Wednesday, March 5, 2008


When Mary Lambert's adaptation of PET SEMATARY became a box-office hit, grossing more than any previous King-inspired film, it was no surprise that Paramount ordered a follow-up. Lambert returned, along with a script by Richard Ouelette, in this addle-brained 1992 sequel.

Aside from a few fleeting references to Louis Creed and his family, PET SEMATARY TWO bears little relation to its predecessor. This time around it's Edward Furlong (high on the success of TERMINATOR 2) and his veterinarian dad Anthony Edwards (a couple of years before ER saved him from the possibility of future sequels) taking up shop in Ludlow after the death of Furlong's mother. From its prologue establishing Furlong's backstory, it becomes abundantly clear that TWO's disinterested in being anything but a dumb horror flick, albeit with a shiny Hollywood veneer (courtesy of cinematographer Russell Carpenter, who'd go on to be James Cameron's DP of choice, and whose gorgeous autumn photography provides the movie with its sole asset).

And as boneheaded sequels often do, PET SEMATARY TWO completely misses the point. The Micmac burial ground was a vital part of the original story, a place of dark, unfathomable power; here, it's a means to an end, a plot device to fulfill the vaguely-defined motivations of its characters. (That it also glosses over the original moral about tampering with the unknown should be a given.) Even without trying to cram a new story and a different set of characters into the first film's mythos, little about PET SEMATARY TWO makes any sense. Nobody has a clear reason for doing anything, such as when Clancy Brown (in a villainous turn with an in-and-out New England accent) dies, why does stepson Drew (Jason Maguire) and Furlong bury him, knowing he'll return? You'd think with an asshole like him out of the way, they'd keep it that way. Much is also made about "burying your own," yet how is Brown able to resurrect Furlong's mother and bully Jared Rushton? (I'll tell you how, so Furlong and Edwards can face off with a couple of boogeymen at the end.)

PET SEMATARY TWO has all the earmarks of a bad movie: plodding dream sequences with no purpose, cheap jolts, even a mysterious old coot who knows all the town secrets, yet doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. The performances here are actually pretty decent--a nice perk of having major studio backing--with Edwards and Maguire being standouts. Furlong makes for a poor protagonist, with his faux-tough posturing and selfish whining, though when he makes a sudden shift into a smug jerk at the climax, you really wish Brown and company would get ahold of him.

PET SEMATARY TWO is horror at its most cynical, a specially-designed "product" determined by committee to deliver the prerequisite tropes Hollywood believes we want. That there's no PET SEMATARY THREE tells me the fan weren't going to stand for it (I can't really complain, since I saw this one in the theater), though the myriad CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequels continues to perplex me.

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