on August 7, 2004
First off, this is the scariest movie I have ever seen. It may not be so for everyone (and I know comments like that often get you a "0 out 0f 30 people found this helpful" but so be it) but if you like King's visceral, deep-seated horror, I recommend it.
The town, the graveyard, the music, the mist everywhere, the monstrous undead animals and the people all make this a frightening ensemble for me. I have to concur with many of the reviewers about the Zelda character (who was incidentally played by a man named Andrew Hubatsek). There's something so phenomenally horrifying about that character to me that I can actually say I have trouble watching the movie, and certainly never again alone. I find those sequences truly terrifying. The flashbacks of Timmy Baderman (sp?) are also scary.
Furthermore, I agree with many of you that this is a different experience from the book, which I also recommend for added terror. I read the book in broad daylight in a friend's house in Hollywood and I still felt like I was alone in the woods at night.
Highly recommend the film to fans of horror, though it might not be your thing if you just dig slashers. DVD completely lacks features, so for the format itself I'd give 2 stars.
It has been the candid observation of numerous film critics that the works of literary horror maven Stephen King don't often translate well to the screen. But when they DO work, man do they WORK! PET SEMATARY is a prime example. Though some of the details of the King masterwork had to be pared down--as is often the case when well-written literature is made to fit into a two-hour visual narrative--this film captures perfectly the spine-tingling essence and atmosphere of the original novel. As with many King cinematic adaptations, it HELPS if you've already read the book. But with a really good one like PET SEMATARY, familiarity with the book is absolutely NOT a prerequisite.
PET SEMATARY tells the story of the Creeds, a young nuclear family who has moved from the Midwest to a small college town in Maine. They take up residence in a old country house a few miles outside the town, and it isn't long before they become friendly with their new neighbor, a bucolic but agreeable old coot named Jud who lives across the street. Jud quickly alerts them to the fact that the road between their two houses is a busy rural highway, and he therefore warns them to be always mindful of their young children and the family cat. Many a pet has ended up in the nearby pet "sematary," Jud explains, due to an unscheduled meeting with a speeding truck or car on that infernal highway.
Inevitably, the Creeds' cat, Church, joins the roadkill ranks, but only the father, Louis Creed, is at home when this happens. Neighborly Jud worries about how the Creed children will take the news, so he decides to let Louis in on secret. Just beyond the nearby cemetery where the children of ages past have buried their beloved pets, Jud tells Louis, is another cemetery that was long ago held sacred by the Native Americans once indigenous to the region. Local legend has it that when you bury your dead there, they will return to life before the end of the following day. Sometimes there is a price to pay for this magic, says Jud, as the dead don't always come back exactly the way they were before they died. Nonetheless, Jud thinks it is worth the risk if they can protect the Creed children from the pain of losing a cherished pet. Being a physician, Louis is understandably skeptical, but he humors his elderly friend and, with the stiffened body of Church in hand, follows Jud up to the "magical" burial grounds.
Much to the surprise of Louis, Church does indeed arrive on the Creed doorstep the next morning. In some intangible way, though, Church seems different--no longer a loving feline, but instead stealthy, aloof, and easily provoked to anger. Jud tells Louis to try to ignore theses differences, and he suggests that if Louis remains mum about Church's resurrection, the rest of the family will never know their little secret.
Of course, as one might guess, it isn't long before one of the Creed children meets his fate on the highly trafficked road. But dare the grieving Louis bury his son in the sacred soil of the Indian cemetery? And if he does, will what worked for a cat work for a human? If so, at what price?
PET SEMATARY is a very satisfying horror film that offers the requisite spooky ambiance, frightful imagery, and outright scares, and all without requiring much effort to suspend one's disbelief. Part of the reason the filmmakers pull this one off is, of course, due to the excellent job that King has done in his adaptation of his own novel. But the lion's share of the credit goes to the excellent performances from the cast. TV actor Dale Midkiff, whose acting style usually teeters on the histrionic, here turns in a subtle yet compelling performance as the family patriarch, Dr. Louis Creed. Even when things get really intense for his character, Midkiff maintains control and convincingly delivers the reactions of an educated, loving father who is grasping for a rational means of rescuing his family from a dangerously surreal situation. Denise Crosby--better known to SF fans as STAR TREK's Tasha Yar--also does an unusually good job portraying Louis' perky upper-middle-class wife.
It is the performance of Fred Gwynne that really makes the show, however. Genre fans know Gwynne from his role as Herman in TV's classic horror-themed sitcom THE MUNSTERS. As the rustic and lovable Jud, Gwynne stretches his thespian skills way beyond the limits of the slapstick of THE MUNSTERS to create a credible and convincing elderly Maine farmer. Gwynne could easily take it over the top and upstage his fellow actors here, but he instead keeps it honest and subdued and thereby makes a significant contribution towards pulling the audience into the fantasy of the filmic narrative.
As with many of Paramount's DVDs, this disc is sparse on extras. However, the digital transfer (for the widescreen anamorphic edition) was made from a very clean print, and both the picture and sound quality are great. For King fans and fans of great cinematic horror, owning this film is a must!
on April 25, 2000
After reading Stephen King's novel "Pet Sematary" and being a little disturbed by it, I figured that I would rent the movie to see what a terrible adaptation some money-hungry fellow made. After viewing the film I was quite surprised. The first half of the film starts out nice with a happy family enjoying thier new rural home. But then we see the second half of the film in which all turns to hell. After Gage is killed you can't help but feel bad, no one wants to see a boy that cute skin his knee let alone what happens to him in this film. The performances in the film were mostly well done, especially from Fred Gwynne (Jud Crandall), Denise Crosby (Rachel Creed) & Miko Hughes (Gage Creed). The Pet Sematary novel was meant to be disturbing, and this film certainly is just that. Most likely the reason people hate this film and think it's sick is because they too were disturbed by it. It's definitely not a film to give you a positive outlook on life, but I guess that's what makes it such an effective horror film.
on October 29, 2011
It was 1989. I was 14 and I thought that Pet Sematary was one of the best movies I'd ever seen. It hasn't aged well. Or rather, I have aged out of it. Upon a recent viewing I came to the unsettling conclusion that this film, despite its horrific subject matter, is basically aimed at a young audience; intentionally or not.
Most of the problem is with King's screenplay. Whatever literary strengths he has, they do not translate to film. (Maximum Overdrive...nuff said) It seems that King has very little respect for film goers. He seems to have some respect for film as a medium, but the viewers themselves he writes down to. Look at The Shining, for instance. For years King complained about and trashed Kubrick's classic adaptation. Then King himself finally remade The Shining and he removed all subtlety, crafting a sappy TV mini-series that pandered rather than entertained. Perhaps King likes bad film adaptations, lest a superior film overshadows his work, as is the case with Kubrick's The Shining IMO.
His screenplay for Pet Sematary is up to the same tricks. King does not bother with characterization, he just shoehorns in the books most horrific scenes and pumps them up in some cases (Victor Pascow being the worst offense, he appears once or twice in the book, but in the film the guy is all over the place, doing some sort of stand up comic zombie routine that gets old quick.) He just sort of hopes that characterization will be implied I guess. He also worked in the "spring loaded cat" jump scare several times. You can't disrespect an audiences intelligence much more than that.
The worst part is that none of it makes very much sense. In the book, King went to great lengths to make you believe in his story and it works. Here, King just seems to be shoveling out the story as fast as he can, making story revisions and additions that have no logic in and of themselves and that contaminate the internal logic of the parts of the story that should work. Again, the Pascow angle is the main offender here. In the book he gives a simple warning. It's up to Louis Creed to make the decisions. In the film Pascow becomes an active force that just screws everything up worse with his meddling as he keeps coming back to help out and only ends up helping out the evil force in the MicMac burial ground. Not a very good result for an emissary send from beyond the grave by "higher forces". This is just one example of how little sense the film makes, I could go on for pages and pages. It seems King had his brain turned off while churning out this screenplay. Gone are all of the weighty themes the book explored, only to be replaced by thoughtless illogical attempts to pump up the opportunity to show more ghosts and guts and blood.
King has said that he does not like Pet Sematary as a book. I guess that's understandable. King is, at heart, an optimist. Pet Sematary was his one foray into real pessimistic horror. Perhaps he just felt like turning it into a big joke on those grounds.
I don't have anything bad to say about director Mary Lambert. She did a damn good job considering the screenplay she was working from. In King's original screenplay King tried to rework Jud's character. He wore trendy clothing and listened to the latest rock music on his walkman...you know, so the kids would think how cool this old guy was. Well, if Mary had anything to do with excising that particular bit of cynical pandering...then more points to her. When Stephen King comes along with his own screenplay, and it's a cartoony carnival spook show...well I suppose as a director you give him what you think he wants. Unless you want to end up like Kubrick, listening to this writer whine and complain about you for the rest of either of your natural lives.
The acting here is adequate. Fred Gwynne steals the show, and is largely the only thing that holds it all together. Dale Midkiff does some wonderful round the bend acting towards the finale. Brad Greenquist is having (too much} fun playing the ghost of Pascow, but for what it is its good acting. The only actor who truly made me feel emotion though was Michael Lombard as Rachel Creed's father. I guess he didn't get the memo that this was all goofy fun because his heartbreak at Gage's funeral is keenly felt. Too bad the rest of them didn't miss the memo as well. In short, the actors did what they were asked to do and they did it well for the most part. No real complaints. Unless you're just a jerk that likes to pick on child actors and the like.
Pet Sematary does have a lot going for it though. For one, it's original. Ok not totally original, you will still hear people saying King ripped off his book from a film called Zeder. A movie you've probably never even heard of (and I doubt King had either when he wrote the story) so it's original enough. Especially for the well worn cliches of the endlessly recycled horror genre. It's also very dark. Even with the cartoony gloss smeared all over the film, it's still considered morbid, mean-spirited, bleak, and nihilistic. I don't consider these bad things, especially for the horror genre, except maybe the charge of mean-spiritedness...which does hold some weight. The film does seem to lack a heart...perhaps of any kind, mean-spirited or otherwise.
Perhaps it had to be this way. 1989 was not likely to be a good year for any mainstream film to be so dark and realistic at the same time. Without suppressing the realism it may have been just too much to remain mainstream, which it pretty much had to be considering it was a King vehicle. Mr King is Hollywood's dependable horror whore after-all. No sense making a film with artistic merit that might lower the profit margin.
It's unfortunate, because if it had been allowed to show the same sort of realism that, say, William Friedkin had brought to The Exorcist, this very well may have become a horror classic for the ages, instead of just another (above average) goofy 80's carnival gore show.
on May 6, 2000
Pet Sematary is by far the most disturbing horror film I have ever seen. From the creepy opening credits to the tragic ending you will either be creeped out or disturbed by this movie. The most unnerving part of the film is that you can't root for the killers demise because he is an innocent little boy who did nothing to deserve what happened to him, it is a complete injustice. The fact that Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby) is seen with red, swollen, tear filled eyes after her little boy is taken away from her only makes the tragedy seem real. As well, the flashbacks of the Ludlow town's hidden secrets, told by Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), are intriguing and make you wonder why people wouldn't move far away from that place. Having picked the cutest little boy to portray the tragic role of Gage Creed (Miko Hughes) is one thing, but him giving such an outstanding performance at the age of 29 months is incredible...incidentally it took 2 girls to play the role of Ellie Creed! All in all this film is great for people who can stand emotionally unsettling situations, it is truely a horror film.
on June 30, 2015
The late 80's and early 90's saw many adaptations of Stephen King novels. Since then, King has publicly denounced all but a few. I've seen many of these movies and agree with King on his dislike. While most of them employ characters and plot that resemble the story they are based upon, few are able to capture the true horror of the novel. When I stumbled upon the 1989 adaptation of King's Pet Sematary on Netflix, I was ready to write it off as another cheesy King movie. A quick glance at the credits revealed King as the screenwriter, so I decided to give the movie a shot. Surely the master of horror Stephen King would do justice to a film adaptation of his own novel.
Unlike many of the truly awful adaptations that I've already mentioned, Pet Sematary, does not solely rely on King's story to scare the audience. As an author, King creates an atmosphere that allows for the horrors of his novels to occur. Thankfully, all of the filmmakers involved in this production bring that same spooky atmosphere to the screen. Accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful score by Elliot Goldenthal, director Mary Lambert opens the film with sweeping shots of the creepy Pet Sematary. As images of the graveyard flash across the screen the audience is immediately filled with dread. There's nothing inherently terrifying about what we see. The sun is shining. Birds are chirping. Still, for some reason, the audience immediately knows that something about this place is not right. It is this opening credit sequence that creates the atmosphere and sets the stage for the horrors to come.
The Creed family, mom, dad, daughter and baby boy, have relocated from the city to a rural home in Maine. A busy and dangerous road separates the Creed's home from their neighbor Jud's property. A path on their property leads to a cemetery that is labeled "Pet Sematary". Jud explains that this is where the local children have buried their deceased pets, most of which died on the busy road. When the Creed's family's cat is inevitably killed on the road, Jud takes the dad, Louis, to a secret location beyond the confines of the Pet Sematary. They arrive to an old Indian burial ground where they bury the deceased cat. The burial ground has the power to bring the dead animal back to life, but it does not return as its original self. Rather, the cat stinks of death and has lost its sweet demeanor.
Louis works as a doctor where he encounters a man who was involved in a severe car accident. Despite his best efforts, Louis is unable to revive the crash victim. But before the man dies, he warns Louis to stay away from the Pet Sematary. Later, Louis sees the victim in a dream where he is again warned of the dangers of the Sematary. When tragedy strikes the Creed family, Louis is willing to do anything to get his old life that, even if it means ignoring the warnings of the crash victim. Desperate to recover a lost life, Louis returns to the burial grounds and unleashes a horror that threatens to destroy his family and all those who come in contact with them.
Atmosphere aside, Pet Semetary offers many terrifying twists and turns that excite and thrill. It is a movie clearly created in the tradition of 1980's horror films. As such, the film contains special effects and overacting by the cast that come off as relics of that era. There is a side plot about the mother's sister that is particularly cheesy in its execution. Still, King's story is unique and imaginative, allowing the film to overcome most of the genre cliches that are present. I found myself terrified in some moments and laughing in others. In the end, Pet Semetary is far from perfect, but is one of the best Stephen King adaptations to come from that time period.
on November 5, 1999
Stephen King rules, and Pet Sematary is, in my opinion, his greatest triumph. The atmosphere can't be beat, the characters are memorable, and the gory, horrifying climax is nothing short of cataclysmic. The movie almost captures the chilling spirit of the book, but on a more conventional level that somehow softens the depth of the horror. Still, it's a solid movie (Fred Gwynne was intense), that does deliver its fair share of shocks and chills.
on October 1, 2012
This is one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, never failing to creep the poop out of me. I remember when I saw it in the theater...when I left, I had an unsettled feeling that I had just watched something that I shouldn't have. It's hard to explain, but even to this day, after seeing the movie dozens of times, it still unsettles me and makes me feel that I've just watched something...evil...LOL.
Anyway, I've had the movie on various formats...VHS, laserdisc, DVD and now blu ray. I will say that the picture quality is a BIT better than the DVD, especially in the daytime scenes (those are very bright, colorful and vivid). The night time scenes are still an improvement, but not excellent. However, with this being a basically low budget film from the 80s, this is probably the best it will look. I don't remember it looking completely fantastic in the theater when it was new, anyway. The sound is an improvement, much more than the video.
The supplements are a disappointment, as there is nothing new at all added...same features from the special edition DVD from a few years back. I was hoping the trailer would have been added, if nothing else new...I'm a sucker for trailers.
Worth an upgrade from the DVD, if you can catch it on sale. The only real negative is that now you have to see and hear that horribly annoying little girl (Ellie) in HD, incessant whining and all. :)
on October 22, 2006
"Pet Sematary" is my all-time favorite book, so in 1989 when the film came out, I couldn't WAIT to see it. The first time I watched it (covering my eyes most of the time), the movie terrified me. The sets and characters are quite true to the book (Fred Gwynne WAS Jud Crandall), and the music was just as I had imagined it would be like. Also the Zelda character I still can't watch today- she was really scary. I couldn't sleep for a week.
I went to see it again with my eyes OPEN during the "scary" parts, and was crushed to discover that even with Stephen King adapting his own book to the screen, the movie STANK. The makeup was overdone way past "over the top", and the Pascow character was so creepy, yet they screwed that up with making him a comic. And lastly, since when does a two year old who's been run down by a Mack truck only have a cut on his forehead to show for it??!
I guess if you've never read the book, you might find the movie entertaining, but as someone who's always treasured this story, I agree with a previous reviewer when I say this movie should never have been made. There are too many things in the book you just can't transfer to the screen; it should have been left up to our individual imaginations.
Just read the book and scare the hell out of yourself.
on September 24, 2002
Wow! Definately King's best film to date! Seriously, this movie has everything. So, if you want to be scared senseless, Pet Sematary is well worth the money.
The movie starts out creepy enough with opening credits in the "pet sematary" with an eerie soundtrack. Then, we meet the Creeds, surgeon father and husband Lewis, mother and wife Rachel, kindergarden daughter Ellie, and adorable little infant son, Gage.
Actually, if you were watching it on TV and didn't know what the title was or what it was about, for the first 15 or 20 minutes, you wouldn't even know it was a horror movie. But then, things start getting strange when their neighbor starts talking about the mysterious path behind the house, which leads to the "pet sematary."
Then, while Rachel and the kids are at Rachel's parents house for Thanksgiving, Lewis' neighbor calls and tells him that he thinks Ellie's cat got killed and is dead on his lawn. Instead of buring it in the "pet sematary" they bury it in "the place where the dead rise," and old Native American burial ground.
Sure enough the cat comes back the next day, bring an unearthy stench back with it. That's how Lewis finally manages to convince himself that it really did work.
Then, something extremely heartbreaking happens to the Creed boy, Gage. This is where the ol' zombie-raising ground comes in. But, when the little boy comes back, he ain't exactly the innocent little tike he was in the real life...
This movie is SO SCARY! YOU NEED TO SEE IT! also the sequel is really good.
PET SEMATARY IS RATED R FOR VIOLENCE, GORE, STRONG LANGUAGE, BRIEF NUDITY AND DISTURBING IMAGES.