Trauma and Toxic Masculinity in ‘The Rage: Carrie 2’
In a genre typically considered “for the guys,” it’s time to give a nod to the ladies. Uterus Horror is a subgenre of horror films that focuses on the uniquely female experience of puberty and the act of coming into your sexuality, using horror elements to emphasize and/or act as a metaphor for that experience. These films are often ignored in theaters but quickly develop cult followings. Columnist Molly Henery, who named and defined the subgenre, tackles a new film each month and analyzes how it fits into this bloody new corner of horror. This month: The Rage: Carrie 2.
Let’s leave behind the mermaids, puberty, and teenage girlhood of my last column and revisit a familiar franchise. I’ve previously described the adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie as the first true Uterus Horror film, but this time around, focus turns to the sequel. That’s right, I’m talking about The Rage: Carrie 2. While this sequel didn’t quite capture the magic of the original, it still tells an important story about loss, love, and the consequences of toxic masculinity.
Before I dive into the Uterus Horror themes of the film, I need to preface this article by expressing my deep devotion to The Rage: Carrie 2. The film was released in 1999 to less than stellar reviews and was generally considered a box office bomb—but I saw it when I was going through puberty, and it left a lasting impression on me. As a result of this experience, I’ve always felt more invested in this sequel than the original Carrie. It was one of my most-rented films at Hollywood Video for many years, and my best friend and I even talked about getting matching tattoos like the two friends in the film had. Even though that friendship did not last (and I never got that tattoo), The Rage: Carrie 2 still has a special place in my heart and was clearly quite formative to my horror film tastes.
The Rage: Carrie 2 is a direct sequel to Brian De Palma’s Carrie. The film was directed by Katt Shea (Poison Ivy, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase) and written by Rafael Moreu (Hackers) and takes place 20 years after the original. This time, the plot centers on a teenage girl named Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl). We meet Rachel at a very vulnerable time in her life; she’s living with foster parents, her best friend died by suicide, and she is isolated from her peers. As if her life isn’t tumultuous enough, she falls for popular football player Jesse (Jason London). Unfortunately, young love never goes according to plan, and the end result in this case is a bloody, fiery massacre at Rachel’s hand (or, more accurately, mind).
Right from the opening scene, it is clear that The Rage: Carrie 2 differs from its predecessor. The most obvious diversion is that Carrie insinuates that Carrie White developed her powers when she went through puberty and had her first period. Yet, in this film, the opening scene shows a young Rachel using her powers during a stressful moment when her mother is taken away to a mental institution. This drastically changes the Uterus Horror aspect of the film. Instead of events being linked to menstruation, they are linked to Rachel’s emotional state. More specifically, the events that unfold are a result of love and grief.
It all begins with Rachel’s friend, Lisa (Mena Suvari). Their dynamic reminds me of my relationship with my then-best friend at the time the film came out. They are obviously social outcasts at school, only really having each other and dressing in “alternative” clothing. The pair even have matching tattoos (the ones I mentioned earlier that, in hindsight, I’m glad I never got). On the way to school one morning, Lisa reveals to Rachel that she lost her virginity, but she won’t tell Rachel who it was with until she meets them for lunch later. Unfortunately, that lunch never happens because the boy dumps Lisa, and she tragically jumps from the roof of the school. This heartbreaking event is the first time we see teenage Rachel exhibit her abilities as she loses control over the death of her best friend. It also informs the audience that Rachel is generally able to keep her abilities under control, unless she is in a state of heightened emotion and vulnerability.
From there, Rachel’s life drastically changes. She starts to spend time with one of the most popular boys at school, Jesse, and the two quickly form a relationship. Rachel even loses her virginity to Jesse, and he does his best to make the moment as special as possible. Sadly, Rachel’s happiness is short-lived. Some of the other popular kids whisk Rachel away to a party, separating her from Jesse, and make her think she is now one of them. What the popular kids really planned was to reveal they secretly recorded Jesse and Rachel having sex, and they play it on multiple screens at the party to shame her. These horrible teens even reveal the popular jocks have been keeping score for a game where they earn points by sleeping with as many girls as possible, including both Lisa and Rachel. Rachel feels completely exposed, betrayed, and utterly alone.
All of the traumatic events in Rachel’s life lead to her true Carrie moment, using her telekinetic powers to lay waste to all of the school bullies. As with the original film, this moment is so incredibly satisfying for viewers to watch, as these absolutely horrific people die in equally horrific ways. Her vengeance is interrupted when Jesse finally arrives at the party and sees what has happened. Rachel initially tries to kill Jesse as well, thinking he was in on the cruel joke, until the video reveals he does love her. Then, Rachel ultimately sacrifices herself to save Jesse.
Even though Rachel’s abilities are more tied to her emotional state (while Carrie’s were tied to both her emotions and menstruation), both have a common genetic element. In The Rage: Carrie 2, we learn that Rachel’s father is actually also Carrie’s father. Sue Snell (Amy Irving reprises her role), now the school guidance counselor, confirms that these abilities are genetically passed down from the father’s side. Just like Carrie, Rachel meets an untimely death brought on by her own biology.
Another unique aspect of The Rage: Carrie 2’s plot is the way it examines toxic masculinity from a teenage girl’s point of view. The popular jocks in the film were based on a real-life group of teens known as the “Spur Posse,” who faced multiple sexual assault allegations. Just like the boys in the film, these teens were very popular jocks who would sleep with teenage girls, some of them perhaps by force, and keep score for each of their conquests.
The film wastes no time in conveying the cycle of toxic masculinity with these boys. They treat women like disposable objects, they get away with terrible acts simply because they’re rich and on the football team, and they are enabled by everyone around them. From other teenage girls, to the parents, to the cops, and even the awful football coach (who checks for a “tampon string” between one of the players legs simply for talking too much), everyone allows these morally corrupt boys to do whatever they want.
Rachel is the antithesis of these boys. She is an outsider who doesn’t conform to the norm and fall in line with the popular kids. Rachel doesn’t fall for the jock charm of these abusers, and she has no intention of letting the one who broke Lisa’s heart get away with her death. In essence, Rachel is a threat to the way of life the jocks have become accustomed to. The only reason she falls for Jesse is because, while he is technically one of the jocks, he is a kind, sensitive, caring human being, even though he hides that side of himself when around his friends.
This is why the boys go after Rachel. They first terrorize her at her house, but when she starts dating Jesse, they devise their even more cruel and sinister plan. Lisa and Rachel both provide glimpses into what the cycle of toxic masculinity does to young women, showing just how dire the consequences can be for them. In the real world, we know white men get away with far too much in a society ruled by toxic masculinity and rape culture, but at least in the Uterus Horror genre, we get to see some retribution.
The Rage: Carrie 2 might not be as beloved as the first film, but it still effectively conveys the hardships and dangers of being a teenage girl. On one hand, the film uses Rachel’s telekinetic powers to show the audience not only the emotional rollercoaster young girls experience, but also how we are often at odds with our own biology in ways men could never understand. On the other hand, the film exemplifies the real-life dangers of male privilege, toxic masculinity, and rape culture, demonstrating how it directly effects women. This film would be terrifying enough without the horror elements, but Rachel’s powers emphasize the trauma of her experiences in true Uterus Horror fashion.