Pet Sematary

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 17, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Mary Lambert

Release Date(s)

1989 (October 2, 2012)

Studio(s)

Paramount Pictures

Review

When Stephen King published his novel Pet Sematary back in 1983, he immediately got readers’ hopes up by proclaiming it the scariest book he’d ever written. It was apparently so dreadful that his wife, Tabitha, convinced him to put it away for a number of years. Needless to say, as a King-obsessed teenager I was dying to see what could possibly be so taboo as to frighten the master himself.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in Pet Sematary when I finally did read it and even more disappointed in Mary Lambert’s movie version back in 1989. I know a number of people who were deeply affected by both the book and the movie but neither of them have ever done much for me. Some folks have told me this is because I don’t have children. There may be some truth to that but I’m not Catholic either and I still think The Exorcist is scary.

Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby star as Louis and Rachel Creed, a happily married Chicago couple relocated to rural Maine (where else?). Fred Gwynne is neighbor Jud Crandall, the old-timer local who welcomes the Creeds and introduces them to the tradition of the local pet cemetery. When the Creeds’ cat is killed by one of the monstrous trucks that frequently barrel down the road, Jud takes Louis to another burial spot beyond the pet cemetery. This one, the ancient burial grounds of the Micmac Indians, brings the dead back to life. But, as Jud says about three or four times, sometimes dead is better.

With a screenplay by King himself, this is about as faithful an adaptation of the book as you could wish for. Director Mary Lambert, who’d previously helmed some of the most iconic music videos of the 80s, has a good eye and stages several stylish and memorable sequences. The movie’s only real flaw, and it’s a pretty big one, is its cast. With the exception of Fred Gwynne, no one is really up to the challenge of conveying the depths of emotion and terror the movie requires. It also probably wasn’t the best idea to build up to a finale where a 2-year-old is your antagonist. If you know any toddlers, ask them to make their “scary face”. It’s not that scary and it’s really all they’re capable of at that point. But even if the movie isn’t particularly frightening, it’s occasionally fun with a memorable finale and a nice turn by Brad Greenquist as helpful ghost Victor Pascow.

I wasn’t really expecting much from Paramount’s Blu-ray edition of Pet Sematary but was pleasantly surprised by how good it looks. This is a clean, detailed image that never looks overly processed. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is also pretty impressive, especially in its use of surround speakers for the trucks and hidden voices. The extras are ported over from 2006 special edition DVD and include a decent if somewhat subdued commentary by Lambert and three documentary featurettes whose titles are fairly self-explanatory: Stephen King Territory, The Characters and Filming the Horror. These are kind of interesting but hardly earth-shattering.

Pet Sematary ranks somewhere in the middle of Stephen King adaptations. It’s nowhere near the level of David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone or any of Frank Darabont’s films. But it’s also not a complete fiasco like Children Of The Corn. Paramount has given this catalog title a better-than-average Blu-ray that should certainly please the movie’s fans.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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I just found out this Fargo TV show is set in Bemidji, MN...my birthplace. Guess I've gotta watch it now.

by Adam Jahnke