Friday, October 15, 2010

Shocktober Director of the Day: Mary Lambert

One of very few women to make a successful Horror movie, director Mary Lambert's first major film was the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King's Pet Semetary. The story of a college doctor who loses to his young son to a truck on the highway, Pet Semetary is also a sort of zombie tale and a novel King admits he had to set aside, because he kept picturing his own son as Gage, the toddler at the center of the novel's events.

Handsome TV star Dale Midkiff (previously best known for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in the 1988 TV movie Elvis) stars as Louis Creed, a young doctor hired by Maine college and in for a nasty surprise when on his first day on the job, a student named Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist) is hit by a car and killed while jogging. Louis' wife Rachel ("Star Trek: TNG" alum Denise Crosby) and his new neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynne) try to assuage his guilt at not being able to save the young man. And when the Creed family's cat is run over by a careless trucker on the highway in front of their house, Jud shows Louis a secret Indian burial ground where the dead can be raised, but at a horrible price. Needless to say, when the Creed's son Gage is killed on the same highway, Louis does the unthinkable.

Lambert does a decent job here, though like most directors who tackle King, ultimately fails in faithfully recreating the experience of the novel. The real problem with Pet Semetary lies in its cast. Sadly, most A-List actors shy away from genre films (with a few exceptions), so directors are left casting actors who aren't really up to the task. And such is the case with this movie. With the exception of Gwynne, none of the major players here are really right for the roles. Midkiff and Crosby try, but they come off as stiff and uncomfortable, unwilling to commit to the level required by the material. And Greenquist, under a layer of gory FX makeup, ends up looking dopey, rather than scary in his role as the ghostly harbinger. In fact, the most effective performance in the movie belongs to Daniel Hubatsek as Rachel's dead sister, Zelda.

Lambert's follow-up was the 1991 flop Grand Isle, starring Top Gun's Kelly McGillis in a romantic drama no one remembers. The next year, she directed T2's Edward Furlong in Pet Senetary II, a terrible sequel co-starring "E.R." doctor Anthony Edwards.

Lambert's career never again saw the success of her first film (and even that's debatable), and she has since gone on to direct music videos, TV shows and the 2008 Direct-to-DVD sequel Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, one of the worst modern Horror movies Uncle P can remember having the misfortune of seeing.

Next year, Lambert is scheduled to direct the SyFy movie Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (the title alone alludes to its quality) and the vampire movie High Midnight, starring Vincent D'Onofrio, Elizabeth Hurley and William Baldwin. I hope Lambert can redeem herself (and her career) with this film. It's sad to think that a woman can't make an effective Horror movie.

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

Zelda really freaked me out but I always wondered if she looked like a person suffering from that disease or if we were seeing Zelda as her frighten sister remembered her. Your thoughts?

I thought the kid who played Gage was excellent too. He is the same kid from Kindergarten Cop who tells Arnold, "that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina."

Cinema Du Meep said...

I'd love to see her have a comeback. She's done some really great work.