Political Film Review #38

The continuing effort to professionalize the Political Film Society has turned up yet another innovation: From now on, the newsletter will be known as the Political Film Review.

The Rage: Carrie II, directed by Katt Shea, is a sequel to Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie. Now in 1999, with a female as director, the plot changes cleverly, though the tagline “Looks can kill” sounds similar. Amy Irving, who appeared in the first Carrie, now plays a school counselor named Sue Snell who is aware of the dangers of telekinesis. The new Carrie, named Rachel (played by Emily Bergl), is a much more brainy, streetwise girl who lives with strict working-class parents and wants to be independent. Her best girlfriend, however, plunges to suicide because of a loss of virginity, though Rachel does not know why her girlfriend took the loss so hard. We learn that high school jocks have an ongoing competitive macho game in which all girls in the school are assigned points; when an athlete lays the girl, he gets the points, as entered into a notebook. Rachel does not realize that her friend leaped to her death because the boys told her about the game after she was laid, but she knows about the loss of virginity and tries to stay away from the boys. The school authorities, meanwhile, find out about the culpability of the jock who date-raped her friend (Eric, played by Zachary Ty Bryan) and turn the matter over to the police. Since the jocks are sons of the best families in the town, the mayor of the town lets them off, so they are eager for more and have a score to settle with Rachel, who has a high point count in part because she claims to be a Lesbian. However, the most intelligent of the jocks (Jesse, played by Jason London) opts out of the game that he can no longer tolerate and befriends Rachel, whom he finds to be his intellectual equal. Angered that Rachel has stolen her erstwhile boyfriend, one of the girls at school hatches a plot to have Rachel invited to a party after a football game while delaying the arrival of Rachel’s new boyfriend at the party. While at the party without her date, the boys show Rachel the scorekeeping book and a videotape of her own date-rape with her boyfriend, who thus is not around to explain that he was out of the game and did not know about the videotaping. Rachel’s rage erupts, the house where the party is held burns, many die, and then her boyfriend arrives. Hoping to rescue Rachel from death, in the role of a true Romeo he goes into the house, but Rachel (now Juliet) dies when part of the roof falls on her. Fast forward two years, and her boyfriend is at college with a picture of Rachel alongside the desk in his dorm. Rachel appears to him, almost in the manner of the film Ghost, and then the image shatters. He is haunted by her love. What the movie demonstrates is the cruelty of adolescent machismo, conformity imposed by macho leaders, and the willingness of even girls to ape the cruelty of machismo. The idea for the film came from Lakewood High School in Southern California where such a game was actually played in recent years. A subplot in the film is that telekinesis is a disease, and the counselor tries but fails to help the second Carrie “before it is too late.” Although horror films are escapist and any lessons contained therein are immediately forgotten by most who leave the theatre, a more serious analysis should ask whether the power structure in narcissistic America has become so callous that romantic love and justice have become passé. Certainly the fact that the meek shall inherit the earth is a theme in both films, but that is not soon enough; justice delayed is certainly justice denied. The films apparently say that those who are powerless now will have God on their side when judgment comes, but it is a sad commentary that so many lives will be ruined in the meantime, and perhaps telekinesis powers are not a malady but a gift. If the cruel macho men of the world, including Hitler and others, thought that they would have to pay in this life from a Carrie or Rachel, it would be a very different world. For those who remember Carrie I, this sequel has less violence, more character development, portrays machismo at its worst, and is one of the best feminist films in years. MH