's the original. I really don't get it.
Regardless, is it amusing? Mildly. Mostly for masochists only, and masochists who love the original, but other than that, I would stay far way and leave this one to history.
No, unless you're a huge fan of the original, and seeing its memory desecrated would give you some sort of perverse pleasure, as it did me.
CARRIE by Brian DePalma is one of the most accomplished and psychologically rich horror movies of the 70s, and can provide a very instructive lesson, when watched with this film, of what thoughtful direction can really do for a movie.
CARRIE [TV VERSION] is a horrid little remake of the first film, but can be useful to watch and compare to the De Palma film.