Pet Sematary

04/15/2019 07:30

Film: Pet Sematary

Year: 1989

Director: Mary Lambert

Writer: Stephen King

Starring: Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby and Fred Gwynne



This was a film that I originally saw when I was seeking out films based off the works of Stephen King. This happened around when I was a freshman in high school and I started to read his books. I wanted to become a more well-rounded horror fan, so really delving into his films to start. I’ve seen this film a few times, but only I think three times all the way through. The official synopsis for this film is after tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead.

We start with a family arriving at their new house. They are moving from Chicago to Maine. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) is a doctor and he wants to work in a more quiet practice at the local branch of the university. With him are his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and their two children. We have Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and their baby Gage (Miko Hughes). Their house is right next to a busy road and across the street is their new neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne). As they are moving in Ellie notices a path that leads away from their house.

Louis’ first day is a bit more eventful than he wanted. Ellie learns some choice language from their housekeeper, Missy Dandrdige (Susan Blommaert), and their cat Church is going to be fixed so he doesn’t explore as much. The path that we saw earlier leads to a Pet Sematary, with the sign misspelled like that. We see that through a couple interactions, Rachel has issues with death and this puts pressure on Louis. To make his day even worse, a jogger is hit by a truck and brought into his office. The man is Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist). There’s nothing that can be done for him, but he does tell Louis that a man’s heart is rocky and he grows what he can.

We are given that Rachel’s family doesn’t like Louis. They go Thanksgiving without him and during their time away, Church is hit by a truck. Jud decides to show Louis a secret place to bury the cat, which is on ancient Indian burial ground. Church then comes back, but he isn’t quite himself. Louis asks about if anyone buried a person up there and it upsets Jud. More tragedy befalls this family and Louis is faced with a decision, one that will change his family forever.

The first thing I really wanted to point out about this film is that it is quite depressing and is centered on death. Louis is tasked with trying to explain it to Ellie who doesn’t quite understand yet. Rachel is extremely bothered by the thought of death. She actually snaps at Jud when he takes them to the Pet Sematary for the first time. She looks at it like a bad thing, but Jud explains that it helps the children to understand life better. The film also has the concept of grief being too much that you make irrational decision. We also reason with ourselves, even if we know what we are saying isn’t right. This brings up the line that Jud and Pascow tell to Louis, that a man’s heart is stony and it can only grow what it can, which in the case for Louis, is hurt and grief.

Now Rachel is an interesting character to me. We learn in this film why she hates death so much and it was because we was tasked at times to look after her sister, Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek). She had spinal meningitis, which caused her to go insane and twist her into a monster. Rachel’s parents we are kind of given are well to do, but are actually kind of horrible. This was a traumatizing event for her that she never recovered. It is interesting though.

I have read the novel and I will say, the book delves more into why the ground has soured and what happened there. It is actually that a Wendigo, which is Native American evil entity of the woods, turned the land how it is now. Watching it in the past, I was upset they cut this part out. I can see now though that it is there, but they never state what it is. There are some uneasy times from it.

Really the last aspect of the story I want to cover before moving on is that of advisors of Louis. I heard on a podcast questioning why Louis is shown the barrier to the soured grounds. Pascow visits him at night and takes him to the Sematary. He tells him not to go over, but my question is, why show him that? It seems like he is already starting the seed even if it is a warning. I get why Jud did what he did. The other thing though, I like the idea that the sour Earth curses those that use it. We never hear of Jud marrying in the film or having a family. There are talks that the curse is what happens to Louis and I really like this. It becomes a black cloud that just continues to grow as it latches on to someone.

This brings me to the pacing of the film, which I think is good. It really gets started from the beginning to introduce us to different things and building up story points from the beginning. I thought this was good for the tension. I also feel like no matter what these characters do, the events cannot be stopped and that takes me back to the curse aspect of it. I really like the ending and the implications that come from it as well.

This then brings me to the acting, which actually was hit or miss for me. Midkiff I wasn’t the biggest fan of. He comes off a little bit too brooding early on in the film. I guess the implication here is that he under a lot of pressure from his wife and her family, but I just didn’t feel the change in him. I will say though he does show some really good grief though. Gwynne is great as the wise old man, but he is also flawed in the things he shows to Louis. I thought Crosby was fine. Greenquist I almost feel like his character should have been reworked. I like what he does in the film and his performance, but they show him early and then he disappears for a long stretch. I thought Berdahl, Hughes and Hubatsek were all solid and the rest of the cast round out the film for what was needed.

Next we come to the effects of the film, which are quite good. I thought the look of Pascow and those that come back to life looked good. I really have to commend what was done for Zelda and for Rachel. Those might be the too creepiest looking make-up in the film. The blood looks good, even thought there’s not a lot. We get most of the effects late in the film. All I’ll say in conclusion is Achilles’ tendon and mouth slit, the effects were strong.

The last thing would be the soundtrack and sound design. I thought both were well done. The music selections and some of the cues were well placed to help amp up the tension. The main title song seemed to be a variation of the original The Amityville Horror main theme and it fit very well. The Ramones also did a song for this film of the same title which is fun as well. For this, I’d say it was pretty solid.

Now with that said, I was really glad to check this film out in the theater. It was one that I’ve seen parts of many times, but seeing it that way was quite interesting. I think there are a lot of deeper meanings on a subject we don’t really like to talk about, which I enjoyed. There’s a lot in the novel and I think director Mary Lambert did well at bringing that to the big screen. The acting I thought was fine. The editing of the film does build tension throughout and the score helps there as well. The effects were good. I would definitely say to give this one a viewing if you haven’t seen it, especially if you are a King fan. I found this to be a good movie.


My Rating: 8 out of 10