The periodic angst of the inevitability of death is no stranger to the likes of you nor me. We all have different ways to process the grief, yet the common response is to wish the ghastly event didn’t even happen in the first place. Regardless of its impossibility, whether it would be a blessing, or a curse is debatable. In his novel, Stephen King looked at the unintended consequences of reversing that formerly final ‘transaction’ and in 1989, film goers got to understand why sometimes dead is better, during the cinematic debut of Pet Sematary.
When the Creed family moves into the calm community of Ludlow, Maine, it seems like they could not find a better place to raise their family. However, this town has a secret, the local pet cemetery has a unique property that causes the dead and buried to return to life. Sceptical at first Louis heeds neighbour Jed’s advice to stay away from the place. But when his daughter is heartbroken over the sudden demise of their pet, forces his hand to put the theory to the test. It works, but not without some gruesome and noticeable side effects. With such a powerful fix to one of life’s most difficult challenges, it becomes incredibly hard for Louis not to abuse his power, even when harrowing events befall the Creed family and the costs become even starker.
Some great moments of gore help usher in Pet Sematary’s debut on the big screen. Starting with the brutal demise of bystander Victor, showing off the great makeup work of the film. Even the simpler effects, such as the sight of the beloved cat coming back to life is memorable, complete with a new vicious personality (although that may not be such a shock for some pet owners). This is capitalised on in the film’s crescendo, where all of Louis’s choices come back to get him. But those who like the emotional aspects will value the film’s depiction of grief. If you are a fan of the Ramones, (like King is apparently) then the soundtrack has got you covered featuring a couple of their songs amongst the film’s score.
The uncontested star of the show is Fred Gwynne, whose depiction of Jud Crandall remains a staple of the horror landscape. If you need only one reason to seek out this film, you should make his performance that one. Even though her presence is reserved somewhat, it is great to see ex-Star Fleet officer, Denise Crosby, take on modern mother Rachel. Despite being early in his career, Dale Midkiff makes for a great Louis and does well in the leading role.
With this adaptation, we learn why King’s work still dominates: great stories of supernatural shenanigans happen to folks like you and me. Great stories that can be transposed with relative ease onto the silver screen. Great stories with compelling characters which talented actors can sink their chops into and iconic scenes that will haunt you till this day. Pet Sematary has all of this in spades and must be a must-see for all horror film fans, regardless of whether you’re a cat or a dog person. Despite the message of the film, Pet Sematary is one film that should remain unearthed.
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