"Pet Sematary II" (throughout San Diego County), which is too gruesome for grammar school youngsters and too easily laughed off for most high schoolers, ought to be a big hit among the junior high crowd. Not nearly as scary as the 1989 original, it nonetheless expresses and attempts to resolve in bold mythological terms the anxieties of being 13.
That's the exact age of the film's hero Jeff (Edward Furlong), who undergoes a far more traumatizing experience than most boys in the Oedipal stage of sexual development: He witnesses his beloved, glamorous actress mother (Darlanne Fluegel) accidentally killed on the set of a horror picture in which she is starring. His veterinarian father (Anthony Edwards), who had been estranged from his wife, thinks a move to a new environment is in order.
Alas, he picks the picture-book village of Ludlow, Me., the site of all the terrible goings-on in the first "Pet Sematary." In Ludlow, Furlong strikes up a friendship with Drew (Jason McGuire), a hefty kid whose life is being made miserable by his bullying stepfather (Clancy Brown), the local sheriff, a stud who keeps his wife (Lisa Waltz) in such a state of sexual bliss she's distracted from standing up for her son. It's no wonder that when the sheriff kills his stepson's dog, the boy insists on burying his pet in the ancient Indian burial ground that lies beyond the local pet graveyard, for according to legend, those buried there will rise from their graves. "If there was even one chance in a million it would work, wouldn't you just want to try?" asks Drew of the understandably responsive Jeff.
Director Mary Lambert casts her lot with her unhappy young heroes, taking their feelings with the seriousness they deserve. Furlong, last seen in "Terminator 2," and McGuire, in his film debut, are both intelligent, highly persuasive young actors, but it's Brown who holds the film together, managing some jolting shifts of tone between brooding cruelty and bizarre dark humor (much needed for comic relief). Brown's deft tongue-in-cheek moments let us know that, although the boys' unhappiness may be presented realistically, "Pet Sematary II" (rightly rated R for strong horror violence and for sexuality and language) as a whole shouldn't, after all, be taken too seriously. What should be taken seriously, however, is that rating.
'Pet Sematary II'
Edward Furlong: Jeff Matthews
Jason McGuire: Drew Gilbert
Clancy Brown: Sheriff Gus Gilbert
Anthony Edwards: Chase Matthews
Darlanne Fluegel: Renee Hallow Matthews
A Paramount Pictures presentation of a Columbus Circle Films production. Director Mary Lambert. Producer Ralph S. Singleton. Screenplay by Richard Outten. Cinematographer Russell Carpenter. Editor Tom Finan. Music Mark Governor. Production design Michelle Minch. Art director Karen Steward. Set designers Jonathan Short, Gina Cranham. Set decorator Susan Benjamin. Sound Shirley Libbey. Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
MPAA-rated R (for strong horror violence and for sexuality and language).