In Defense of THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 and Its Examination of Toxicity

To rage is to have a fit of violent anger. Female rage is often looked at as something terrifying, to be avoided. That’s probably why the horror genre is rife with these stories. But what if that rage is justified? That’s the question at the center of The Rage: Carrie 2. Directed by Katt Shea (Poison Ivy) from a screenplay by Rafael Moreu (Hackers), this sequel to Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie was a critical flop and box office bomb upon its initial release in 1999. Much of this, I fear, was due to its heavy reliance on flashbacks, which constantly force viewers to unfairly compare the two films. It’s a shame because The Rage: Carrie 2 deftly tackles the kind of real-life toxic masculinity that puts more importance on the futures of rapist boys over the dignity of teenage girls. 

photo of two girls sitting on a bus facing each other in The Rage: Carrie 2

United Artists

The film opens in 1986. Single mother Barbara paints her home red to drive the Devil away from her daughter Rachel. Barbara is taken away for psychiatric care and Rachel goes into foster care. The bulk of Carrie 2 follows teenage Rachel suppressing her burgeoning telekinesis after the traumatic death of her best friend Lisa by suicide. Lisa excitedly tells Rachel about losing her virginity. She’s mum on the guy’s identity but we discover that it’s Eric, a football player who breaks up with Lisa after his friends say she’s “coyote ugly.” This slang term means waking up to a really unattractive girl following a sexual encounter. 

Lisa is heartbroken after she discovers that she’s a pawn in the football team’s disgusting sexual game. She jumps to her death from their high school’s rooftop garden. In 1993, Time Magazine broke a story about a similar game played by a basketball team in a Los Angeles high school. Known as the Spurr Posse, eight underaged boys and one young man were arrested for more than 17 felony counts of rape, unlawful intercourse, and other related charges. Charges were only filed against one of the eight. 

Sue Snell (from the original film), now a guidance counselor, recounts to the sheriff that she’s seen an influx of traumatized girls because of this sexual game. His first reply is “there’s nothing illegal about breaking a girl’s heart.”

Still, she pushes him to charge Eric for statutory rape. (He’s 18, Lisa was 16.) However, when pulled in to discuss the charges with the Deputy D.A., Eric’s father, a prominent lawyer, argues that this is just a matter of “youthful transgressions” that shouldn’t derail his son’s entire future. He then further implies that if they charge his son, they’ll fink on the whole team. Of course, the roster includes the sons of all town’s most prominent families. Eric’s father patronizingly asks her if she “wants to be responsible for ruining these boys’ lives.”

From the men’s point of view, it’s all about the future of the boys, not the trauma they’ve inflicted on these girls. This striking scene is 17 years before Brock Turner’s father said his son’s controversially light sentence was “a steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action.”

Shea and Moreu use this narrative to further expose the systematic way teenage girls are thrown under the bus by those tasked with protecting them. The Senior D.A. says there is an “issue of intent,” implying that the boys didn’t mean to cause harm. There’s apparently “not enough evidence to tarnish these boys’ reputations,” to which the sheriff replies that “It’s not about evidence. It’s about elections.”

It feeds into the “boys will be boys” mindset… the same boys who will later pull the civic strings. Eric salutes the sheriff with a shit-eating grin, knowing there will be no consequences for him nor his teammates.

Carrie 2 also tackles agro machismo and misogyny on the football team. A coach makes a player pull his pants down to see if there’s a “tampon string” between his legs. And Eric gets an attaboy for his overly aggressive personal foul that nearly kills someone, a move to relieve his “stress” over recent events. Those moments are all-too-realistic reminders of the issues with rewarding dangerous and harmful behavior. Their toxicity literally becomes a terror to others, including the girls that are subjected to their games. But, the ramifications for those actions come in the film’s glorious and gruesome finale. 

photo of rachel from The Rage Carrie 2 standing with wide eyes and red dress

United Artists

Despite her better instincts, Rachel falls for Jesse, another football player. He does half-heartedly play the game early in the film with mean girl Tracy; however, he unsuccessfully tries to get his teammates to take responsibility for their unsavory actions. Tricked by Tracy’s best friend Monica, Rachel agrees to attend a party after the big game. At first, things seem fine. The girls are friendly, the boys are apologetic. Until they aren’t.

Not only do they show Rachel their scorebook, they imply that Jesse was only with her to score big points because she was a “dyke.” Already shaken, she loses control when the jocks play a tape of her night with Jesse on the big screen TVs for everyone to see. With revenge porn on the rise during the pandemic, it’s another way in which The Rage was ahead of its time. And yet another stark reminder of how some things never seem to change. 

Finally embracing her powers, Rachel unleashes her pent-up rage on the party. Trapped in a gaudy glass mansion (What is it they say about people in glass houses?) Rachel explodes the place, with shards impaling everyone, blood spurting from every orifice. In a wonderfully late-’90s effect, she causes CDs to skewer whole bodies. Chaos reigns.

In the most disgusting moment in the film, Monica’s glasses explode into her own eyeballs. She then turns around and, unable to see, castrates Eric with a fishing spear. Even Sue, whose attempts to help Rachel to make amends for what happened to Carrie, meets a disastrous end. The only character who gets out alive is Jesse; however, in the incredibly bleak final frame, we see that this will haunt him forever. 

While The Rage: Carrie 2 may be saddled with unfair comparisons to its predecessor, Shea and Moreu’s empathetic exploration of female agency amidst the rotting soil from which our rage springs remains as timely and urgent as ever. 

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