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Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed by Mary Lambert  Novel and screenplay by Stephen King

  My mother had no trouble introducing the Horror genre to myself at quite a young age, as I’m sure for a lot of fans within the genre. One of the first movies I can ever remember generally being creeped out by was without a doubt, Pet Sematary. Having came up with the story through personal experience when King and his family lived in a familiar type setting shown in the film. With a main road of which also had an older man living across that forewarned of pet’s meeting their demise on such a road. Which in fact did occur with his daughter’s pet cat and same scare of their child almost walking onto the street. With also, a pet sematary near their house. I do know that the ending of this film was not like that of the novel however was added to give the film that extra “oomph.” I have not read and just to save for future reviews, any of King’s stories or books (well, some short stories). Nothing against him or his writing at all; I’d just rather watch a 2-3 hour adaptation of his work since they tend to cross over pretty well.

   It begins by displaying the inner workings within the pet sematary as we can hear the engravings being read for each pet. Nice little way to open the picture; immediately setting the eerie ways of King’s world. We see a family drive up to their new house…new beginning. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) have a 27 month old son Gage (Miko Hughes) and daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl); who was actually played by twins though Blaze is only credited. The Director stated that while they both played equal amounts, it was Blaze who put forth on the emotional scenes and gave Ellie the character needed. The family begins to settle in as Ellie runs up ahead to a tire swing, soon falling after warned of not swinging so hard. With the parents attention off their son it seems he finds his way to the never-ending street separating him from another’s house. Becoming dangerously close to a trucker passing by its not until a moment later that the parents begin to question his whereabouts. Racing to beat the trucker that seems to have no intention of hitting his brakes, their neighbor Jud Carandall (Fred Gwynne) beating them to the punch. A quick introduction is had as Rachel inquires where a path that started up ahead would lead to. Told of being something meant for another day, ending the night with Louis at Jud’s, having a beer and briefly discussing the power behind the cemetery.

  After getting some groceries and doing a bit more around the house Jud takes the Creed family up to the cemetery where he teaches Ellie a bit about death. but the situation seemingly making Rachel a bit on edge. That night Ellie goes to her father about the thought of losing her cat and claiming for God to get his own cat; the next day Louis hesitantly promising that the cat would be fine. He continues on to work where he gets his first patient Victor Pascow, (Brad Greenquist) who comes back to life briefly giving Louis a good scare to take home. In bed that night Victor appears again with the offer of helping him to have the favor returned. He leads him to the cemetery but warns of not breaking the barrier, saying before he left that it was the place the dead walked. Louis, unable to fathom the reality just revealed, kneels down wanting only to wake up; awakening back at home believing it to still be a dream. Until noticing his muddy feet under the blanket. Thanksgiving comes around as Rachel and the kids go to her father’s with Louis staying behind to hear of Ellie’s cat having become victim of the road. Jud offers a better solution than having to explain to the little girl what happened involving breaking the barrier that the nice creepy dead guy was cool enough to give you a heads up on! So hey, that’s what you get for not listening.

  Jud sits and watches as Louis prepares the grave well after dark before getting back home. Telling Louis that what they had done that night was to be a secret. The next day while working around the house he runs into their cat Church, who didn’t look so happy to see him, scratching his face and running off. Later Louis speaking with Jud to discuss the events of earlier and ask if anyone had ever tried to bury a person up there. Receiving a dismayed expression of concern in response.

  Brief cameo by Stephen King as the priest at the funeral for the Creed’s helper who assisted in certain bidding’s for the family. That night Rachel talks about her uneasiness towards the subject of death due to her sister Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek) who was hidden away in their home like the dirty secret they felt her to be. Being forced to care for her in her last hours, Rachel was left with the constant thought of her haunted past messing with her most days. The family plus Jud decide to have a picnic the next day as Louis begins teaching Gage how to fly a kite. Completely lost within the moment and averting his eyes away from his son who had began to wonder towards the street in hopes of catching the kite. However it was already too late as the trucker does attempt to turn away but was far beyond his control at that point. The funeral turns into further heartache as Rachel’s father blames Louis for not paying attention with a punch soon following. Leading to a fight involving Gage’s coffin being knocked over but not actually opening all the way. Confiding in Jud who tells him of a story of one person who had been buried and brought back to life. The thing being that whatever did come back from the burial ground would do so in an evil form. The moral of his story being that sometimes dead is just better.

  Rachel and Ellie leave for Chicago to be with her parents as Louis gives in to temptation by planning to dig up Gage. And if what Jud said was true and he came back evil, he could just put him back. Pascow trying to warn Louis, speaking to Ellie through her dreams as she wakens out of a nightmare to tell her mother to make sure her father was okay. Though an attempt to get a hold of her husband ends with Rachel leaving in a hurry to try and get home and ensure everything was alright. For Louis, the loss of his son having devastating effects. The thought of making sense of the situation was replaced by the feeling of just wanting his son back, no matter the cost. Rachel races home to find passed memories come back to life in the form of dreams and warnings as Louis makes his way back to the burial ground with Gage. Everything in nature attempting to stop him but his will proving too strong and prevailing. The deed is completed regardless as Louis waits at the house for what comes back as an evil version of his beautiful boy. Who retrieves a scalpel from his father’s medical bag and leaves a bleeding impression on Jud, waiting for his mother who was close behind.

   Though Rachel is greeted by her sister once again and the sight of her lost son who she gladly embraces, only to be met by death upon his hand. Louis wakes up the next day to find tiny footprints that could only belong to his son with the telephone ringing and Gage on the other line saying how he wanted his father to go across the street. Claiming to have played with both Jud and his mother and wanting to play with his father next. Somehow the child was able to hang his mother from the attic door and jumps down in an effort to make his father his next victim. After burning the house down it seems Louis has not yet learned his lesson, returning for a third visit to the burial ground to bury his wife. Waiting on the kitchen floor to receive his last wish come true with the ultimate sacrifice being his life. At least he got what he wanted.

Final thoughts: It’s safe to say that this film still gives me the same chills as I found myself holding my breath and not always able to look at the screen. Referring to whenever Zelda would be on at least. I had never even knew the role was played by a man but had seemed they were unable to locate a woman skinny enough to play the role turning out to be a great thing if you ask me. (Even if you didn’t ask me) And how about Miko? Was he not the creepiest little boy you’d ever seen? This entire film oozed an agonizing worry for this family that was doomed from the beginning with their new start bringing only false ends of happiness to their once congruent life.

  Great cast. Though I will state that I’ve always found Ellie to be quite annoying all throughout. I didn’t necessarily feel bad for the little girl and that bothered me. Though credit due to Miko for being able to capture the screen and audiences at just 27 months. The director was advised to hire twins as had with Ellie due to child labor laws but Lambert fought for him stating she knew he would be able to do it. I had heard that both George Romero and Tom Savini were both considered to direct the film and I’m not sure how much truth is to that but I’m not sure I can picture this film being shot any better than it was. Everything seemed to come together so perfectly as tends to in King’s world and adaptations. The director also stated Gwynne was her first and last choice for Jud, as others didn’t think with the previous persona in The Munsters that he would be able to pull off the role. I thought his towering height and humble demeanor fit well with his willingness to share this secret of life after death with someone, anyone it seemed who was willing to listen. Then having Pascow as the added element of the guardian angel, or trying to be at least. This guy felt sorry for the doc and persistently went after them all as some means to do what couldn’t be done with him. King had insisted in this film being made in Maine; in fact was only 20 minutes away from where he lived. We follow Louis on this constant path of tragedy as it seems this guy just can’t catch a break. All attempts to “make things better” ended with twice the tragedy. All in all, another one of King’s well told horror stories of regular people always getting the rigged side of the stick in life. Holds tight to that scare factor living on two decades later and being just as impressive.