Friday, August 28, 2020

Summer '92 Redux - August 28, 1992: PET SEMATARY 2

by Adam Riske and Patrick Bromley
The last column of our Summer ‘92 Redux series.

Adam: Welcome back to Summer ‘92 Redux, our revisit of the Summer 1992 movie season. Our final entry is Mary Lambert’s sequel to her horror classic Pet Sematary, titled, appropriately, Pet Sematary Two. The sequel again takes place in the cursed town of Ludlow, Maine, but with an entirely new set of characters. Hot off his Terminator 2 bump, Edward Furlong plays Jeff Matthews, a teenager haunted by the recent death of his actress mother (Darlanne Fluegel) who is now living with his veterinarian father Chase (Anthony Edwards) in Ludlow. It’s a bad place to live. There’s a demented sheriff (Clancy Brown), an evil bully (Jared Rushton, who I don’t think is pretending), and a zombie dog! I have no idea why anyone would want to live in Ludlow.

Pet Sematary Two is one of the most mean-spirited horror movies I’ve ever seen. On that level, it “works” like the original. No one in Pet Sematary Two is off limits and it’s certainly an unpleasant and disturbing experience. This was my first revisit of the film in at least 20 years, but a lot of it has been burned into my memory. I originally saw the movie when I was 10 years old and just starting to dive deeper into horror. I got in trouble for watching it on two separate occasions. Once was at a sleepover -- it made my friend cry and he told his mom and the second time was my mom walked in the room when I was watching it and the scene she walked in on was when Clancy Brown said he wanted to have sex with a body he just dug up. I’ll never forget my mom saying “Oh, Adam” like she was super disappointed in me for watching something like Pet Sematary Two. This movie is my line in the sand. Any horror movie that goes further than Pet Sematary Two is a horror movie that I can’t handle.

How did your Pet Sematary Two viewing go? Is it just me or is the sequel somehow even meaner than the original?
Patrick: It’s definitely meaner than the original, and I think demonstrates the importance of Stephen King’s source material for the success of the first movie. Pet Sematary didn’t need a sequel, and it definitely didn’t need this sequel, which is pretty creatively bankrupt. They might as well have called it Pet Sematary Again. It does the thing that a lot of horror sequels do (and that was codified by Jamie Kennedy in Scream 2, RIP), which is, in the absence of any new ideas, to up the gore and up the body count. In the case of a Pet Sematary movie, though, that means killing children and animals. We can argue about whether that first movie is in bad taste, but I think it’s actually about ideas -- what we will do to put off death or to avoid the pain that it causes, how grief can cause us to do things we otherwise might not do, etc. Again, Stephen King source material. The thoughtfulness of Pet Sematary 2 extends about as far as “Uh...zombies.”

Adam: That’s a great point. Part of what’s disturbing about Pet Sematary Two for me is that it has all the cruelty but absolutely no theme whatsoever. The lack of context makes it very nihilistic.

Patrick: I have no real relationship with the movie. I saw it once on VHS in 1993 (I remember going to see Jurassic Park for the second or third time and then coming home and renting PS2 for some reason) and revisited it maybe a year or two ago when it seemed like people started talking about it as an underappreciated gem. The Scream Factory release only solidified that reputation. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Sometimes it seems like if enough years pass, every horror movie gets propped up as something worthy of celebration. But I’m being a hypocrite! I just have to recognize that these special editions are for the fans of the movie, of which I’m not always one, and that there have been reappraisals and special edition Blu-ray releases (like Body Parts) that I’m excited for that others aren’t. Everyone should be happy liking what they like, even when it’s Pet Sematary 2.

This was Edward Furlong’s first big role post Judgment Day, yes? How do you think he fares? Does he even have a character to play? What is it about Jared Rushton that scares you so much? Would you agree that the Clancy Brown performance is the key to making this whole movie work? He’s in his own film, and if everyone else had followed suit, this could have been a really weird black comedy, which I would have been in favor of. It wouldn’t be the first time a really dark horror movie was followed up by a more comic sequel. At least then, Pet Sematary 2 might have been more of its own thing.

Adam: For the first hour I thought “This might be Edward Furlong’s best performance” because he’s convincingly playing against type as a sad but nice, good-natured teenager. Then comes the attic scene and he’s bugging his eyes and vamping, and it ruins my original thesis. Jared Rushton is all conflict and escalation in this movie and that shit freaks me out. I mean, Furlong punches him in the face and it’s not like “You got the juice now;” it just makes it even worse! It might be the scarf he’s wearing, too. Jared Rushton has bad news written all over him. He’s practically Son of Waingro in this movie. When Clancy Brown puts him down, part of me is relieved. This movie pushes my fear buttons. Another example is the scene where Clancy Brown is killing rabbits and later eating mashed potatoes while that song “Shitlist” by L7 is playing. Nothing good can happen in a movie when that song appears.
I’m glad you brought up Clancy Brown because he’s absolutely the best part of this movie. He does a great job finding a balance between being amusing and creepy while the rest of the movie is just devoid of humor (except for maybe Anthony Edwards having a sex fantasy with his wife wearing a dog’s head). I hate the whole subplot about Clancy Brown’s family, though, where Furlong’s friend and mother are bullied and eventually hit by a truck. BTW…. what the hell is with the “In Memorium” roster for the characters of Pet Sematary Two right before the end credits. It’s so weird.

Patrick: It’s almost like we were supposed to care about these people floating in the clouds, but some of them are straight up villains. It just reminded me of the end of American Graffiti, which made me wish they had played “Rock Around the Clock” or some shit on the soundtrack.

That dream scene is nuts. I almost wish the movie had more stuff like that, because then at least it would be crazy and interesting instead of nasty and kind of dull. It’s really surprising to me that this was also directed by Mary Lambert, because she brings none of the emotional depth, none of the pathos, and very little of the technical skill to this sequel. Maybe this was her chance at a paycheck. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn this was directed by some first-timer who clearly didn’t understand what makes the first movie special and just assumed it was killing animals and kids.

I have so many questions about this goddamn movie. Like why make the mom a famous actress? Is the movie trying to say something about Hollywood? Did it make you think of Death Becomes Her at all? I mean, it’s the second movie this summer to have an actress come back from the dead because she wants to live forever. Is it necessary to show the eyeballs being popped out of that taxidermied pug? This movie hates animals so much. And people. And me.

Adam: There’s one moment with the actress/mom that I thought was creepy, even if it doesn’t make much sense. When she’s trying to get Furlong to stay with her in the burning house, she ends by saying “Dead is better!” repeatedly which is kind of chilling if you think about it because it means the zombies have a set of beliefs. But it doesn’t make any sense because the line originated with Fred Gwynne saying it and he wasn’t a zombie in Pet Sematary. I dunno. At least Pet Sematary Two is better than the Pet Sematary remake.

A couple random thoughts:

1. I’m not sure if those characters who died in the car crash also needed a truck full of potatoes to fall on them. I wonder if that truck was headed to Five Guys.

2. Based on what’s preceded it, isn’t it weird that both (SPOILER) Furlong and Edwards live and just move away at the end? I wonder if the studio made Mary Lambert conclude the movie that way because the rest was so morbid. It’s out of step with the rest of Pet Sematary Two.

Patrick: Having one or both of the main characters die would probably be more in keeping with the spirit of the film, but it doesn’t surprise me that they go the route they do because this movie never really decides what it is. You’re right, though: I’d rather watch this again than the remake.
Adam: Also opening this final week of summer in 1992 were Honeymoon in Vegas, which I always thought was cute and had a funny Nicolas Cage performance. I watched it again last night and it holds up well. I watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me for the first time. I was texting you and Rob as I was watching it since I had no experience with Twin Peaks (except for one episode of The Return) prior to watching the movie. It was interesting but I understandably was at a great disadvantage and didn’t quite “get” the movie. It worked best as a David Lynch mood piece, separate from the plot. And last and least, I watched Freddie as F.R.O.7., which was a British animated film from Miramax where Ben Kinglsey voices a boy who was turned into a frog and then grew up to be a James Bond type figure. It’s really bad and, again, really racist for a kids movie. I read it was so bad and racist that they did a re-edit for video and renamed it Freddie the Frog. What the hell was going on with animation in August of 1992?

Patrick: Honeymoon in Vegas would certainly have been a more cheerful way to wrap up our 1992 summer. Of all the movies that came out this weekend, Fire Walk With Me is my favorite (and the only one I saw in theaters; I went opening night having never seen an episode of the show, so my experience in 1992 mirrored yours this week) but not a movie I’m able to revisit all that often. I need to watch a few minutes of Freddie as F.R.O.7., though the racism you report makes me less inclined to do so.

Adam: Any final thoughts as we close out Summer ‘92 Redux? I ended up watching 40 movies and ranked them from my favorite to least favorite. I’m already unhappy with these rankings. Ranking 40 movies is very difficult. Looking at this list makes me tired. This was fun.

1. Unforgiven
2. A League of Their Own
3. One False Move
4. Patriot Games
5. Boomerang
6. Rapid Fire
7. Prelude to a Kiss
8. Johnny Suede
9. Class Act
10. Encino Man
11. Stay Tuned
12. Honeymoon in Vegas
13. 3 Ninjas
14. Mo’ Money
15. Alien 3
16. Universal Soldier
17. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
18. Single White Female
19. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20. Bebe’s Kids
21. Light Sleeper
22. Raising Cain
23. Batman Returns
24. Cool World
25. Pet Sematary Two
26. Split Second
27. Whispers in the Dark
28. The Vagrant
29. Lethal Weapon 3
30. Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
31. Far and Away
32. Death Becomes Her
33. Diggstown
34. Unlawful Entry
35. A Stranger Among Us
36. HouseSitter
37. Sister Act
38. The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
39. Honey, I Blew Up the Kid
40. Freddie as F.R.O.7.

Patrick: You watched way more 1992 movies than me, so I’m probably less burned out than you. I think it’s a good summer overall, though I wonder if I would have felt that so strongly back then. A big part of what I’m liking about it now is that I have nostalgia for even movies that probably aren’t that good. I’m happy to see Johnny Suede so high on your list and not surprised to see Honey I Blew Up the Kid so low. That was definitely my least favorite of all the movies we covered.

Adam: Thank you everyone for reading and commenting! What are some your favorites from Summer 1992?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Adam thanks for doing all that work. My wife and I used to go to the movies at least once a week back then, and the only movies on your list that bring back fond memories are Unforgiven, A League of Their Own and Honeymoon in Vegas. Cage among the Flying Elvi is a great payoff moment.