When The Rage: Carrie 2 hit the multiplexes in 1999, it didn’t do well with critics or at the box office. However, it’s an interesting film to think about in retrospect. In many ways, this combination of loose sequel and semi-remake was a precursor to the remake/reimagining trend that would become so dominant in modern horror form the mid-2000’s on. As a film, it’s a hit-and-miss proposition but even when it goes awry, it does in ways that are more interesting than a lot of modern horror “reboots” attempt.

RageC2-posThe Rage: Carrie 2 focuses on Rachel (Emily Bergl), a troubled but sarcastic misfit who is trying to make through school while avoiding the annoying prep snobs that surround her. She also has some secrets, like a mother who is an asylum and a set of developing telekinetic powers she tries to repress. School counselor Sue Snell – played by Amy Irving, who connects this film to the 1976 original – recognizes Rachel’s issues and tries to help her.

However, trouble looms when Rachel finds a forbidden romance with hunky football player Jesse (Jason London). Rachel doesn’t know that his friends have a sleazy competition going where they seduce girls then abandon them to score “points.” Jesse breaks away from this group but they’re determinRageC2-01ed to rope him back in and put Rachel in her place. No matter what Sue Snell tries to do, it seems Rachel is destined to follow in the footsteps of her telekinetic predecessor.

The Rage: Carrie 2 is a mess but it’s a fascinating mess. Rafael Moreu’s overplotted, ambitious script tries to follow the basic narrative spine of Carrie – the misfit heroine, the telekinesis, the starcrossed romance, the vicious prank that triggers a terrible revenge – while also establishing its own modern identity. The struggle to keep up with its predecessor overwhelms the film’s final third, including a bizarre “hail mary” plot twist designed to connect it to the first Carrie, a series of plot contrivances that requires characters to suddenly act in unbelievable ways to facilitate the finale and a pileup of characters being unbelievably thrown together at the end.

However, the story’s attempts to serve multiple masters results in a film that is compelling because you don’t know what strange element will pop up next. The tone is all over the map, with some vicious moments of bloody horror butting up awkwardly against an understated, charming depiction of Rachel and Jesse’s romance, but director Katt Shea invests the film with a lot of energy and visual flair. She goes full-throttleRageC2-02 in the horror moments, mixing early digital FX with impressive practical stunt and makeup gags in the over-the-top finale.

Shea also gets performances that are better than you’d expect for a late-in-the-game sequel. Bergl delivers a committed performance as the heroine, evoking both toughness and vulnerability in ways that fit the film’s proto-emo tone. London might be a bit old for his character but he gives a grounded, low-key performance that makes Jesse easy to like. Bergl and London’s moments alone are some of the film’s best. Elsewhere, Irving does well in an oft-thankless role and the teen villains give energetic performances despite their thinly-written “evil preppie” roles (there’s a certain camp amusement in seeing former Home Improvement tyke Zachery Ty Bryan all grown up and playing a skirt-chasing, football-playing brute).

In short, The Rage: Carrie 2 is a topsy-turvy yet fascinating mutt of a sequel, mixing the aims of a sequel and a remake with an emo misfit-teen revenge fantasy and a romance plot that often feels like a horror version of She’s All That. If that bizarre combo of aims intrigues you, you might have fun with this oddball sequel-cum-reboot.