25 Years Later, ‘Carrie 2’ Rages On Brilliantly

Carrie 2

In a conversation with the Blank Check Podcast in 2024, actress Amy Irving, talking about her role in Katt Shea’s The Rage: Carrie 2, remarked, “I’m sorry I ever made that film. … Except they paid me a shitload of money.” Irving might be sorry she starred in The Rage: Carrie 2, formerly titled Carrie 2: Say You’re Sorry (a better title by my assessment), but I’m not. A critical and commercial failure when released in March 1999, The Rage: Carrie 2 looks a lot better 25 years out.

Like so many oft-forgotten teen slashers from the 1990s and early aughts, I first caught The Rage: Carrie 2 too young. It wasn’t until years later, with the cinematic language to now understand what I was watching, that I caught it again, appreciative of how it endeavored to do something new with the Carrie mythos while imbuing it with a distinctly Y2K digital feel.

Director Katt Shea’s (replacing original director Robert Mandel) sequel didn’t start out as such. Originally, the movie was pitched as a spin-off, only developing into a direct sequel two years later after production stalled. United Artists no doubt hastily assembled the final product, casting a grab-bag of actors who look like other, more famous actors (Jason London is a young Brendan Fraser, Rachel Blanchard could pass for Alicia Silverstone) and tossing them into a blender of teen angst and telekinetic shenanigans.

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That angst—reportedly inspired by the Spur Posse, a group of student-athletes whose sexual exploits garnered national media attention in 1993—accounts for most of what makes The Rage: Carrie 2 work. In 1998, presuming I’d been old enough to care, I’d have argued there was no way to follow up both Stephen King’s original story and Brian De Palma’s classic shocker with anything remotely as socially probing. While cinematic liberties have recontextualized Carrie some (as a “frog among swans”, a pimply, slightly overweight student, no lead performance has physically portrayed her as written), The Rage: Carrie 2 isn’t tethered to any literary verity. It can do what it wants and party how it wants, and it does so sensationally.

Emily Bergl’s Rachel Lang is a remarkable stand-in, a goth-coded outcast who is neither as passive as her half-sister, Carrie (a third-act reveal everyone can see coming) nor too outwardly confident. She exists in an awkward limbo, sufficiently “surviving” high school without making waves. Until, of course, she discloses alleged statutory rape to local law enforcement after her best friend dies by suicide, thrusting the incredulously successful high school football team into a legal (and personal) battle to clear their names.

The Rage: Carrie 2 makes an excellent companion to Ginger Snaps insofar as both adroitly capture turn-of-the-century adolescent ennui and pain. There’s an undercurrent of social ache and cultural rot, a burgeoning digital age that more conspicuously delineates teenage social classes. It’s not pig’s blood at prom, but instead, a leaked sex tape of Rachel and quarterback Jesse (Jason London) played on the big screen at a high school party overflowing with Wishmaster excess.

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Most of it works, especially in retrospect. Contemporaneously, it’s easy to see why both critics and audiences rejected it. Superficially, this Carrie is loud, frenetically edited, and routinely dives back into De Palma’s masterpiece by way of recurrent Sissy Spacek flashbacks and the casting of Amy Irving as a returning Sue Snell. At times, The Rage: Carrie 2 seems to do little beyond gesturing, wink-wink, nod-nod toward the original, the equivalent of wanting Dr. Pepper and instead being served Food Lion’s Dr. Thunder.

Retrospectively, however, The Rage: Carrie 2 is eerily, effectively prescient, a grunge-core interrogation of teen bullying, gender roles, and violent masculinity with the resolve to say something of note. While it’s framed by genre expectations—the climactic massacre is appropriately gory, accomplishing everything from severed genitals to CD-ROMs as projectiles—the movie more broadly exploits the rage of an entire generation.

The world was changing. High school was changing. Teenagers especially were more visible than ever, and without the literacy to use a changing world to their advantage, they instead opted to augment pre-existing tools with an entirely new arsenal. High school was a powder keg. The bullies provided the fuel—all Rachel Lang did was light the match.

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25 years out, The Rage: Carrie 2 is just one of several artifacts of pre-Columbine teen horror cinema. It was just over a month after Carrie 2’s release that the Columbine Massacre occurred, forever altering the trajectory of teen media consumption and, more critically, oversight into the kind of content teens consume. The Rage: Carrie 2 revels in that cultural clairvoyance, surreptitiously using Carrie’s clothes, her dark hair, and her proximity to presumed occult behavior by way of telekinesis to tag her as an outsider, a possible threat.

The subversion, then—and where, to its credit, The Rage: Carrie 2 outclasses the original—is in Rachel’s characterization. She’s plagued with abilities she doesn’t understand and swaggers like an outcast at school. But, she is simultaneously just a normal teenage girl. She doesn’t possess Carrie White’s naivety. Instead, she verbally spars with her bullies and wants to date boys. She dreams of a life beyond her regressive small town. She’s a pop-punk icon, and her bullying is not, in the Carrie White vein, stemming from misunderstanding. It stems from envy.

25 years later, The Rage: Carrie 2 remains as potent as ever. It’s the rare horror sequel with something to say and the guts to back it up. It doesn’t quite match the original, but it comes as close as any Carrie property has. It’s a rager worth attending, whether it’s your first time or your tenth, because The Rage: Carrie 2 has real power.



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