Pet Sematary II (1992)
Studio: Scream Factory
Release date: February 25th, 2020
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
Heads up: I reviewed Pet Sematary II just a couple of years ago, so go check that out if you want the conventional write-up. Stick around here if you want to see me get real self-indulgent and nostalgic as I explain why this random sequel that Stephen King disavowed holds such a weird sway over me.
Östill there? Okay, cool. Letís talk about Pet Sematary II not so much as a movie but as a state of mind. And to get to that state of mind, weíve got to travel back to the early 90s, when this thing showed up at the local video store, the one that often put up posters for new releases in an awesome, theater-style frame with lights in the borders. In fact, imagine thatís where you caught your first glimpse of a sequel to a movie that absolutely terrified you. Even a few years later, you still canít believe how unbelievably screwed up Pet Sematary was, and you canít help but assume that a second one might somehow be even worse.
But itís Friday night, and the pizza in the car isnít getting any warmer, so itís time to take some tapes home in those beautiful clamshell cases this store uses. Youíre going to come away with some old favoritesóprobably a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, maybe Night of the Demonsóbut youíre also going to dare to check out Pet Sematary II. Besides, you have that one friend who watches horror movies as much as you do, and heís sure to see this one (if he already hasnít). Plus, itís got John Connor from T2ówhat could really go wrong?
A pair of adult eyes would probably insist just about everything went wrong with Pet Sematary II, a follow-up to a movie that didnít at all demand a sequel. A childís eyes sees it differently, though: those eyes donít even notice that Stephen Kingís name is nowhere to be found here. Those eyes then widen as you watch the opening scene and realize, sure, itís kind of disturbing but somehow not quite as grim as what happened to poor Gage in the first movie. The movie rolls on, each second somehow how more unhinged than the last, and you start to realize that somehow Pet Sematary II isÖfun? You donít mind this, of course, because Pet Sematary was not fun. Itís somehow comforting that the lore of that film has now become a harmless Halloween night campfire tale in the infamous pet sematary; what was once a foreboding haunt has become host to the type of cool All Hallows Eve festivities you wish you could see.
As it continues to unfold, it turns out that Pet Sematary II is a total blast. It probably shouldnít be since any reasonable person would find it wrongheaded for a child to watch something that features a woman being electrocuted to death in front of her son, among other ghastly horrors. Pets are predictably mangled and returned to life, but this time itís a loyal pup that defends its owner (Jason McGuire) against a tyrannical stepfather (Clancy Brown). This is much more comforting, if not downright just. Likewise, you find it clever (maybe even hilarious) when the movie basically becomes My Stepdad is a Zombie after the two kids make the questionable decision to resurrect the mean old asshole to cover their own ass. You especially like it when the stepdadónow a righteous avenger for the two misfit boysóshreds a bullyís face off with a dirt bike. He is just fuckiní with him, after all.
Something about this is also weirdly comforting: where the first film only promises complete doom for anyone who dares to wander into the Micmac burial grounds, this one suggests itís okay to play the premise for weird laughs. You didnít dare to laugh during the original movie as its various horrors unfolded on-screen, traumatizing you one grisly image at a time. Pet Sematary was absolutely the worst possible movie for you to see at the age of seven; just a few years later, now on the cusp of being ten, Pet Sematary II is somehow the best possible movie.
This oneÖthis one you can enjoy, even though a part of your brain whispers that maybe you shouldnít. Itís the same part that also asks you to reconsider stuffing your face with all that pizza, too, and you damn sure donít listen to it. And so you keep taking all of it in as part of one ill-advised glob of bad ideas, with the pizzaís greasy, gloopy cheese finding a match in the movieís melting flesh. Bizarre dreams of topless women with a dogís head unfold on-screen as you bite into crust that becomes a little more stale with each passing hour. A mother and a child die in a horrific car crash that leaves them crushed beneath a pile of potatoes, and you find yourself chuckling between bites. You donít realize that whatever internal logic Pet Sematary II may have had goes up in smoke during an unhinged, climactic orgy of flames, bludgeoned eyeballs, power drills, and exploding heads. (Because you are not yet familiar with The Maestro, you donít recognize this Big Lucio Fulci Energy until two decades later, upon watching the movie again for the umpteenth time.)
Likewise, you recognize now what you didnít then: that you were definitely lacking in the art of discernment and that just about anything boasting sick gore, 90s rock, and an offbeat vibe would have been a perfect Friday night companion with that pizza at this age. You are not wrong to assume this, but this also speaks to the point at large: when youíre younger, the parts of your brain that has figured out conventional notions of ďgoodĒ and ďbadĒ havenít exactly smoothed over yet, and a movie like Pet Sematary II would be absolutely vital in causing it to go haywire. There will be effortsóletís call it that inevitable late-teens/early 20s film snob phaseóto rewire it and insist itís time to dismiss childish, nostalgic things, but this experience lingers too forcefully to ever completely vanish.
Pet Sematary II is embedded in the lizard part of your cinephile brain now, right alongside dozens of other similarly formative gorefests that randomly entered your life on some fateful Friday night and refused to leave. It's a permanent fixture in your life, a reminder that sometimes even the worst ideas somehow turn out just fine. Sometimes, dead isnít better; sometimes, you need to dig a thing up, no matter how ill-advised it may be because sometimes that leads to Clancy Brown goofing off at the dinner table with clumps of mashed potatoes sloshing out of his mouth. Maybe that doesnít sound at all appetizing to you, but Iím suddenly craving a giant, totally unhealthy slice of pizza thatís dripping with grease and cheese. I can practically smell those musky old VHS clamshells just thinking about it.
Sometimes, you get so attached to certain largely unloved movies like Pet Sematary II that a deluxe home video release feels a little bit like vindication. I may or may not have let out an audible squeal when Scream Factory announced it during its annual SDCC presentation last July. Suffice it to say, this is one Iíve been anticipating for a while now because itís another one of those titles that Paramount has been content to just repackage on DVD over the years without springing for a full-on Blu-ray upgrade. Not even the release of last yearís Pet Sematary redux inspired them to finally release it: sure, it was nice to see Mary Lambertís original film make the leap to 4K UHD, but the sequelís enthusiasts were left out in the cold yet again, left to insist that this disavowed red-headed stepchild deserves more love.
Well, we donít have to do that anymore. Scream Factory has done right by our unfairly maligned, weird little sequel. Theyíve sprung for a new 4K scan that has the movie looking immaculate, and itís matched with a nice DTS-HD 5.1 track that brings the filmís boisterous soundscape to life. Lambertówho never disowned the film and joined the ranks calling for a Blu-ray release as recently as last yearóprovides a newly recorded audio commentary. Both Furlong and Brown appear for on-camera interviews where they recount their early careers before reminiscing specifically about Pet Sematary II. Fans will be happy to know both actors look back fondly on the experience, with Furlong admitting that heís especially come around to enjoying it in recent years after hearing fans talk it up on the convention circuit. Brown is downright effusive in his praise, calling the film subversive and more than just a brainless splatter movie. Friends, I may have ascended from my couch after hearing such kind words about Pet Sematary II.
Jason McGuire, effects coordinator Steve Johnson, and composer Mark Governor also appear in separate interviews, plus Scream Factory has included the original theatrical trailer that served as the lone supplement on Paramountís ancient DVD. You can also reverse Screamís newly-commissioned artwork (which is admittedly cool) to the original poster art so you can continue to raise hell like itís 1992. Donít forget the pizza.
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