Double Feature: The Dead Zone | Pet Cemetery
Bright blessings to the Elder Gods for conceiving Regal’s Horrorfest. Partnered with mastermind Leif Jonker, Regal is opening its gates to show 12 screenings “from the 30’s to the 80s”. After a great showing of the new 4K remaster of Suspiria (glorious), I trekked back again for a Stephen King 80’s double feature— The Dead Zone & Pet Cemetery. Always a treat to discover a double in the wild, Regal’s decked out leather recliners make it a great spot for one. Let us begin
The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone brings us Christopher Walken doing his best of playing a newly born psychic by way of car accident coma. Waking up five years (five years~) after the accident, Johnny touches people to solve their problems. Low blow, but the rest of the film plays out like a police procedural, with the added twist of “What would you do if you could kill Hitler?”. Released before my time, I’m not sure if the well treaded material was treaded at all back when this was released, but the structural choices turned me off. Eye rolls aside, I was left feeling merely okay with this one. Maybe I was expecting a lot with David Cronenberg at the director’s helm, but this is also the weakest from his I’ve seen so far.
Walken does a solid job for the most part. Few actors can sell lines like “…it feels like I’m dying”, and it's clear the quiet, sullen range is where the Walken thrives. As a being who thrives on internal turmoil and angst, all caps lines like “THE WOLF IS LOOSE” or “THE ICE IS GOING TO BREAK” push Walken out of that range and provide that joyous over the top 80’s camp. In that vein, Martin Sheen gives a great scene-chewing as the antagonizing Hitler Walken must terminate
The standout of the film, of course, is the serial killer storyline and its wonderful conclusion. Cronenburg really sets everything up so perfectly to allow the audience’s imagination do most of the grisly work for its violence. Twitch inducing for sure, I’d almost say it’s worth the price of admission. However, the vanilla delivery of the other storylines and unusually straightforward handling of the Hitler one leaves little else to be desired.
It’s a solid film, and its sparse highlights leave it leaning towards average/middling. I would say that a part of this is because the material hasn’t aged well to time. I’m glad I saw it on the big screen, but would only toss this recommendation for Stephen King or Christopher Walken completionists.
Moving on from what felt like a bit of a wash, placing Pet Cemetery as the finisher for the double was a good choice on the programmer’s part. Amping the levels up of camp, supernatural, and schlock, it provided a much needed energy boost to send the crowd off into the evening.
After being informed of the life resurrecting powers of a local pet cemetery, Louis, decides to make use of the sacred ground and plays god with the family cat. Efforts to thwart his family’s devastation seem successful at first, but of course, something about the family cat isn’t right. Cut to a “tragic” accident that takes the life of infant (toddler?) son Gage, Louis shouts to the heavens and repeats for his son what he did before.
Pet Cemetery is not a good film. Pet Cemetery is a great romp, a good party movie, but a horrible film. Melodrama and overacting stitch together an everything but the kitchen sink of Stephen King supernatural heebie-jeebies, and yet, their neighbor’s Maine accent seems to be the most out of this world. Actually, the scenes “Zelda” scenes could probably still give those of any ages the creeps as those parts have aged well. The rest of the film, let’s say still has the capacity to entertain. Totally forgettable, but entertaining throughout, Pet Cemetery is a great wildcard for those looking out to venture into zanier halloween fare.