04 October 2012

October 4th

Pet Sematary (1989) directed by Mary Lambert
I can't think of any major Hollywood production that had a lead actor quite as bad as Dale Midkiff was in this film.  He stumbles through the movie with a blank expression on his face, putting in the barest minimum effort possible to say his lines and stand on the correct marks.  Occasionally emotion will erupt out of him when the scene really, really requires it, but it's never quite believable.  There's a deadness in the man's eyes that never goes away.  I half suspect that, like her male counterparts who sometimes cast hot-but-horrible actresses, Mary Lambert might have not been entirely rational in casting this part.

I think the other big issue with the film is that it's a story that's nearly impossible to film.  They say this about a lot of novels -- Naked Lunch, Perfume, Watchmen -- but they all tend to turn out pretty well as movies, anyway.  This one, though, is different: one of its monsters is a two-year-old boy.  Having a two-year-old daughter at the moment, I'm pretty familiar with this type of human: they're barely coherent when speaking, like to ignore instructions, and have attention spans that measure in seconds.  None of these qualities make for a great actor.

That said, Miko Hughes is probably cinema's all-time greatest two-year-old actor.  The kid can speak clearly, make relatively appropriate faces for the scene he's in, and is cute as a button to boot.  But, still, it's a two-year-old being carefully coached.  The majority of the shots he's in last for mere seconds.  Because you can't sit a toddler in a makeup chair for hours, he sports just a little purple line on his forehead to indicate the damage he sustained from his accident with a semi.  Towards the end of the story where he begins killing people,  he's often replaced by dummies and little people.  But, what are you gonna do?  It's really the best effort possible for creating this character on film, but it still doesn't work very well.

And, all that said, I absolutely love both Fred Gwynne as kindly neighbor Jud and Brad Greenquist as Pascow.  Gwynne has -- to my outsider eyes, anyway -- the New England accent and demeanor down pat.  He's the only character -- well, besides Gage the first time -- who I cared about when he died.  He made me wish I had an old man across the street to have a beer and jaw with.

Greenquist, as the ghost Pascow, steals the entire show, in my opinion.  Brain exposed and milky-eyed, the poor ghost just wants to help the Creed family avoid more suffering.  His earnestness and kindness are incredibly endearing, and his method of gently suggesting ideas to the living to get them to do what he wants is great.  Screw the stupid Edward Furlong sequel; I want a spin-off featuring just Pascow.

Watched: blu-ray from Paramount.

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