The original Pet Sematary (1989) is remembered by some as quite frightening to watch at an early age.
It’s based on Stephen King’s 1983 novel and the screenplay is actually by King himself. He is an author so prolific – I just don’t know how he does it! I guess he’s no Hemingway but as a horror writer, he is no less than engaging and entertaining in the way people want it.
Sorry I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to King’s books as I find them too scary and too long. I guess I haven’t got a long enough attention span.
But I love the film and television adaptations!
For instance, at thirteen I went alone to the Greater Union Theatres in Hindley Street, then a big purple building, to see Stanley Kubrick’s (1928-1999 heart attack) The Shining (1980). It scared the hell out of me! I met my parents on the train home that evening and they said I looked as white as a sheet.
Pet Sematary is not my favorite King script. I prefer his original script for the vampire shape-shifter movie Sleepwalkers (1992), Silver Bullet (1985) with Corey Haim (1971-2010 cardiomyopathy), and the only film King directed, the Golden Raspberry-nominated Maximum Overdrive (1986).
King describes the latter, which features a score by Aussie band AC/DC (his fave band), as a “moron movie”. It may be mainly about morons but this movie isn’t necessarily for morons. It is pretty mindless though. With its “no machines to be trusted” premise, King was apparently hooked on cocaine during production and can’t remember much of what he describes as the worst adaptation of his work. It’s not atypical Stephen King. I saw all the above on video tape at the time of release.
The script I enjoyed most at the movies definitely has to be George A. Romero’s Creepshow (1982). The rating system wasn’t very conservative in Australia at the time and so at twelve I was treated to such films as Alien (1979) in 70mm at the Regent Cinema One (there were two) in the Regent Arcade, which was the biggest screen Adelaide had to offer at the time! Boy did the creature erupting from John Hurt’s (1940-2017 pancreatic cancer) chest blow me away!
Pet Sematary was directed by Mary Lambert (1951-) and stars relative unknowns Dale Midkiff (1959-), who later starred in the Queensland-shot television series Time Trax (1993-94), and Denise Crosby (1957-) from Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is the grand-daughter of Bing Crosby (1903-77 heart attack last words: let’s get a coke!) and daughter of Dennis (1934-91 suicide).
The story is about a young doctor and his family, who move to a house in the small town of Ludlow, Maine on a road where trucks apparently speed by from nowhere every few minutes. It is there that a neighbor, played by The Munsters’ (1964-66 b/w) Fred Gwynne (1929-93 pancreatic cancer), tells the doctor (after their cat is run over), of an old Indian burial ground beyond the local pet cemetery, which has the power to raise the dead if you bury something there. Not a good idea! Please don’t go!
So, with a subplot about a “twisted sister”, literally, and supernatural themes interwoven, the film progresses further to when the family’s toddler son is run over by a truck.
In King’s book there are apparently several references to the punk rock band The Ramones (1974-76), which is one of his favorite bands. The song blasting away in the truck (no sign of the driver), as it mows over the child, is Sheena is a Punk Rocker (1977), one of their most popular songs.
Dee Dee Ramone (1951-2002 heroin overdose) was a friend of director Lambert and he wrote the title song especially for the end credits (“I don’t want to be buried in a pet sematary! don’t want to live my life again!”). When I visited Dee Dee’s grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles (it’s behind Paramount studios), there were three dudes there hanging out sharing a six-pack. Johnny Ramone’s (1948-2004 prostate cancer) monument is in the same cemetery.
Watching the original Pet Sematary today – it’s a little tame. However, there is an incredible little performance by three-year-old Miko Hughes (1986-) as the doomed toddler which is still the most disturbing thing about the movie.
There is a suicide theme and the disclaimer that “No animals were harmed…” – but it appears they killed a cat.
The recent remake of Pet Sematary (2019) is basically the same supernatural movie with the same subplot although they have dispensed with the suicide theme.
The script this time is by Matt Greenberg (no info), who co-wrote Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) and the post-apocalyptic Reign of Fire (2002) starring Christian Bale.
Directors Kevin Kollsch and Dennis Widmyer (no info) are the same duo responsible for the low-budget horror Starry Eyes (2015), which was kickstarted by crowdfunding.
Starry Eyes is a reasonably good and professionally made calling card, for Hollywood and about Hollywood.
As one demonic producer in a holier-than-thou moment says about lovers of the movie industry: they are “the plastic parishioners worshipping their deity of debauchery”.
Perhaps movie fans do worship false idols and “hollow be thy name and shallow be thy name” we maybe as a result… But I like to think there’s a lot more to it than that!
They’re great lines and the film follows an actress who rejects the demonic casting couch only to change her mind, much to her dismay and the dismay of her friends.
The film predates the #MeToo movement and creepily takes it to demonic dimensions. Its timeliness and the bloody climax may be why the directors got the gig on the remake of Pet Sematary.
In terms of #MeToo, you have to feel for the women who did say yes to the casting couch over the years despite their own reservations. You don’t see many of them speak their minds. They are perhaps scared they will be seen as whores by those in the movement. It’s a pity they have to feel shame when they are also victims.
Back to the Pet Sematary remake and Aussie Jason Clarke (1969-), who was excellent in Chappaquiddick (2017) plays the father of the child hit by a truck and gives a truly haunted performance.
This time the truck driver wasn’t busy listening to The Ramones full bore but instead was not paying attention because he was texting on his mobile phone!
Following the accident, the film departs from the original script and the second half has atmospheric set-pieces and is a little bit horrific and creepy.
Someone who saw the film at the cineplex I went to called it “awesome” but I must be just too jaded these days when it comes to horror.
Dee Dee Ramone’s song is used again at the end although this time it is sung by L.A. punk rocker outfit starcrawler.
There is already talk of a prequel.
The sequel to the original movie, Pet Sematary II (1992), is aimed moreover to a teenage audience and it’s definitely not a Stephen King script as he had his name removed from the movie entirely shortly before its release.
It is not the film Mary Lambert, once again directing, originally envisaged. She wanted the story to follow that of the child who survived the first movie.
In the end we have Edward Furlong (1977-), fresh from his award-winning success in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), as teenager Jeff Matthews, whose movie star mother is electrocuted on set during a low-budget horror movie shoot.
His father, a young Anthony Edwards (1962-) just before his ER (1994-2009 edwards during 1994-2002, 2008) success, quits L.A. and takes him back to his hometown of Ludlow to bury his estranged wife.
Jeff is bullied at school. The bullies even turn up to his mother’s funeral! But he finds a kindred spirit in Drew (Jason McGuire) whose stepfather is a bullying sheriff. A good performance as a “zombie” by Clancy Brown (1959-), who was recently “seen” in Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
Drew’s dog, named Zowie, is shot by his step-father and the shenanigans begin.
Furlong, incidentally, has made a couple of cult items.
Among them is his fifth movie, the surprisingly good CD-ROM video game horror Brainscan (1994).
There he plays an interactive game which promises to “satisfy your sickest fantasies” as it takes the player through the first-person eyes of a serial killer. It also hypnotizes you and makes you commit actual murders!
Ahead of its time, Brainscan features a heavy metal score and actor Frank Langella (1938-) as a dogged cop. Some may remember him as Dracula (1979), in Sphinx (1981) and The Ninth Gate (1999) with Johnny Depp.
It is also a cautionary tale about the possible dangers of first person killing games!
Director John Flynn (1932-2007 in his sleep) declared years later that fifteen-year-old Furlong couldn’t act and that his sleepy-eyed personality was dislikeable. Pretty harsh on the poor kid! Experiences like these as well as the fallout from being seduced at thirteen by his female tutor may have sowed the seeds for Furlong’s later self-sabotage.
He made some quality films early in his career including American Heart (1992), The Grass Harp (1995), American History X (1998), Detroit Rock City (1999) and the little-seen Steve Buscemi directed prison drama Animal Factory (2000).
Following events arising from drug and alcohol dependence, Furlong was reduced to pulling his dick out of his pants for the ordinary, but better than usual late career effort, Jimmy and Judy (2006).
The previous year, however, he made Cruel World (2005), which is actually a good low-budget revenge horror. Here Furlong gives a deliberately hammy portrayal as a lover who is jilted on live reality television causing him to be a runner-up. He seeks vengeance on an isolated reality show set, where its contestants are killed off one by one. It’s my, and I’m sure others, dream movie!
He is the best part of an ingenious set-up. Pity it bombed and was savaged by critics and the public alike… I guess no-one likes this kind of thing. Just the real thing when it comes to reality shows!
On a positive note, I am keen to see Furlong in Below Zero (2011) which also features Michael Berryman (1948-) from the Wes Craven (1939-2015 brain cancer) exploitation classic The Hills Have Eyes (1977). Furlong was nominated for Best Actor at the 2012 Hoboken International Film Festival for it.
He has since served jail time for other offences but appeared in television series Star Trek: Renegades (2015-) in 2016 and gets some steady work. He is a talent who will hopefully pull himself together for a long period of time.
As for Pet Sematary II… it’s quite a good movie and for some reason I prefer it to the original.
And maybe it’s personal, since my best friend when I started high school in 1980 was Scott and he lost his mum to cancer at barely thirteen. Shortly after the funeral he came around my place where my parents said their condolences and my father brought home a new release review tape. The movie was the original Friday the 13th (1980) with Jason Vorhees doing his stuff. We lapped it up and together we never looked back.
But as Furlong’s character says at the end of the movie about losing his mother: “You never get over it”.