PET SEMATARY 2 is just bizarre. In fact, if the original PET SEMATARY died and you buried it in the pet cemetery it would probably come back as PET SEMATARY 2. Although there are several nods towards the first film (hey look it’s the Creeds mailbox! Let’s meet Church the cat’s veterinarian) drastic liberties are taken and important boundaries present in the first installment are ignored. I don’t know about you, but bad table manners are the last thing on my list of concerns about the recently deceased.
EDWARD FURLONG plays Jeff Mathews a boy who recently lost his famous movie star mother after she was electrocuted during an on-set mishap. He moves to the town of Ludlow, Maine (Georgia is cast as Maine) with his veterinarian father Chase (ANTHONY EDWARDS). Jeff is not in town long before he meets a mean kitten-napping bully (BIG‘s JARED RUSHTON) and an overweight kid (JASON McGUIRE) juggling an abusive step dad and a doomed pooch. Things are said, punches are thrown, dogs are shot and eventually people are trotting off to the old Indian reanimation station.
Director MARY LAMBERT doesn’t really have much to work with here, and even the cemetery itself seems scaled down and rushed. She still has a great eye for twisted details and gothic nuances, but some of her off kilter sensibilities glare rather than enhance. Part of what made the first film so potent was its appreciation of a permanent, weighty environment rich in history. In contrast, PET SEMATARY 2 feels like a transient carnival passing through town. I don’t know if the focus on younger characters is to blame or if it’s the absence of recalled horror, but the ancient evil vibe is M.I.A. Lamentably, when cornered LAMBERT tends to fall back on her extensive music video background. The songs we hear are great but really a little goes a long way and they tend to elbow out any established mood. (The tracks chosen actually would have made an outstanding soundtrack, unfortunately such a thing never materialized.)
The good news is that CLANCY BROWN who portrays Jeff’s pal Drew’s bastard of a step father is a wonder to behold. His character may make little sense when held up against what we’ve seen in the original film, but if you just let that go he’s a darkly humorous marvel. In fact, if we could just rip out this movie’s connection to the first film entirely it would fare a lot better. If this was not a sequel to PET SEMETARY, scenes like the one where Jeff’s father dreams that he’s making love to a woman with a very unconvincing dog mask on might actually be kinda fun. Instead it’s just kind of head shakingly sad.
As far as the film’s climax goes I’m kind of torn. I don’t think I’ll be ruining anything here when I tell you that Jeff’s mother does indeed return from the grave. Unfortunately, just about every opportunity to make this development suitably gruesome is avoided. The problem is she’s looking too damn good. I know that this may be partially due to illusion but still, the fact remains, bitch ain’t scary. Although it’s undeniably fun to watch her burn alive, face all dripping apart, something just seems too theatrical and corny here to be taken seriously. In a way, this climax isn’t so different from the one in DARIO ARGENTO‘s INFERNO with that nutty dime store death skeleton. I always enjoyed that, it’s sort of goofy but that’s just DARIO being DARIO right? Why can’t I give MARY a break like that? If this film was in Italian would I think it was artsy and cool rather than cringe-y and cartoonish? The answer to that question is pending. Bottom-line is PET SEMATARY 2 is not a great movie, but it is reasonably entertaining. If you pretend it has subtitles you might even like it. The problem is that as a sequel it drops the ball in any language.
Note: One other bizarre thing about the film that is equal parts fascinating and embarrassing is its closing credits which elect to show you the film’s victims in cut out circles on the side of the screen. To me it laughably looks like the opening of a mid-eighties night time soap. One more head scratching choice in a movie filled with many.