Katt Shea/ USA/ 1999/ 104 mins
On Blu-Ray from Mon 8 Apr 2019
Set in a very familiar Hollywood version of high school featuring twenty-something jocks and model cheerleaders this sequel delivers average thrills and predictable spills. Superficially adhering to the novel involving a bullied girl utilising telekinesis to punish her enemies, this version replaces Carrie with her step-sister and relegates the role of the mentally ill mother (Piper Laurie) to would-be last-minute rescuer in the third act.
Screenwriter Rafael Moreu manipulates the White family tree to conjure the possibility of a step-sister Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl) to the original Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). This contrivance foists an uneasy alliance between the sisters and whilst Rachel never feels as vulnerable and confused as Carrie there are very few similarities. A more significant departure is the seven year age gap between Bergl and Spacek which could have worked if Moreu had avoided the adolescent first-date awkwardness between Jesse Ryan (Jason London) and Rachel which provides the emotional backdrop and fleshes out the story.
King’s seminal work traded on the desperation and confusion of puberty and the unforgiving peer-pressure cooker of American high schools in the seventies. This sequel capitalises on the palpable fear of the other whilst sidestepping the uncomfortable, torture of the innocent theme, that made the original so compelling and horrifying. The opening suicide of Rachel’s best and only friend Lisa (Mena Suvari) hints at a level of brutality and cruelty that is not maintained and instead the bulk of the first two acts unveil the traditional tropes of Hollywood’s idea of school life. Even the inclusion of leaked sex tape plotline lacks bite and is included only briefly as a prelude to the climactic slaughter.
There is some satisfaction in the pre-Final Destination brand deaths comprising drowning, stabbing, electrocution and crushing. This sequence is bolstered by the absence of intrusive and flimsy visual effects which came to characterise the former franchise which are most notable as Rachel breaks glass behind her as she unleashes a telekinetic frenzy of fury.
The only element of stunt-casting is the inclusion of Sue Snell (Amy Irving) as one of Carrie’s classmates and sufferer of post-traumatic stress who is now a teacher. Sue had empathised with Carrie in the original and identifies that Rachel is undergoing a similar telekinetic turmoil before trying and failing to prevent another massacre. This is an example of an effective association with the original unlike the aforementioned familial contrivances. Tellingly her attempts to convince Rachel to seek medical help suggest a nuanced attempt to handle her unusual ability more akin to recent Marvel fare but this thread is discarded without further elaboration.