Pet Sematary Two (1992)
Rated R for just about everything. It's got violence. It's got nudity and sexuality. There's rape. That's really icky. Animals and humans alike are killed. There's all kinds of language. There's bullying. You know that famous "R" for bullying? Well, this movie probably could chalk up part of its R rating to bullying. There's gore. There's a weirdly forced satanic thing thrown in here. Regardless of how you slice it, it's R. There's even bad language in the soundtrack. R.
DIRECTOR: Mary Lambert
I never thought the blog would go this way: I'm apparently knocking out the work of director Mary Lambert. I can't say I know much about Mary Lambert. But what has oddly happened is that I watched Grand Isle for a class. Then I watched the first Pet Sematary. Despite the fact that I loathed that film, they invited Lambert to direct Pet Sematary Two. I don't know how that happened. What I will say is that the first Pet Sematary movie may have given her the experience and the confidence to direct the second one. Did the first one do so well that the studio say that she was the natural pick to do the second one? I don't even care. She's halfway decent with the sequel. It's one of those few sequels that is better than the first. It's not great. This movie carries a lot of 1992 with it. It is pre-Dimension Films, but it carries a lot of the baggage for Dimension Films with it.
I think that Stephen King's book might be a bit too restrictive to make a movie out of it. When I was watching Pet Sematary, I actually got kind of annoyed how close to the book it attempted to be. That book is a slow character study with this horrifying ending on the horizon. Very little of it is scary throughout. There's a couple of things, but these are all teases for a grand finale. Because of that, there isn't exactly the explored potential for what could actually happen if given time. SPOILERS FOR BOTH MOVIES: The first movie really wants us to be teased with the concept of returning a human being. A sizable portion of the book is Louis Creed trying to determine the morality of bringing back his dead son. The final sequence of that story is him dealing with the consequences of that choice. But Pet Sematary Two realizes that concept wasn't really fully explored. Gage Creed is creepy, but that's about the end of it. Instead, Pet Sematary Two being freed from the constraints of a novel is the best thing that could have happened to it. Considering that it has the first movie as the introduction to the story, the myth of Louis Creed is far more impressive than the actual story of Louis Creed. People are resurrected in this movie early on. It's actually a little bizarre that Zowie (yup, that's the dog's name) is in the story. Zowie's resurrection is there for the people who didn't see the first one. It's a nice expository character to explain the high concept setting. But the death of human beings, especially Gus, lets us know what humans would do if they weren't dispatched immediately. I love when a movie explores a premise to its fullest potential. The first story talked about the commonplace aspect to animals being returned. The town basically all knew that animals could come back. They came back a little off, but many of them lived full lives. But animals have a limited skills set, especially considering that the animals didn't come back quite right. I don't mean to burst any bubbles, but animals don't hold funerals for other animals. I'm sure in Pet Sematary Seven: All Dogs Go to Hell, the producers would probably have dogs dragging other dogs to the sacred ground and bury them. But humans bringing back other humans opens up all kinds of doors. I love the idea of quasi-intelligent demon zombies making more quasi-intelligent demon zombies.
Clancy Brown was sure typecast after Highlander, wasn't he? He's just doing the Kurgan in this one. I adore it. It's exactly what this movie needs. Gus as the central villain to the piece is perfect. It's a bit bizarre because there were moments that I almost sympathized with Gus. I kind of wish that the movie didn't make him outright evil before he was Pet Semataried. That would have given us more to think about. But Gus makes an interesting antagonist because A) he is so evilly charismatic and B) because he doesn't instantly go on a killing spree. One of the few things that I liked about the first Pet Sematary story is that not everything returns the same way. They all come back a little off, but some people live with their pets for long periods of time. Drew actually likes New Gus for a while. I mean, it's a weird choice, Drew. He's kind of gross. The only thing you like about him is that he doesn't care about rules. But instead of going right into a killing spree, we get to kind of see the psychology / personality shift going on. Gus becomes a creature of escalation. He enjoys tormenting people. He is a more extreme version of himself. Gus, in some weird way, probably thought himself a moral character in the midst of all these loosey-goosey moral relativists. He enjoyed that he was a man of power and control. But that change in him does something really interest. Yes, his morality was what made him a bit of a jerk (a dog murdering jerk, nonetheless). But that morality also stopped him from becoming this hedonistic monster that he becomes once he's changed into the Gus from the rest of the film. There's this joy that comes over him when people start liking him. I don't know how the Pet Sematary rules really work. The people mostly come back evil. I understand that. I don't know how Zowie got super strength, but there's an implication of demonic possession when they come back, as seen by the shape-shifting and weird flying powers. But Gus's demon is an extreme version of Gus. All of those impulses he was holding back on come to the front and center. I can't believe that I finally got the movie where the mom and kid are both killed. It's actually once Drew and his mother are killed that some of the more interesting potential comes to the surface. Why does Gus take Jeff's mom? I know that she was his ex-girlfriend, but it also seems like the demons are completely different entities. I don't know. I love that it is a little cryptic because I don't really need it explained. A lot of it can be chalked up to "Which version of this story is the scariest / coolest?" I get that logic.
The '90s are a bit much in this movie. I normally get remarkably nostalgic for the early '90s. I feel like this was the height of nostalgia for me. I remember Pet Sematary Two coming out. I remember it littering the shelves of my local Blockbuster Video. (13 Mile and Southfield! In the shopping center with the Farmer Jack!) But Pet Sematary Two might be way too '90s for anyone to actually handle. Again, being too '90s (albeit not having the awareness to call itself that) is at least a choice. The first film was such milktoast that everything that's too extreme in this movie is a welcome addition. Casting Edward Furlong a year after Terminator 2: Judgment Day is just a bit much. Yeah, I know. I'm writing this in 2019. I have no right to comment. But he's channeling a lot of that '90s angst in this performance. But there are a couple of things that just pull me out of the movie. The first is the soundtrack. I have far too many soundtracks from the '90s to ever make this commentary without commenting on my terrible tastes in music. But every song in this movie has lyrics. That might be an exaggeration, but it isn't much of one. These lyrics are dis-tract-ing! There are lines being said over soundtrack sections. Also, it really dates the movie. It's that alternative grunge that doesn't quite have the soul of a "Smells Like Teen Spirit", but it really wants to be that. I love that kind of stuff...in small doses. It's so much. Then there's also the '90s effects. I'm not talking about creature effects. I think the creature effects are just fine, even the naked lady with a dog's head. It's goofy, but whatever. I'm talking about the odd camera techniques. It's the freeze camera. Mary Lambert comes from a music video background. That's not always a bad thing. But I don't know if it is one to one. I have the works of Michel Gondry on DVD and you can see his music video influence on his film. But when the movie is meant to be dramatic, the movie really tends to look like a music video at times. It doesn't really scare. In fact, it probably pulls me out of the movie as a whole. Not only does it not scare when it resorts to this technique, but it actually distances me emotionally from the characters.
But I have to applaud Pet Sematary Two. Far from being a great film, it kind of reminded me what I liked about The Lost Boys. It has that vibe of kids against a threat much larger than them. While the grunge was pushing it for a lot of the film, the movie does feel rebellious. It felt like you had to be smoking or something to watch the movie. While I'll never smoke and I live a life that adores rules and structure, I like the idea that I'm doing something that advocates anarchy. Yeah, it tries too hard at that. But I'd rather this movie than something without a voice. Pet Sematary Two, while not being a great film, is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. It's a fun movie that I kind of enjoyed by the end. Yeah, I really had to shut my brain off to make that work. But it did work.
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