Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary gives you everything that you could ever want from a Stephen King adaptation. It’s got that small town Maine vibe, good characterisation and a creeping sense of unnatural horror into normality. The ace in the hole here (aside from the source material) is that King himself penned the screenplay for this adaptation.
Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby play a couple who move into a new home with their young son (Miko Hughes). Near their house is a busy road and an abandoned pet cemetery (labeled Pet Sematary) which much more sinister than it first appears. In fact, it seems to bring the dead back to life. Soon everyone seems to make very bad decisions – mostly involving dead cats and dead children.
There’s quite a lot to enjoy in Pet Sematary. Fred Gwynne delivers a wonderful performance as the couple’s elderly neighbour who knows more than he is letting on, while Peter Stein’s cinematography (or should that be sinematography) and Elliot Goldenthal’s score add a touch of class. Lambert manages to keep the human moments in check, which helps the horror elements pay-off later in the movie.
Over the years there have been a slew of Stephen King adaptations and Pet Sematary is one of the most successful at the box office. The film scored over $57 million at the US box office (a number the recent remake will struggle to hit), placing it in fifth place behind It, The Green Mile, 1408 and Misery. People must just love zombie cats and killer kids.
Thirty years on and Pet Sematary still hits the mark. It might not be the greatest Stephen King adaptation (hello Stand By Me) but it has enough good core elements to make it one of the finer screen adaptations of the horror meister’s work.
This 30th anniversary blu-ray release of Pet Sematary is loaded with extras. You get a Mary Lambert director’s commentary, a new feature where the cast of the 2019 adaptation discuss this 1989 effort, a look back on the film from Lambert, storyboards and more. A great release.