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Pet Sematary (1989)

DVD Cover (Paramount Special Collector's Edition)
Movie Connections:
Pet Sematary
> Pet Sematary (1989)
> Pet Sematary II (1992)
> Pet Sematary (2019)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Supernatural Horror, Cats
Director:
Mary Lambert Mary Lambert
Starring:
Dale Midkiff Dale Midkiff
Fred Gwynne Fred Gwynne
Denise Crosby Denise Crosby
Brad Greenquist Brad Greenquist
Michael Lombard Michael Lombard

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Dr. Louis Creed's family moves into the country house of their dreams and discover a pet cemetery at the back of their property. The cursed burial ground deep in the woods brings the dead back to life -- with "minor" problems. At first, only the family's cat makes the return trip, but an accident forces a heartbroken father to contemplate the unthinkable. --TMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: March 01, 2006
Dr. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) has just moved his family from Chicago to a small farmhouse in Maine. He brings along with him his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), his daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl), and his toddler son Gage (Miko Hughes), and everything seems like it's going to work out nicely in this quiet little town. A problem soon makes itself apparent, however, when the family realizes that the street in front of their house is one of the main roads that a nearby factory sends its trucks down, and these rather large trucks have no problems speeding down said road with little care to who or what may be in it. This fact almost causes a fatal accident on the day of their arrival when young Gage wanders out towards the road, but this accident is avoided thanks to the quick actions of their friendly neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne, better known as Herman Munster). What a way to make an introduction, indeed. Meanwhile, young Ellie has noticed a path leading into the woods, and the question is popped as to what this leads to. Jud explains that it leads to a "Pet Sematary" that the local kids made, and he also explains that this cemetery is quite heavily populated thanks to this very road that almost took Gage's life.

Skipping ahead in the movie and avoiding some spoilers, we eventually get to Thanksgiving time. The Creed family, minus Louis, is going to have a big dinner with Rachel's parents. It seems as though her parents aren't too fond of the man that she married, so Louis decides that it would be best for them to go while he stays home. During this time, Ellie's cat decides that it would be pretty fun to run across the road, but this turns out to be a pretty dumb move... can anyone say roadkill? Louis finds out about it and is all set to bury it and break his daughter's heart with the news, until Jud mentions that they should bury it somewhere else. He leads Louis to an old Indian burial ground and tells him to bury the cat there, and after all is said and done, Louis returns home and calls it a night. The next morning, he wakes up to find that this cat came back... but something isn't quite right with it. That's all pushed aside a few weeks later, however, when Gage wanders out in the road and doesn't have Jud around to pull him out of the way. With his son laying in a coffin and his family grieving, Louis' mind wanders back to those Indian burial grounds...

What we have here is a horror movie that, while slightly flawed, does a damned good job at pulling some scares out of the audience. The mood of the film, the visuals, and the musical score all work together beautifully, and as a result, both the storyline and a couple of scenes in particular will stick with you long after the credits have rolled. In my personal opinion, this is one of the better Stephen King film adaptations, ranking up there in the top three at least. When watching the film, it's easy to tell that the story came from the mind of King; it has his style written all over it, and there's more than a few "holy fuck" scenes to be found that again are the signature style of King.

Now, I did say that the movie was slightly flawed, so I can't heap all of this praise onto it without detailing that side of things. By far, the largest fault of the film comes from a character played by Brad Greenquist who I purposefully left out of the plot description up above to avoid spoiling it. The problem isn't with the man himself, as he was a decent enough actor, but it's the character that hurts things in my view. You see, he was an accident victim that died after Louis attended to him, and now his ghost is trying to prevent the Creed family from using this burial ground. He does this by appearing to Louis and flat-out telling him, he shows up in Ellie's dreams, and he plants subconscious ideas into Rachel's head that will lead her to discovering what Louis is up to. On paper, it sounds like a pretty contrived piece of the storyline, but it could have worked out had it been handled better. The problem comes from the fact that this character is mainly used for comedic relief in the second half of the movie. We'll see some creepy things happen, the mood will be built up quite nicely, and then he'll pop up with a joke and just kill everything that the director had built up. I understand what the inclusion of this character was supposed to convey, but this idea would have been much better had it been left in the book. It worked out nicely there, but here, it flopped... and hard.

The other problem that I had with the film was some of the acting to be found in it. Dale Midkiff has his moments in the lead role, but for the most part, he comes across as being clueless as to what to do with the character. There's one scene in particular where he's supposed to be mourning his son and mulling over the burial ground idea, and he's supposed to be quiet, deep in thought, and withdrawn from the people around him. Instead, he seems like he's sitting there bored to tears and waiting for something good to come on TV. Again, he did have a few scenes that he pulled off nicely, but for the most part, the movie would have been better with a different lead actor. The late Fred Gwynne is great in his role, and I highly enjoyed every last moment that he was on screen. His character did have a few problems, mainly due to some bad writing (there's one scene in particular that was just horrible, and South Park parodied it to perfection), but he handles things nicely even in these scenes. A good actor can't save the scene when the writing is bad, but he can at least make you not want to hit that fast-forward button. Finally, we have Miko Hughes. Yes, the toddler son himself. He was two years old during the filming of this movie, and honestly, he outperforms his screen dad in the acting department. I'm not saying that to be funny or anything, but the kid does a damned fine job when the ending rolls around. The fact that he was only two years old makes that even more impressive.

It's not perfect, but there's a good reason that this movie is fondly remembered by horror fans. As always, the upcoming remake of this film is going to piss all over the original, and it'll more than likely be geared towards the mall-going teenagers who think that a butcher-knife wielding man in a white mask is the scariest thing of the last twenty years. At least the original is a quality experience, and nothing can kill that. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 03/07/2006, 06:12 PM
Fred Gwynne is, by far, the best thing about this film. I love his death scene, and he adds so much color and depth. 7/10.
Shakes #2: Shakes - added 08/11/2008, 01:29 AM
This film has always had an eerie, sort of wicked vibe about it. I watched it a lot as a kid, but I think nowadays I would have to be in the right frame of mind. Very enjoyable, nonetheless. 7/10
Chad #3: Chad - added 06/24/2011, 02:00 PM
I watched this again today... well, I watched about half of it. Definitely didn't strike a chord with me like it did when I wrote that review. Maybe it was because I recently re-read the novel, but whatever it was, this movie just didn't click. The acting was horrible (Midkiff was fucking wretched), the characters were unlikable, there were too many jump scares, the storyline was changed too much, and although I didn't get that far into the movie this time, the comedic relief of Pascow would have irked me. 4/10.
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