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Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary

By Jamie Suckley • April 3rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Paramount Pictures

Original release: April 21st, 1989
Running time: 103 minutes

Director: Mary Lambert
Writer: Stephen King
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal

Cast: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl

Pet Sematary

I’ve always wondered what would happen if we could reanimate the dead. All the questions we could find the answers to: what does it feel like to die? Is there a Heaven and Hell? Just think of all the gossip and scandal from celebrities and public figures who’d give us an insight into their deaths. But in the back of my mind the idea terrifies me. What if the dead came back as evil versions of their former selves fuelled by blood lust?

Directed by Mary Lambert and with a screenplay by King, the 1989 cult classic Pet Sematary focuses on the Creed family; Louis (Dale Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), their daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and young Gage (Miko Hughes) who relocate from city life to a new home based in the county. They befriend next-door neighbour Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who tells them about a pet cemetery situated down an overgrown path. It’s filled with the animals claimed by the busy road, which runs past the houses where trucks carelessly speed by.

Whilst working, Louis treats Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist), a car accident victim who dies on the operation table, but not before delivering a cryptic message. Later that night Victor, in the form of a ghostly apparition, visits him, warning, “the barrier was not meant to be crossed”. Louis thinks it was a nightmare but can’t explain the dirt on his feet the next morning. When the Creed’s cat Church becomes a statistic on the roads fatality list and whilst the family members are away, Louis is taken to an ancient Indian burial ground situated beyond the cemetery by Jud where Church is buried. The cat returns home seemingly alive and well, which gives Louis the impression that he buried the cat alive. But church is dead, an evil shell of himself, smelling of decomposition and full of aggression. Jud explains that the “dead don’t stay dead” when buried in the ancient ground which leaves him wondering if people could be buried there too.

Pet Sematary

Louis and his family are about to understand the consequences of playing God. It was only a matter of time before something tragic happens; a busy road, a family picnic, a toddler and a speeding trucker, you can see where I’m going. The film’s main theme generally deals with death but it isn’t just a straightforward horror, it provides an insight into our own fears about the death of our friends and loved ones and the effects it has on us as human beings. Rachel has a fear of death, which stems from the guilt surrounding her sister’s demise to spinal meningitis, which disfigured her and the refusal to care for her as she wailed for assistance. Rachel is reminded of this later as the film progresses. When King was interviewed regarding the ideas behind the novel he said:

When ideas come, they don’t arrive with trumpets. They are quiet – there is no drama involved. I can remember crossing the road, and thinking that the cat had been killed in the road… and [I thought] what if a kid died in that road? And we had had this experience with Owen running toward the road, where I had just grabbed him and pulled him back. And the two things just came together- on one side of this two-lane highway was the idea of what if the cat came back, and on the other side of the highway was what if the kid came back- so that’s when I reached the other side, I had been galvanized by the idea, but not in any melodramatic way. I knew immediately that it was a novel. [1]

Pet Sematary

King has the ability not only to terrify us with supernatural elements but also highlights parental fears of having to bury their children; I can only imagine the distress and emotional heartbreak it would cause. Losing a pet is bad enough, but to lose a child is unimaginable. The film captures these fears and although we don’t see Gage’s death full-on, the small shoe bouncing across the road was enough for me. When I first saw this scene I shocked and from that moment as a viewer you know Louis is going to take his son’s body to the burial ground. Normally the idea of a small child being a killer is humorous but evil Gage is creepy, and did I mention how brutal he is?


  • Spegresi, Stephen J, The Essential Stephen King (2003), New Page Books, US [1]

The ending of the film expands on King’s 1983 novel but all I’ll say is that it’s not all smiles. By the time the titles rolled your emotions are all over the place, should you be scared or sad? Well your emotions have mutated into one. When released Pet Sematary was met with mixed reviews but over the years has earned itself a cult classic status and was followed by a sequel, Pet Sematary 2 (1992), staring Edward Furlong and also directed by Lambert. Although it had no input from King other than the initial idea and was considered a flop, for a sequel it wasn’t that bad.

Pet Sematary is one of my favourite king adaptations, not only is it filled with tension and supernatural horror but it also brings home the fears of losing our loved ones. It taught me one life lesson: Let the sleeping dead lie and never bury anything on an Indian Burial Ground. It can only lead to more emotional heartbreak and murder.

Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.

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