Pet Sematary Review

Pet Sematary
Despite intitial doubts about the stories that a pet burial ground is actually a spawning arena for the undead, Louis Creed (Midkiff) is forced to tackle the hell hole head on when his toddler is run over by a truck - perhaps he can grow to love the zombi

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

09 Nov 1989



Original Title:

Pet Sematary

Of the 15-plus King-derived movies, only Carrie, Stand By Me and (debatably) The Shining are outstanding. It’s also notable that no one is better at making bad or indifferent movies from the novels of Stephen King than Stephen King himself — he directed the video-only travesty Maximum Overdrive and scripted such losers as Silver Bullet, Cat’s Eye and Creepshow. Pet Sematary is one of King’s most personal and deeply affecting horror novels, replaying The Monkey’s Paw on an epic scale in order to tackle the fear of death, parental anguish and other weighty topics. So why does it fall so flat?

One of the problems is that King usually writes about cliche subjects so well that you don’t notice the hackneyed aspects of his books, and so when all the character detail, precise backgrounding and elaborate plot setting-up mechanisms are pruned away, all you get is a dumb TV movie with characters doing insanely stupid things to prolong the agony.

Here, our hero (Midkiff) is told by an eccentric old neighbour (Gwynne) that things buried in the Micmac graveyard beyond the pet cemetery come back to life as soulless monsters. This is demonstrated when a dead cat returns as a neon-eyed fiend. Midkiff is also told that human beings come back as violent zombies, and there’s a brain-spattering ghost popping up at odd intervals warning him never to tamper with the forces of life and death. Predictably, he ignores the advice and when his toddling son is killed on the road, he robs his child’s grave with a bathetic cry of “I’m gonna bust you out, son” and heads off to get the kid back. In the book, with 300 pages of motivation, you can just about swallow the plot. But in the film this is impossible and you have to sit impatiently through scene after silly scene before the zombie attacks start. Pet Sematary has ambitions to be more than just another zombie flick, but it finally comes over as being more like a precis of its source novel than a proper adaptation of it.

Literary success fails to make the leap to film again, with another hacked-up, sloppy screenplay from King.
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