Pet Sematary / The Dead Zone Mary Lambert / David Cronenberg

Stephen King’s always had an uneven relationship with cinema. No doubt a master of literary horror, when it comes to adapting his films for screen, a number managed to surpass his writing (The Shining, Carrie, Stand By Me) but many more demeaned it (Sleepwalkers, Thinner, Graveyard Shift). Two great examples of this come in these two special collector’s editions — one is an excellent, discerning film and the other is simply great schlock. Pet Sematary is the latter. A haunting story, no doubt, of a cemetery that raises the dead, Lambert’s adaptation is a superficial wonder that works on its eeriness alone (the music especially). Some great characters, such as Pascow and Fred Gwynne’s Jud, help carry it and to this day Zelda the decaying older sister still creeps the shit out of me but from a technical standpoint, it just barely escapes B-movie status. Lambert’s commentary makes her sound unqualified as a filmmaker (her other work includes such achievements as The In Crowd and, umm, Pet Sematary II). Throwing around praise like "a timeless story” and "a classic of sorts” is laughable, and I feel guilty for loving it so damn much. "Stephen King Territory” discloses just how autobiographical Pet Sematary was for King — the location, the trucks and country road, a wandering baby and the neighbour — while two other featurettes are the usual character study and "behind the scenes” pap. The Dead Zone, however, is an unsung classic that strikes a great balance between King’s story and Cronenberg’s abstract vision. Christopher Walken plays a man flung into a five-year coma and who awakens with psychic powers that find him saving lives and the world. Walken portrays a masterful outsider with a poise that combines both sensitivity and freakish oddity, while the supporting cast — Martin Sheen as diabolical politician Greg Stillson and Colleen Dewhurst as a revolver-toting mother — are vital in establishing a hair-raising climate. Unfortunately, there is no Cronenberg commentary; instead he pops up in the four featurettes explaining how the film was a chance for him to break out of strictly Canadian made films. But he also shows pride in making the film in and around Niagara on the Lake (a great substitute for New England), admitting, "you can’t get crunchier snow than you can in Canada.” The admission that the set was haunted by a slave child only adds to the disturbing aura of this unforgettable flick. (Paramount)