Following my pleasure watching It (2017) (Reviews Stanko’s & Kenney’s Takes) and Gerald’s Game (2017) (Review Stanko’s Take), I decided to take a dive into the lexicon of Stephen King films that which I have not seen. First up on the list was the 1989 release, Pet Sematary.
The premise is one that follows through many of King’s stories. A family moves to a fairly isolated house in Maine where they soon discover a dangerous power and terror strikes. Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff, is the father of a young family that is looking to make the most of their new opportunity. With a young daughter and baby son, Louis and his wife Rachel, played by Denise Crosby, it is the classic American family.
So now the stage is set for heartbreak.
The new house that they all moved into is set beside a road that is constantly buzzing with 18-wheelers who speed with no regard for safety. The Creed’s across-the-street neighbor by the name of Jud Crandall, played by Fred Gwynne, explains how every year there is sorrow insinuated by the danger that which the road births.
The first brush of anguish comes while just Louis Creed is home. Jud calls him across the road and shows him that the family’s cat, most beloved by little Ellie Creed, has fallen victim to the pavement. Jud and Louis debate on what to do, on whether or not it is too early for Ellie to learn about death. Cue the inciting incident.
Jud takes Louis to an old Native American burial ground near an old pet cemetery. The positive-thinking pops buries the cat in the rotten soil, and soon after the feline is brought back to life. However, the phrase “back and better than ever” is not applicable to this situation; the cat’s personality is changed, becoming as malevolent as you’d except a cursed cat to be.
With the stakes set as to what the cursed burial ground can do, King takes the tragedy up another notch. While playing with a kite in their yard, the Creed parents lose sight of their son Gage. His life is lost when he steps into the street just as a speeding 18-wheeler turns over a hill toward the family’s hidden drive.
From this scene on is where Pet Semetary truly shines. The final 30 minutes are tense with supernatural, familial, and neighborhood conflicts. Louis decides to bury they boy’s body in the same ground in that which he reincarnated his daughter’s cat.
It’s a smart story development by King to push the idea of adjusting and understanding death onto the parents, and in particular, the father. He was so concerned with his daughter’s loss of innocence in the first two-thirds of the story, but it takes an immediate 180-degree turn. And without too many spoilers, one can just safely assume he does not handle it well.
I have the utmost confidence that Pet Semetary would not get green lit if someone pitched it to a major motion picture studio today. Would it be a darling of an indie project or clever made for TV movie? I could see that.
Watching it in the modern day, the scares that may have landed in the year of its release don’t pack the same punch. The acting is exactly what you’d expect from the late 80s, and the same goes for the special effects. What Pet Semetary does still have going for it is just a downright creepy tone, strong direction for such a unique adapted story (shout out to director Mary Lambert in one of her first major motion pictures), and a final 30 minutes that is still a tough watch. You won’t be covering your eyes, but Pet Semetary will give you a few head shakes and extended blinking moments.
STANKO RATING: C+