In commemoration of the upcoming remake, PET SEMATARY (2019), I’m going back in time to see the previous films, starting with the original… because where else would I start? Well, there is a sequel, and for that review, click the following link: PET SEMATARY II (1992)
Cast: Dale Midkiff (1 episode of CASTLE [2009 – 2016]), Denise Crosby (1 episode of CASTLE), Miko Hughes (SPAWN ), Blaze Berdahl (WE’RE BACK: A DINOSAUR STORY ), and Brad Greenquist (ANNABELLE: CREATION , and the upcoming CALL OF THE WILD )
Director: Mary Lambert (1 episode of ARROW [2012 – ongoing])
Writer: Stephen King (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal (FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN , HEAT , and the upcoming THE GLORIAS: A LIFE ON THE ROAD )
Cinematographer: Peter Stein (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Editors: Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill (HEART/SEA  and GRINCH )
This is my honest opinion of: PET SEMATARY
The Creed family has just moved into their new home and have quickly made friends with their kindly elderly neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne). He tells them of an old burial ground near their house, called the Pet Sematary. However, Jud sees that their young daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) is particularly attached to their family pet, Church. So when Church is found dead from a truck driving accident, Jud decides to take her father Louis (Dale Midkiff), not to the Pet Sematary, but an old Native American holy site thought to have dark powers of bringing the dead back to life. Turns out, it’s true, but Church comes back not quite himself. More aggressive and temperamental, though the family accepts it and moves on with life. However, more tragedy strikes and Louis must decide if dead is better, or not.
You know, I gotta say, I’m not a fan of this one. I don’t hate it, but I don’t agree with the popularity that seems to surround it.
The first scene was sort of a good indication of what I was going to think of the movie. It does two damned fake-outs of the baby getting hit by a truck. It’s like… seriously? One fake-out would have been kind of annoying as is, but two put me in a fairly sour mood. And both times are because the parents are dumb-asses who don’t keep this wandering rugrat in their field of vision. Not that I’m a parent, but I would be way too paranoid about letting my toddler wander more than two feet away from me in a new area that I know bupkis about. And there’s a classic King trope with a jump scare from a cat. It’s not even a good jump scare either. I mean, no cat-scare is ever good, no matter what horror movie you make, but I’ve seen so many of them now that I’m just completely numb to it.
There’s also some pretty hammy writing and acting. Not that I want to pick on a child actor, or anything, but poor young Berdahl was given some corny shit to say. “He’s not God’s cat. He’s my cat. Let God get his own if he wants one. Not mine. Not mine.” I know kids say some crazy stuff sometimes, but this seems particularly out of the realm of what a child would say. All I could think about during that bit is that she’s a drama queen. Or if the writing isn’t hammy, it’s kind of confusing. When Louis is off to get Church neutered, he says to Rachel and tells her that if something happens to the cat while he’s under from the gas that she can explain death to her. Um… asshole. Where did that bout of mean-spiritedness come from?
But I think one of the biggest and most pointless moments of the movie is when Rachel goes into monologue about her sister Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek) and how, as a child, she wanted her dying sister to actually die and thinks that when she finally did, she wasn’t crying, she was laughing. Um… okay, traumatic and all, but believe it or not, this has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Before this scene happens, she never carried herself as someone who had a troubled past and after we learn it, she’s not any different. You could cut that sequence out and miss nothing. It comes back into play in the climax, sort of, but even that doesn’t amount to much… if anything at all.
And can I just ask the biggest question of all? Why is this called “Pet Sematary?” I mean, think about it. What is the Pet Sematary? Quick answer, nothing. It has almost no bearing on the movie as a whole. All the Pet Sematary is, is where local kids would bury their beloved pets to rest in peace. It’s the Native American burial site where everything funky happens. The Pet Sematary isn’t some haven where you can go to protect yourself from the homicidal zombie animals. That would be interesting. The Sematary is where beloved animals go to be buried, so powerful in its own pure sort of way. But that’s not what the Pet Sematary is. It’s a red herring. It has no significance. Take it out of the entire movie and… holy shit, you’d miss nothing. This is way to common an occurrence for this movie, even a Stephen King movie.
Here’s a small list of some other issues I have with this movie.
- Why is Missy (Susan Bloomaert) a character? Why is there emphasis on her? She has a stomach pain… she introduces Ellie to vulgarities… and then she hangs herself… for no reason. Okay, I read that she thinks she has cancer, but… okay, so? I don’t care about Missy. She’s not an interesting character. Please move along.
- What licensed drunk driver floors the accelerator? That truck driver deserves to fuckin’ die.
- Why does this movie think that when men get a certain way, they VERY SPECIFICALLY go out for hamburgers or chicken dinners? Seriously, Ellie’s grandmother says that. I thought men got drunk and cheated. Isn’t that the usual bullshit ignorant women try to spout?
I suppose I’ll give the movie credit that the violence is satisfying. When Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist) is hit by that truck and brought to Louis, he his head injuries look damn convincing. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ Or when Gage slices Jud’s mouth in a way that explains how the Joker got his scars a little too fucking well. That shit was pretty awesome. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>> I’ll also give credit that Stephen King’s cameo as the preacher at Missy’s wedding made me giddy in just how much uncharacteristic fun he was having. But… yeah, that’s kind of it.
Can someone explain to me why Pascow was so useless? I get why he’s here. His ghost is grateful that Louis legit tried to help the poor guy as he died and is now trying to help Louis from making bad decisions. So… for one thing, why does he only show himself once to him? Where is he when Louis is hiking with Jud to the burial site? Why does he appear to Ellie? Why does he try to influence everyone around Rachel when she wants to go home? If he can influence minds, why doesn’t he do that on Louis? Nothing about him is really explained, nor does he truly have an impact on the story. Especially at the end where he feels like he’s in a whole ‘nother movie. He acts all cartoonish and nonchalant about what’s at stake. It’s really bizarre and not in a good way.
And lets really face it here. The only reason why this movie has conflict involving homicidal dead people is because Jud was a dumb-ass. He knew that if either animals or people got buried up in Native American site that they’ll come back violent. So… why does he do it? Because the girl is cute? She’s going to be a whole lot less cute when the cat starts literally scratching her eyes out! And Louis knows that the cat changed? What did he think would happen when he’d try to bring back Gage? Or Rachel?! Even him thinking “I waited too long with Gage,” and piecing together nonexistent dots about how it’s all about timing? Dude needed a serious slap and, honestly, deserved his “cut to black” death at the hands of Zombie Rachel. Jud was stupid for showing Louis the burial site, Louis was stupid for using the burial site three times, so what do you have? My famous formula of bad horror movies: stupid people, making stupid decisions, getting other stupid people killed. Riveting.
Overall, sorry folks, this is just another on a long-ass list of bad horror movies that does little to set itself apart from the rest. Maybe this was scary for its time, but I’m sorry, it really isn’t. I’m almost hoping the sequel is better because I can’t imagine it could get worse than this. It’s loaded with tropes, dumb characters, and weird pointless moments. I have very little positivity to say about it, and what I can, I can’t say holds it up. I see what it was trying to go for, and it just didn’t work for me. As a recommendation… bleh. I’m good. I saw it, I can’t wait to forget it.
My honest rating for PET SEMATARY: 2/5