Director: Mary Lambert
It is amazing how bad human memory can be, you may swear to whatever god you pray to that certain events took place in a very specific way and yet you may be unequivocally wrong on all accounts. Now, I am sure that this can happen in a million different scenarios, but since this is a movie website with an accompanying movie podcast (subscribe on iTunes 😀 ), I will stick to how many of us remember films. Movies, for most of us, are an escape and because they offer us this reprieve from the mundane routine of our daily lives, we tend to remember some movies more for when they happened rather than how good they were, it is as if we apply a sense of nostalgia to these movies. Recently, while looking for a scary movie to view for Halloween on Hulu, I came across a classic, Pet Sematary, except it wasn’t as good as I remembered it.
Pet Sematary is a film adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name. In the film, Louis (Dale Midkiff) along with his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and their two children, Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes) move to a small town in Maine to escape the busy life of Chicago. When they arrive in their new home, they are immediately befriended by their neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne), a kindly old man who comes with a warning about the busy street that separates the two properties, the Orinoco trucking company is nearby and their semis tend to speed down the rural road. Shortly after they’ve settled, the family cat, Church, is run over by one of the trucks. In an act of kindness, Jud informs Louis of a burial ground that lies beyond the local pet cemetery, once buried the feline will acquire a new set of lives. When Louis uses the burial site and revives his pet, he sets forth a series of events that puts the lives of his entire family at risk.
Firstly, I would like to compliment myself for not filling the synopsis with loads of spoilers, go me, with that being said, you’ll have to forgive me if I give away a little more than I usually do in the next paragraphs, I mean the film is 29 years old. This is a movie that saw as a child, around the age of 9, the film came out in 1989, I am an 80s baby and an 90s kid, so I likely saw it for the first time in the early to mid-1990s. I am being specific with my age because before i viewed the film last night, I was 100% certain that Pet Sematary was an all-time great, up there with Poltergeist. Now, I still believe the film to be a classic Stephen King-Horror flick, but man-oh-man have my tastes evolved.
The overall essence of the film is great, the tone is very King, this unhinging quality where you take nothing for granted, any little thing can be a foreshadowing of something ominous to come. The practical effects used in the movie were fantastic, gory yes, something many may not like, and yet there is something to that extra attention to detail, that desire to be faithful to the source material that really makes those moments and scenes memorable. What I remember most, the reason why I felt this film was so great, was that it had two of the creepiest cinematic moments of my childhood. Rachel’s horribly disfigured sister calling her name and Victor Pascow, your not so friendly ghost, aside from that however, the movie has issues. The main issue with the film is the complete lack of explanation for many of the most memorable scenes, you have a character from another world who can offer guidance and explanations to our protagonist, but instead chooses to be cryptic. It is also unclear what powers the burial ground imbues, clearly it is doing more than resurrecting the dead and making them mean. The film has a run-time of 1hr and 40 minutes, a feat that is both commendable considering the amount of material that is crammed in and a detriment due to the clear lack of backstory for much of that material.
Although I would not call Pet Sematary a terrible movie, it is most certainly not as good as I remember it. However, with the resurgence of It and the success of King’ novellas on Netflix, I may have to start a petition to get Pet Sematary a fresh remake, this is a film that deserves one. If you are a fan of Stephen King and would like to see one of his most classic adaptations, I would give it go, just don’t expect it to be as good as many have touted it.