First off: I’m not trying to start a trend on this blog by doing two Stephen King (ish) movies in a row that center around pet horror; I favorited about forty horror movies that are available On Demand for this project and am picking them somewhat at random.
As much as I found the original Pet Sematary a horror masterpiece (and a candidate for both best King adaptation and one of the most horrifying films ever made), I never watched its sequel, whose cover art always made it look like a really low-rent straight-to-video movie to me. But Edward Furlong is in this, and even though he looks like a sack of wet potatoes leaves today, this was back when he was young and healthy-ish.
Mike Gray: Judging books by their cover since 1982.
Anyway, the movie begins with a nice fake-out on a horror movie set where Furlong’s mom is shooting a film. Some clumsy technician (will union members never stop their wanton destruction?) spills something on the electrical equipment, and she comes to a rather shocking end right before Eddie’s eyes (I think his character’s name is Luke or Josh or something, but in these reviews I’ll usually just refer to the characters by their actor’s real name, or else refer to them with the nickname I made up for them while watching).
Her death scene ends with a smash-cut to a dog that’s being put down by Anthony “ER” Edwards, who plays a veterinarian and Furlong’s father. And within a few days’ worth of compressed movie time, they hold a funeral for the mother in her hometown in New England, move from LA into their old “summer house” in her hometown, the father starts up a new vet business, and Eddie’s shuffled off to school just as quickly as those plot points were.
Characters are introduced brusquely and are drawn as broadly as possible (I guess the filmmakers really were trying to keep the film true to a King-penned story), and it’s a Cavalcade of Character Actors that spills out of the exposition clown car: the sadistic prison guard from The Shawshank Redemption plays the sadistic small town sheriff, one of the princesses from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and Jon Cryer’s ex-wife (do a Google search for Sarah Trigger; it’s surprisingly dispiriting) plays the Furlong-Edwards conglomerate’s housekeeper/replacement wife, and Tom Hanks’ best friend in Big plays the jerk bully in this film.
Being a veterinarian in a town that has a reanimating Indian burial ground directly behind the pet cemetery that everyone seems to know about seems like a tough gig, and indeed Anthony “Revenge of the Nerds” Edwards is surprised to find the old veterinarian’s office long abandoned but still in good condition (for a horror movie; almost no room is pleasant to look at in horror films). Furlong is a ball of rage in every scene he’s in, and this makes the movie a lot more fun to watch at this point, especially since nobody has been brutally murdered yet.
It’s refreshing to see nice pet/human relationships in a Stephen King movie.
Cold-blooded is a good descriptor for the awful broken human beings that populate Furlong’s school, as a group of them (led by Tom Hanks’ best friend) bully our hero in front of a memorial for his dead mother. They then steal Furlong’s baby kitten (what is it with cats being put into peril in horror movies?) and ride out to the Pet Sematary. After an astonishingly cruel bully sesh, Furlong makes his way into the Pet Sematary, The Scariest Place In The Fucking World, to retrieve his kitten (who doesn’t die in this movie, which was refreshing to find out).
And I thought North Jersey was bad…
Meanwhile, Gus the Sheriff is the biggest creep in the world who watches the rabbits he has caged in the backyard doing it and later feels up his wife in front of his stepson, so I’m sure nothing bad will happen to him in this film.
Oh wait, Gus is immediately an unrepentant monster that shoots and kills his stepson’s dog like a completely despicable character that the audience can justifiably hate (see: Designated Villain).
But this gets us to the horror of the film, and the boys (Furlong and his pal, whose name I never learned because he was marked to die from the get-go) travel just past the Pet Sematary where the ground is sour, as some would say. So they bury the dog in the regenerating soil and bing bang boom, we got ourselves a horror story.
The dog comes back (hooray!) and Eddie Furlong has a nightmare about his dead mom (boo!). Dr. Anthony “Delta Heat” Edwards checks out the zombie dog and doesn’t understand why it has an open gunshot wound, no pulse, and is still somehow alive. Suddenly, like a bad continuity edit, it’s Halloween night (yay!) and the boys head off to the Pet Sematary for some more good-natured traumatic bullying. Furlong tells the bully to fuck off, though, which is nice.
Sure enough, Gus the Awful Person shows up to abuse his stepson, so the zombie dog Cujos him to death. And since the boys are at the Pet Sematary anyway….
Gus comes back from the dead and promptly rapes his wife. But he’s also now nicer to his stepson, so I guess it’s baby steps at this point. Over at Anthony “Mr. North” Edwards’ vet clinic, a cage full of kitten soup suggests the reanimated dog has developed a thirst for blood and gorey visual effects.
The town’s crazy cast of characters expands as Dr. Anthony Edwards checks out the previous vet, Dr. Yolanda, who’s nuttier than a fruitcake and hints at Edwards what the hell’s going down at the Pet Sematary. But since all adults are useless idiots in horror movies, he leaves without understanding what’s actually happening around him.
More gore ensues for some time as Gus now really enjoys skinning rabbits and acting like Frankenstein. Anthony “Top Gun” Edwards creepily watches the movies his dead wife starred in, then has a freaky-deaky sex dream about her before being awoken by getting nearly murdered by the zombie dog, which somehow got into his locked house, into his closed bedroom, and began attacking him while he was still asleep. I don’t know, I guess because he’s a ghost dog?
“I don’t know how I got in here, either!”
Jerk bully zooms back into the movie at this point on a motor bike (because of course he has a motor bike; it was shorthand for “bad boy” in early 90’s American cinema. Furlong rode one in T2! Because he was a bad boy in that movie!) to further torment our hero and also attempts to murder him, because hey, why not? New and Improved Gus® appears and destroys the bully’s face with the kid’s motor bike tire. So far, so good. Unfortunately, he also goes after his poor stepson at this point, so my like of New Gus wanes a little.
I guess he deserved it? Morality is difficult to discern in horror films.
The kid’s mom finally wakes up and smells the asshole that leaps on her hood vowing to kill them both and flees, all while Gus pursues. However, Gus has a great time during this chase, so I guess he’s still pretty cool.
Gus’ wife and her kid get obliterated by crashing head-first into an 18-wheeler. What is it with this town and trucks murdering people? Or Stephen King and trucks murdering people? I get it, they’re big and scary and loud, but this doesn’t make them any more “murderous” than a Chevy Tahoe. Sensing an opportunity, Gus takes the bully’s body up to the Pet Sematary to make a new friend.
The next time we see Eddie Furlong (he disappears for a little while in this movie), he’s creepy like Bart flying a kite at night in that one episode of The Simpsons and lets his dad know that he’s made plans for mom to visit real soon. All I know is that Dead Mom® ain’t gonna like seeing New Mom® in her house.
“Hello, mother dear…”
Furlong plays a creepy young man really well in the third act of this movie. His strong character work reminds me, sadly, of what a great talent Eddie Furlong was at one point.
Dr. Anthony “The Sure Thing” Edwards nearly gets himself Cujo’ed and finds that New Gus has been redecorating the house with skinned rabbits and unhinged behavior (Sample dialogue from this scene: “Why did you dig up my wife?” “Because I wanted to fuck her.” Yikes!) But Gus gets his reanimated brains blown out (because that’s how you kill zombies, duh), so now surely everything’s going to end up just peachy for all involved.
New Mom is making herself right at home with Dead Mom’s stuff, so of course she’s brutally murdered for taking a housekeeping job with the wrong family. Like in lifey!
Hey! Mom’s home! And Eddie Furlong is thrilled. But she’s doing the creepy, “I’m totally fine! But also super-evil,” move that the reanimated Gage from the first movie pulled. Dead Bully also shows up at this point, and reanimated mom ducks out. This is the climactic battle sequence of the movie. In true horror climax fashion, disgusting practical effects are highlighted, re-mom sets the house on fire, Eddie Furlong electrocutes the dead bully to death (great phrasing there, Mike), and Anthony “Zodiac” Edwards opts to just lay there injured and die in the fire. But Furlong comes to his senses and realizes his dead mother is probably evil at this point, saves his dad, and dead mom re-dies in the fire.
But not before they hug it out.
Sooooooo, Eddie Furlong and Dr. Anthony Edwards beat feet out of this crazy burg, much worse for the wear. With behind six dead people over the course of 90 minutes, it’s a pretty murder-y movie, and half of them come back to life, only to be murdered all over again. Like almost all horror movies, even the people who win at the end have lost so much along the way, the word “win” doesn’t really apply so much as “barely survived” does.
Pictured: Anthony Edwards waiting for that ER callback.
Sequels are tough: you don’t want to copy the first movie too closely, but you also don’t want to go too far off the source material, lest you alienate the fans that justified a sequel in the first place. With this criteria in mind, Pet Sematary Two is a pretty successful sequel because instead of copying the original, it expands and explores the world that was developed in the first movie. Instead of another, “My loved one died so I’m bringing them back, dammit!” story, we get to see how this kind of scenario would play out if, say, you brought your hated stepfather back, or the idea that the reanimated would also start reanimating other dead people for help. This develops the reality the film is set in further and makes it an expansion of this world instead of a tired retread.
Graphing the plot, most of the characters are dead before the third act, nobody learns anything other than “dead is better” (which the first movie illustrated, as well), and innocent people were slaughtered for little reason. So all in all, a pretty typical horror film.
The Patriarchy is strong with this film, as is usual with most King fare: there’s only three female characters in the movie: one of them dies in the first five minutes, one of them is a neglectful and selfish mother, and the other is a barely realized potential mother-substitute/walking dead meat. The failure of the father leads to doom (Anthony Edwards is willfully ignorant of what’s going on for 2/3rds of the movie, and the less said about Gus the Monster, the better), and the young men in the film are either near-feral bullies, overweight punching bags, or sullen and angry almost-orphans. My wife has theorized that almost all horror movies are really about the failure of parents, and this applies directly to the tragedies that befall nearly everyone in Pet Sematary Two.
- The Early 90’s alternative rock soundtrack is pretty great.
- Why does Gus suddenly become nicer to his stepson after he comes back? Considering that it was his stepson who buried him, my guess is that in the act of burying a dead creature in the cursed burial ground–be it a dog or a person–that creature becomes a familiar of sorts to the person that buried them. Until they decide it’s time to start a-murderin’.
- The direction was rather workman-like, which I fear will be the standard in most of the horror films I’ll be watching this month. Horror movies are a great genre for special effects teams and technical wizards, but are usually considered a ghetto for directors.
See? The kitten lived!
Out of four Furlongs, I give Pet Semetary Two a solid Three.