Pet Sematary (1989)
Director: Mary Lambert
The Creeds just moved into a new home in beautiful Ludlow, Maine. They’re a happy, loving family until a “Mack Truck” and a “pet graveyard” that re-animates the buried dead, changes all that. It all goes very wrong...
Sometimes dead is better…
"Pet Sematary" was a brave book, probably Stephen King’s more merciless tale, which I for one appreciated this cinematic adaptation not holding back or softening up in terms of the vicious punches that were found in its source material. How I see it, some movies are as good as what you bring to them when you're watching them. Who you are and your ability to connect to the content in question can amplify its worth. "Pet Sematary" means a lot to me, it talks to me and whatever faults it has, are therefore rendered somewhat inconsequential.
The themes brought up here were universal. Family”, “love”, our biggest fear being “death” and “egoism” were subjects touched upon and I connected to all of them. But the one that hit home the hardest was the nature of “loss” and not being able to cope with it. Anybody out there who's ever been in a relationship that failed and then refused to accept it will understand the emotional torment this piece covers. When something is over, it's over and the more you hold on to the past and the more you try to make it like it used to be, the more it fails and possibly snowballs into something very ugly. "Pet Sematary" takes that human condition and steroids it, with death being the situation and the possibility of altering it, the moral question.
I relished the character-driven nature of this film, adored the dangerous questions it asked of us, got the chills many times due to the morbid images served up and respected the unapologetic brutal finale. Yes, some of the human interaction did feel a tad "off" at times. I can’t pin-point if it was due to the acting or the dialogue or a bit of both, but I easily let that go, engulfed by what was brought up, entranced by my attachment to the appealing characters and the unfortunate chain of events that had befallen them. Couple all that with a gripping eerie visual coating, an effective Maine location, genuine scary moments and a touching score and you get an offering that pulled all of my more receptive strings.
On paper, "Pet Sematary" is NOT a perfect movie. The screenplay written by Stephen King tries too hard to retain the many subplots that were found in the book. Since it’s playing within a 1 hour and 48 minutes time frame, the subplots felt rushed and didn’t have the impact they should’ve had. In my perfect world, Zelda and the house keeper business would’ve been snipped out to leave more room to witness the grieving process in between “the loss” and the evolution of the lead character into a state of denial, obsession and madness. I also didn’t care for the eventual physical manifestation of the evil presence within the woods; but that’s just me.
Having said that, "Pet Sematary" is easily one of my favorite King film adaptations and it more than compensated for it shortcomings by reeling me in with its courage, its somber aura, its appealing characterization, its disturbing images and its fearlessness in exploring those dark corners that most mainstream horror films never dare think of entering in the first place. This flick gets me every time. Loss is pain and pain is part of being human. Death is the bottom-line. I need a drink…
The violence here got disgustingly messy with scalpel action (all about the ankle bit), a slashed mouth, a ripped-out throat, a face half carved out, self face mutilation, a hideous deformed chick and more.
Dale Midkiff (Louis) was very photogenic and hit most of the right emotional notes. I dug him. Fred Gwynn (Jud) gave a sympathetic performance, even with the marbles in his mouth. Denise Crosby (Rachel) worked for me big-time, she gave the part that special “oomph” needed to elevate it beyond what it was on paper. Brad Greenquist (Victor) did what he had to do well. Miko Hughes (Gage) was 2 years old when they shot this film, props to whoever got that performance out of him and props to him for obviously being precociously talented. Although the character of Ellie whined a tad too much for my taste, twin sisters Blaze and Beau Berdhal’s, who shared the role (Ellie) were credible and therefore made it bearable.
T & A
We get none and I wanted none.
Known for her work in music videos (Madonna’s "Like a Prayer" was her doing), Mary Lambert was thankfully restrained here, using her sharp eye to serve the story and not to drown it out. The best piece of style in this film had to be the use of photographs during a certain accident; to this day I have always remembered that technique and plan to use it in my own eventual foray into filmmaking. Thank you, Mary Lambert.
The score by Elliot Goldenthal was touching and yet quite sad. It worked. Although I groove on the Ramones and the rocking “Pet Sematary” tune, I wish they wouldn’t have rolled it during the end credits, it kind of negated the downbeat feel the movie was supposed to leave me with.
"Pet Sematary" will not please everybody and it does contain its weak points. But who I am as a person and what I bring to it every time I watch it never fails to make it quite the fulfilling watch. In the end, that’s all that matters. When it comes to film criticism, people always forget that we are all individuals, with our own demons and our own pasts defining who we are in the present. What will appeal to one, won’t necessarily appeal to all and there lies the somewhat "trivial" nature of critiquing film. Sure, you can break a film down, analyze its technical aspects, narrative flaws…what not. But there’s more to film than the “surface”, there’s also the emotional resonance and that is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Are you going to enjoy "Pet Sematary"? Will you get what I got out of it? I don’t know! Will you agree with this review? It doesn’t matter! Just watch the film and find out for yourself how YOU feel about it. As for me, that drink is calling my name…and I’m about to answer.
George Romero was attached to direct the film for a while. He didn’t wind up doing it. Why? Rumor has it, he had a "falling out" with the film’s producer.
This film’s budget was US$11.5 Million.
Seven cats were used to play the part of "Church."
Stephen King has a cameo as a minister in this film.
Two actresses played the part of Ellie (Beau and Blaze Berdahl).
Mary Lambert, the director of "Pet Sematary", is best known for directing Madonna's music videos, "Like a Virgin", "Material Girl", and "Like a Prayer".
The character of "Zelda" was played by a man named Andrew Hubstsek.