Sunday, April 5, 2015

CARRIE (2002) / THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)

CARRIE (2002) / THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999) 

CARRIE (2002)

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: April 14th 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 132 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video:1080p Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: David Carson
Cast: Angela Bettis, Emile de Ravin, Katharine Isabelle, Chelan Cummings 

Carrie (2002) is a NBC-TV remake of the original Stephen King story which had already been treated to a phenomenal film version directed by Brian De Palma (Dressed To Kill). I remember seeing the commercials for this but did not tune-in during the original broadcast. At the time I thought why watch a water-down version when I have the original film on top, and following the TV version of Stephen King's The Shining (1997) I was in no hurry to see yet another fantastic film ruined for TV. At the time I had not yet seen Lucky McKee's quirky indie-horror film May (2002) and was unaware of actress Angela Bettis who would be taking on the role of Carrie White. If I had seen May first it would have been a bit of a different story, her casting was an inspired choice if maybe a bit too on the nose following May. 

For the most part this version stays very true to the source material and hit many of the same beats as Brian De Palma's film with a few notable exceptions. Of course we have Carrie White (Angele Bettis, May) as the painfully awkward teen with newly emerging supernatural powers who is taunted by the popular kids at school and at home her fanatically religious mother Margaret White (Patricia Clarkson, The Woods) torments her with a twisted morality. Carrie has her first period at school in the shower having been ill prepared for menstruation by her mother she is mercilessly taunted by the popular high school girls, notably Christine "Chris" Hargensen (Emilie De Ravin, The Hills Have Eyes 2006) and Tina Blake (Katharine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps). Humiliated by the group she returns home and after discovering her daughter has officially entered womanhood with the advent of the red curse she is forced to spend time in the dreaded prayer closet.

So far its following script with the addition of a scene De Palma was unable to film to his satisfaction back in the '70s, it's an early scene during Carrie's younger years when her house is pelted by rocks falling from the sky. Unfortunately digital effects being what they were in 2002 the scene as rendered seems as if it might be an outtake from Deep Impact with flaming meteorites falling from the sky, exploding upon impact, apparently having been pulled from outer space. Patricia Clarkson is a bit too subdued in her portrayal of the formerly maniacal mother, her rage and twisted morality were a large part of the original film and to play it down to such a degree for a TV audience neutered it. Additionally, the infamous shower scene is just as downplayed, gone are the tampons being hurled at Carrie and the girls chanting "plug it up, plug it up", the end result being that it loses the traumatic edge of the original. It might be unfair but watching the remake is near impossible to do without drawing comparisons to the original, that this is a neutered TV production only emphasizes the disparity between the two, it just cannot compete with it on any level. 

Sticking to the original story we also have popular girl Sue Snell asking her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Tobias Mehler) to take Carrie to the prom, and gym coach Miss Desjarden punishing the bitchy Chris Hargensen by revoking her prom tickets, who in turn enlists her boyfriend Billy (Jesse Cadotte) to ruin prom for Carrie, it's all very familiar stuff, but the characters are just not as interesting as the first film, Chris doesn't come off as quite so evil and Billy is certainly not as charming as the wanna-get-laid stoner version Travolta brought to life. . 

This version does change it up a bit by adhering to the Stephen King novel, framing it as a police procedural that begins after the fact with a series of interrogations with sequences. At the start of the film we have Detective John Mulchaey (David Keith, White of the Eye) interviewing survivor Sue Snell (Kandyse McClure, Battlestar Galactica) and gym teacher Miss Desjarden (Rena Sofer, TVs Heroes) trying to uncover just what happened at the prom causing the death of over 200 students and staff, at this point treating Carrie White as a missing person. I didn't love this framing story or how it gave the film a standard police procedural, which doesn't really go anywhere.

I do enjoy Angela Bettis as Carrie white, bettis is appropriately awkward and skittish but slightly more empowered than Spacek take on the character, which is evidenced when mom sends her to the prayer closet only this time around she has a secret cubby where she keeps fashion magazines to pass the time, she's rebellious right from the start. Plus Bettis looks pretty good covered in pig's blood during the finale and that's about half the battle right there in my opinion, this is a revenge film and at over 120 minutes it couldn't get to the finish fast enough for me, there are a lot of pacing issues with this one. However, the telekinetic fueled finale is pretty good, once the blood is spilled the fun begin with a flurry of flame, electrocution and death. 

There are some minor differences to post-prom slaughter in the way that Carrie's mom attempts to dispatch her by drowning instead of knifing, which is not the most awful change of direction but afterward we get a miraculous resuscitation and a ridiculous Thelma and Louise styled girls on the run ending, and ending that would have lead into a new weekly TV series, which would have us root for Carrie, a protagonist who just killed 234 students and teachers... some of whom not only did nothing to her but actually helped her at some point. Stephen King had it right the first time around, the only true redemption for Carrie was her own death at the end of the story.  

This version does bring a few new twists to the story but the characters and drama comes off flat and uninspired. This TV production just has no edge and is overlong and padded for running time, there's just no way I could see revisiting this one again, the lone draw would be to see Angela Bettis in the role of Carrie, and even then it is a one and done viewing.

Audio/Video: The Scream Factory packaging mislabels the aspect ratio as full frame. What we actually end up with is a widescreen (1.78:1) aspect ratio that unfortunately looks like a made for TV movie from 2002. Colors are soft and subdued, the image lacks depth and fine detail and the darker scenes are a bit of murky mess. There's also some blurring during fast-action scenes. Audio options include the original DTS-HD MA 2.0 and a slightly more immersive 5.1 surround option that exports score and discreet effects to the surrounds during the finale. 

Bonus content is minimal with just a trailer and a brand-new audio commentary from director David Carson and director of photography Victor Goss, offering some scene specific commentary and speaking about the unenviable task of reworking a film that had already been done to near perfection by a master of cinema. I've always heard rumor that quite a few scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor and never aired on TV, some featuring actress Jasmine Guy (TVs Dead Like Me) as a psychic investigator, these might have made an interesting extra on the disc if they exist. 

Special Features
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director David Carson
- Trailer (2 Mins) 

THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 105 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Katt Shea 
Cast: Emily Bergl, John Doe, Kate Skinner, Zachary Ty Bryan, Dylan Bruno, Amy Irving, Jason London 

In this sequel to the original film Rachel (Emily Bergl, Happy Campers) is the half-sister to Carrie White from the first film, both having been fathered by the same man. Rachel's  birth mother Brenda (J. Smith-Cameron, True Blood) has been institutionalized for schizophrenia following an incident during Rachel's adolescent years. Now a troubled-teen she lives with foster parents (John Doe and Kate Skinner) and attends a Catholic high school where Sue Snell (Amy Irving reprising her role from the original film) is now a guidance counselor. Rachel's not quite as awkward as her half-sister Rachel but is sort of an outsider Goth girl, and unlike carrie she has a friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari, American Beauty). Only in movies would these two attractive young women be considered the dogs of high school society, but in a post-Scream environment this is what we got. 

Ripping a page from the headlines at the time the baddies in this film are a group of asshole jocks lead by Mark (Dylan Bruno, Numb3rs) who have created a sex-game by which they earn points for sleeping with various girls at the school, based on the very real exploits of The Spur Posse scandal from around the same time. High school jock  Eric (Zachery Ty Bryan, Brad from TVs Home Improvement) has just deflowered Rachel's friend Lisa and when she finds out about the game and how little she meant to him she throws herself from the top of the school to her death, which happens very unexpectedly, as a viewer I did not see that coming, there's very little lead-up to it.

Of course, Rachel is devastated by the suicide, sort of... no one seems overly affected by it to be honest. The incident does offer a chance for us to see Rachel's burgeoning telekinetic powers kick in though. Afterward Rachel discovers a photograph of Lisa and Zachary together which she gives to the local sheriff who investigates the jock-teen for statutory rape, which could potentially threaten his athletic scholarship. Fearing the discovery of the sex-game will ruin their future prospects the jocks pay a visit to Rachel in hopes of scaring her, but they flee once her parents arrive on scene and as her new found telekinetic powers were firing up. 

Along the way we have the jock revenge storyline plus Sue Snell's discovery of Rachel's telekinetic powers, which  leads to the revelation that Rachel is the half-sister to Carrie White died some years earlier after having burned down the school and killed hundreds of students. Additionally we also have Rachel's unlikely romance with Jesse (Jason London, Dazed and Confused), a kind-hearted jock who doesn't seem to agree with his teammates sex-games despite having participated previously.  

Enter a jealous cheerleader named Tracy (Charlotte Ayanna, Jawbreaker) who had a one-night stand with Jesse and you have a recipe for a post-Scream era version of the Stephen King story with a '90s contemporary spin, and it works way more than I would have suspected. No prom this time around, instead we have a kegger at Marc's house and a plan to humiliate Rachel with a sex tape, but as expected it ends with a telekinetic nightmare of revenge and everyone must die. 

Emily Bergl is quite good as the telekinetic Goth girl, I came into it not expecting much from her or the film but walked away pleasantly surprised. There's some fun characters thrown into the mix but no ones a standout, though it was cool to see Amy Irving reprise her role from the first film providing some connective tissue. 

The kegger massacre finale is pretty decent with plenty of cleansing fire, shattered glass and numerous teen deaths, including a satisfying crotch-evisceration, some beheadings and loads of arterial spray. 

This one looks pretty good with some keen cinematography and stylish editing that's easy on the eyes. The late-'90s score features a regrettable third wave ska cut in addition to a few sweet tunes from Fear Factory and Type O Negative, it's definitely an artifact from the late-'90s. While The Rage: Carrie 2 (2002) is an unnecessary sequel it does manage to good trashy teen fun. 

Audio/Video: The Rage: Carrie 2 is presented on a separate disc from the 2002 remake and looks quite good in HD, nice clarity and sharpness, some crispness to the image and vibrant color saturation with  decent black levels. Audio options include choice of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 and both offer crisp presentations with the surround option is not a huge spatial improvement but does offer some use of the surrounds during the finale. 

Onto the extras we have two audio commentaries, the original 1999 Audio Commentary With Katt Shea and a brand-new Commentary With Director Katt Shea And Director Of Photography Donald Morgan, Moderated By Filmmaker David DeCoteau. There's also a trailer, additional scenes and a wacky serpentine alternate ending that was rightly excised. 

Special Features 
- NEW 2015 Audio Commentary With Director Katt Shea And Director Of Photography Donald Morgan, Moderated By Filmmaker David DeCoteau
- Original 1999 Audio Commentary With Katt Shea
- Alternate Ending With "Before And After" Special Effect Sequence (1 Mins) 
- Additional Scenes Not Seen In Theaters (7 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 

Unless you are a huge Angela Bettis fan you are not missing much of anything with the NBC-TV movie version of Carrie (2002), which pales in every way to the original film. The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) does offer some trashy b-movie fun that at the very least is not a retread of the original material. It may not be an essential purchase but at under $20 your curiosity at least won't break the bank.  I know Cliff McMillan at Scream wanted to do a collector's edition of Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976) film that didn't pan out for whatever reason, I hope this in some way opens the door for a possible future release of that one