Sunday, May 13, 2012

All Dogs Go To Heaven (unless buried in a sequel)

What a strange, strange decision Mary Lambert made in following up her flawed but unnerving 1991 hit Pet Sematary with a pseudo horror comedy sequel no one wanted. But what a smart, smart decision she made in casting Clancy Brown.

Quick Plot: Jeff is an average teenager not destined to save the world (but played by a T2 era Edward Furlong) with a famous actress mom and estranged veterinarian dad played by everybody’s second favorite nerd, Anthony Edwards.

Look, I love the guy too, but all the medical knowledge in the world won’t make him more beloved to me than Rick Moranis.

Anyway, Mom dies in a freak on-set electrocution accident, sending son and pops to move back to her hometown Ludlow, the same New England hamlet where Gage Creed went No Fair on his family after being buried in Native American spiritual grounds.

Before you can remember the second verse to How Much Is That Doggy In the Window, Jeff finds himself on the same haunted soil, but this being something of a Stephen King knockoff, bullies are thrown in for extra measure. Tom Hanks' best friend from Big plays a mullety brat who lures Jeff into the Pet Sematary, but it’s the chubby Drew who tells him about its sordid history.

Did I mention Drew has a dog? Okay, he does and you know what shall become of it, but what I neglected to say is that it’s by the hands of the one, the only, the most underrated character actor in modern history, Clancy Brown.

Eff. Yeah.

Brown plays Gus, the town sheriff and jerky stepdad to Drew. For no reason other than Clancy Brown Is Awesome, he’s also the only character in the film with a New England accent. It’s a beautiful sound and were Mr. Brown to start his own phone sex company, I have no shame admitting that I’d fast be broke.

But back to Mary Lambert’s oddly toned story, one that eventually decides that the horror doesn’t seem to be hopping so hey! Let’s make you laugh. 
Or maybe that was just Clancy Brown’s decision.
Let me tell you something folks: if there’s one thing better than Clancy Brown hamming it up with a New England accent in a mid-90s horror sequel, it’s (minor spoiler) Zombie Clancy Brown hamming it up with a New England accent in a mid-90s horror sequel. As he slaughters rabbits, chews with his mouth open, and forces himself upon his wife (okay, that’s not awesome), Brown raises Pet Sematary 2 up a notch into something weirdly almost wonderful. 

Almost. Because even though there are children being gorily murdered by semis and mopeds in a somewhat light-hearted matter, there’s also fuzzy special effects and Skinemaxy blue-hued sex scenes...where Anthony Edwards gets mounted by his naked housekeeper with a wolf head. 

It’s weird, plain and simple. Lambert probably would have been wiser to establish the horror-comedy vibe from scene 1. Instead, we’re stuck with poorly executed scares that rather suddenly turn into laughs at the 40 minute mark. It’s not the best way to make a movie.
High Points
Brown, Clancy
Low Points
Oh, I don’t know, the fact that the movie doesn’t come close to being scary but never commits to its own comedy?
Lessons Learned
Bringing a cat into the classroom on your first day at a new school? Not too smart

Working in LA as a veternarian might harden a man in the kind of way that leads to him keeping handgun handily sitting on top of his nightstand 
A great way to leave your audience deciding they’ve just watched a comedy: end on a fuzzy floating head portrait montage of all the characters killed in the film. Guaranteed laughmaker 
Confession Time
As much as I blast the original Pet Sematary and to a lesser extent, this one for having its characters make the ridiculous choice to bury their loved ones in evil ground after it has already proven itself, you know, eeeeeee-viiiiiiiiiiil, I would, without hesitation, reserve a double plot for Mookie and Joplin in a heartbeat if there was a Ludlow Pet Sematary in my neighborhood. Sure, they may come back and kill me, but you know...cute zombie cats!

Pet Sematary 2 isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation (or lack thereof) would have you believe. There’s something oddly admirable about Lambert’s decision to re-tackle Pet Sematary with a completely different and almost original take on the same basic story. It’s almost a shame that the end result is such a halfhearted mess, an inconsistently toned tale that only feels to find its footing when Clancy Brown is onscreen. The movie is streaming on Netflix and is certainly worth a gander for the curious or Clancy Brown fan (of which I assume is 100% of the human population) so give it a casual watch if you’re in the mood for a failed mid-90s horror experiement. It's...different.


  1. "It's better to burn out than to fade away!" Good ol' Kurgan!

    I nearly bought this a couple of days ago at the local markets, but instead I bought a horror with Ron Perlman and Armand Assante called Killer by Nature (a better title than .dot Kill!), and a sorta-internet horror, Death on Demand (which involves the basic plot to Halloween: Ressurection mixed with Hymalayan zombie magic!)!

  2. Be curious to hear your thoughts Robert!

    Hm. Armand Assante and Ron Perlman have failed me before (Dot.Kill and 5ive GIrls, respectively) but a tagteam sounds promising!

  3. I watched this one. But don't really remember it. And that's sad.

  4. It's very forgettable. Save for Clancy Brown. Whom we shall never forget!

  5. I don't remember either of these films. In Fact this mini franchise is not that memorable and probably gets a little more love than it really should

  6. Well, I think Pet Sematary came out right when Stephen King adaptations were still THE thing in horror. I find the film incredibly flawed, but there's also some aspects of it that are fairly unforgettable (Fred Gwynne's performance, Zelda, Gage's arm in the funeral scene). It's a mess, but I can see why it stuck around. That being said, I wouldn't be against a remake. The material could certainly be revisited in more capable hands.

  7. Bad movie. Clancy Brown? Amazing as always.