The case for leaving beloved older pics unmolested by remaking is bolstered once again by “The Rage: Carrie 2,” an update as generic in every aspect as Brian De Palma’s original was inventive. Given recent weeks’ oversaturation of features aimed at youth auds, this abysmal effort looks to score unexceptional opening numbers, followed by quick dropoff and improved ancillary performance.
Critical reception was mixed at the time, but the 1976 release now often is considered De Palma’s best-realized work, as well as the top screen adaptation of a Stephen King book (though Lawrence Gordon’s screenplay in fact played very loosely with the scribe’s first published novel, to its benefit). Flick introduced or boosted a whole classful of thesps — Sissy Spacek, John Travolta , Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, long-MIA vet Piper Laurie (Oscar-nominated with Spacek) — who, along with helmer’s stylish work, elevated borderline-trash material to baroque heights. Its mix of black comedy, horror and fantasy-revenge elements left a lingering stamp on teen genre pics.
The current edition uses the original as a blueprint, but leaves out all the wit, sympathy and bravado. Brief prologue shows protagonist Rachel removed from home at an early age when her schizophrenic single mom (J. Smith-Cameron) is hauled off to the loony bin. Fast-forward several years. Now living with callous foster parents, 16-year-old Rachel (Emily Bergl) sports a mild Goth-rock look that abets her social non-status as a “skank” amid the ruling clique of shallow cheerleaders and obnoxious jocks at Bates High School.
These star football players have a particularly vile competitive “game” they play off the field: deflowering underage classmates whom they then jilt and brag about. One such victim is Lisa (Mena Suvari), Rachel’s best friend; she takes a fatal dive off the school roof in protest.
One of the more sensitive jocks, Jesse (Jason London), doesn’t approve of his teammates’ loutish behavior. He’s also attracted to Rachel, a development that displeases his bitchy A-list girlfriend (Charlotte Ayanna). Latter’s pique, among other developments, leads to our heroine’s planned humiliation at a post–Big Game bash.
The only observer to suspect Rachel’s secret, as-yet-undeveloped telekinetic powers is school counselor Sue Snell (Irving), the sole notable survivor of Carrie White’s Bates High blood bath some two decades earlier. Sue discovers a hidden hereditary link between that late disgruntled teen and the new one. But it’s too late to prevent an explosion of supernatural violence at an all-too-predictable party climax.
Though ideas and scenes are shamelessly recycled from “Carrie” and other horror pics — including gratuitous inserting of some 1976 clips — “The Rage” seems hellbent on diluting every exploitable aspect. Not particularly plain, awkward or ostracized, Bergl’s Rachel hardly risks the pathos or fear Spacek’s memorable Carrie sported. Nor do her cookie-cutter nemeses come near the vivid impression made by Allen’s malevolent bimbo or Laurie’s evangelical nightmare mom. Even the special effects seem less inspired.
Moving up a rung from lower-budget genre efforts (“Stripped to Kill,” “Poison Ivy”), director Katt Shea lends “Rage” routine technical gloss. But she seems hapless to coax personality from the colorless cast, or to keep Rafael Moreu’s by-the-numbers screenplay from dragging toward tedium. Thrills and chills are at a bare minimum.
Scattered shots are in B&W, to no discernible point. Original film’s lush Pino Donaggio score has been replaced by a rote assemblage of tracks by C-list rock bands.