The original Pet Sematary made enough money to warrant a sequel, and director Mary Lambert was brought back to helm it. This must have put Lambert and screenwriter Richard Outten in an interesting position — one where they could take the basic concept then go somewhere entirely new, given that King’s novel didn’t have a follow-up. As a result, Pet Sematary Two feels at once more adventurous and less sure of itself. Yes, the film feels more personal, but it’s also more scattershot than the focused original. The result is almost doomed from the start to remain an oddity, a footnote without even the benefit of being a direct King adaptation to keep it in the discussion. After all, would we really ever need to mention The Tommyknockers if it weren’t for King adaptation retrospectives? Pet Sematary Two isn’t nearly that bad, but it’s just weird and offbeat enough to keep it from finding a real audience.
With the events of the original film relegated to a local legend, the sequel instead follows an entirely new cast. Edward Furlong (looking pretty much unchanged from Terminator 2) leads as Jeff Matthews; his mother, a famous actress dies in the opening scene, prompting Jeff and his father to relocate to their summer home to a place not too far from the Creed house from the first film. You can already see where this is going, can’t you? But it’s not that simple. Jeff also befriends Drew, the stepson of the swaggering local sheriff, who kills Drew’s dog in a rage. This kicks off a chain of events that sees multiple resurrections, which go about as well as those from the first film.
Mary Lambert’s direction in Pet Sematary Two feels in many ways more confident than her work on the previous effort, as well as more personalized. This is both a good thing and a bad thing; on the one hand, the film isn’t afraid to get weird with it. It’s more out there than the original, with more Giallo-inspired lighting and the occasional appearance by a naked woman with a dog’s head. It also draws a bit more on her background directing music videos, which often leads to more flashy visuals and a music-heavy soundtrack. On the other hand, this sequel feels infinitely more dated than its predecessor. The aforementioned soundtrack is rife with 90s rock hits, and the bully character that torments Jeff and Drew is possibly the most 90s bully you’ve ever seen. A movie feeling like a product of its time isn’t strictly a bad thing, but in this case, it doesn’t really help.
More pressingly, the script feels all over the place — too full of characters and concepts that don’t go anywhere in the long run. Our introduction to Jeff and his father’s new housekeeper seems loaded with foreshadowing, as though this is meant to be an important character. That doesn’t turn out to be the case, and it’s just one of several dead-ends that dot the entire story. Again, this is rather reminiscent of some Giallo films (Fulci’s House by the Cemetery comes to mind in this case), but only in a superficial way. And the time spent on these dalliances often feels like it would have been much better devoted to fleshing out the primary characters. Jeff, in particular, feels like he’s missing one or two pivotal scenes, as he goes from fairly normal to borderline crazy virtually between scenes.
If anything makes Pet Sematry Two definitely worth watching, it’s Clancy Brown as Sheriff Gus, a performance that ironically comes alive only after Gus is (spoiler alert) killed and resurrected by the titular burial ground. Brown goes full-Kurgan after his resurrection, growling, and cackling and hamming it up like an absolute champ, and it’s a joy to watch.
It’s not too hard to see why Pet Sematary Two hasn’t even been remembered enough to warrant a Blu-ray release. While the original was streamlined and relatively timeless, the sequel is clunkier, more awkward, and more 90s. In many ways, it also feels more creator-driven, more prone to eccentricities. This alone at least makes it more interesting than the second adaptation of the novel from 2019. Maybe that’s enough.