Hollywood loves them some Stephen King. Even when he doesn’t have a story to adapt, they find a way to trade in on his work. Case in point – Pet Sematary, which remains one of King’s best novels. Though the first film adaptation divided critics, King fans probably remember it more fondly than the remake released earlier this year. But before this year’s remake, Hollywood tried its hand at a sequel. Director Mary Lambert was back, but screenwriter Richard Outten had the unenviable task of creating a story where none existed. The result was Pet Sematary Two, a sequel that failed to capture the box office or critical favour of the first movie.
After his famous actress mother dies in a tragic on-set accident, Jeff Matthews and his father, Chase, move to her hometown in Ludlow, Maine. As Jeff struggles to move on, he hears ghost stories about an ancient Native burial ground and the Creed Family murders. Eventually, Jeff connects with the awkward Drew, a shy boy who lives in fear of his ruthless stepfather. When Drew’s stepfather kills his dog, the boys take its body to the ‘Pet Sematary’, setting in motion a chain of tragic events. Now that Jeff knows the stories are true, his love for his dead mother pushes him to extreme measures.
Pet Sematary Two Digs Up Familiar Ground
With no follow-up story from King himself, screenwriter Outten is left to go it alone. And it shows. As far as sequels go, Pet Sematary Two loosely follows the first movie’s story with no new ideas. Family suffers a tragic loss, discovers, discovers the ancient burial grounds, ignores warnings, and awakens an old evil. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat. Outten tweaks with the order of things, but that doesn’t help much. Stuff happens so abruptly in Pet Sematary Two that we have no attachment to the characters when they experience their losses.
As far as sequels go, Pet Sematary Two loosely follows the first movie’s story with no new ideas.
Other key story elements just feel perfunctory. The sequel connects to the first movie because we’re told it does by characters. Names are dropped, references to past events mentioned. Yet Pet Sematary Two doesn’t think to add anything new to the story’s mythology. When a doctor who wasn’t in the first movie (but analyzed blood from the Creed family cat) warns Chase to leave, it feels like a scene shoehorned into the movie out of necessity. Pet Sematary wasn’t a perfect movie, but it had a few scenes that elicited sympathy for its characters. Unfortunately, there’s lots of interesting story threads in the sequel. Drew’s relationship with his abusive stepfather. Jeff’s almost unhealthy attachment to his deceased mother and increasing estrangement from his father. But the movie treats these ideas as bullet-points rather than stories to explore.
Odd Tonal Shifts Crawl Up In Pet Sematary Two
If the sequel has a big problem, it’s the lack of good scares. Given its patchwork story, director Mary Lambert relies more heavily on cheap jump scares and nightmare sequences that make little sense. In Pet Sematary, Rachel Creed’s ‘Zelda nightmare’ served a narrative purpose. Comparatively, the sequel gives us inexplicable nightmares of ‘dog-headed’ monstrosities. Some poor visual effects don’t help, but Lambert seems to have less of a grasp on the horror elements.
Where the sequel really diverges is its odd tonal inconsistencies.
What Pet Sematary Two keeps from its predecessor is it willingness to go places other horror movies may avoid. The resurrected ‘Gage Creed’ and everything that happens in Jud Crandall’s home was some unsettling stuff. Though Pet Sematary Two is never quite as disturbing, there’s a surprising amount of cruelty in its horror. And you’ll find no shortage of gore to go along with it. Where the sequel really diverges is its odd tonal inconsistencies. At times, you may find it hard to tell if Pet Sematary Two is serious horror or dark humour. For most of the sequel, it feels like serious horror just struggling to settle on any sort of atmosphere. But once Clancy Brown’s ‘Gus Gilbert’ is resurrected, the sequel seems to play more for laughs than scares.
Has Clancy Brown Ever Played a ‘Nice’ guy?
Pet Sematary Two also struggles as a result of a mixed bag of performances. Following his breakthrough role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Edward Furlong scored a handful of starring roles over the next several years (Brainscan). Despite his brief wave of popularity in the 1990’s, Furlong wasn’t really the strongest actor. With limited range, his attempts to emote often came across as high-pitched whines. And as good as Anthony Edwards has been in different roles, Pet Sematary Two miscasts him as the bewildered and overwhelmed Chase Matthews. Something just doesn’t quite fit with the role.
When the final credits finish following, it’s Brown that you’re likely to remember.
Conversely, Clancy Brown is perfectly cast as cruel sheriff and stepdad, Gus Gilbert. Few actors are as consistently good at playing sadistic and cruel characters as Brown. As Pet Sematary Two veers into more silly territory, Brown then obliges and gives a wildly fun, over-the-top performance as the resurrected Gus. Though the sequel would have arguably worked better if it had maintained some semblance of dread, Brown at least elevates the final act. When the final credits finish following, it’s Brown that you’re likely to remember. It begs the question – has Clancy Brown ever played a ‘nice guy’ in a movie?
Next Time Wait For King To Write The Story
Even with its original director on board, Pet Sematary Two feels like an effort to cash in on the first movie’s success. Though it’s mildly watchable, it’s a sequel that never unsettles or scares like its flawed predecessor. Most importantly, Pet Sematary Two can’t escape the feeling that it just dug up King’s original story and tweaked a few things here and there. Aside from Clancy Brown’s performance, the sequel doesn’t have much to offer. Next time Hollywood should do what they did with The Shining – wait for King to pen a sequel himself.