Pet Sematary (1989)

Cinemaster Score: 6/10

Overall Review

Pet Semetary (1989) is a cult classic in every sense. Anyone looking closely can see that this film has its flaws, but that’s what makes it so memorable. The mediocre acting, the over reliance on rehashing quotes for a script, and a somewhat dull bunch of characters can make for a less than desirable experience. But, for some reason, there is a strange joy that comes from watching it – as all of its flaws make for a charming and faithful adaption of the beloved book of the same name. Of course, what can’t be overlooked is Mary Lambert’s distinct directorial style and the unsettling creepy vibe this film gives any who watch it. On the outside, it seems like a campy cheesy horror movie (which it is), but in its core it’s easy to see the great moments that make Pet Semetary (1989) such an iconic film. Any movie willing to take such controversial scenes and make them their own in an entertaining way is a must see. Therefore, Pet Semetary (1989) is the very definition of a must see.

The Breakdown

Acting; Now when it comes to acting, Pet Semetary (1989) has its moments of extreme cheesiness and lack of emotion. It adds to the charm of this classic film, but is nonetheless noticeable. Dale Midkiff was cast as Louis Creed and he is perhaps the worst of the bunch. In dramatic scenes, he either over acts or doesn’t put in the right emotion for the given scene. Again, it is bad, but somehow makes the film even better. Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall is perfect for the role, getting everything down to the deep accent he had in the book. Gwynne is a great addition to the movie, embodying his character down to the last line but still making it his own. But the real star is Miko Hughes as Gage Creed. He is easily the best cast character in the film, bringing a perfect mix of young innocence and sinister intention. His performance pushes this film to cult classic status and the film should be watched just for him. So – while not having the best acting – it’s still solid across the board with a couple shining moments in it.

Script; One word can very easily describe the script for this Stephen King adaptation. Confused. In the first stab at bringing Pet Semetary (1989) to the silver screen there is a fair amount to be desired. When it comes to the film’s script though, there’s quite a bit of mumble jumble. To start, the use of lines from the book is weird. In Pet Sematary (1989) it seems like they are trying too hard to get a dash of everything and viewers who haven’t read the book could be easily confused. At some points they insert lines or whole scenes that aren’t necessary for this adaptation. As well as adding in additional lines later on in memories or thoughts that weren’t already said to be remembered in the first place. But the main problem is what is added as original lines. There are plenty of lines that are really difficult to listen to without cringing and it almost takes away from the film’s odd charm. The script does have some enjoyable tidbits but as a whole it disappoints.

Characters; As mentioned earlier, Gage Creed is the star of this adaption – putting in one of the best performances in the movie. He makes us care for him, even more so than the main character thanks to his excellent portrayal. The second best character is again, Jud Crandall who is near perfect here, with all the mannerisms he had in the book transferred down to his iconic lines and even his smaller moments. The remaining characters are somewhat dull as they do take a backseat to Jud and Gage. Louis Creed in particular is pretty hit or miss with his role in the film, with his wife Rachael and daughter Ellie holding together the rest of it. Pet Semetary (1989) has an all around solid group of characters with a few bright spots – making it one of the more faithful Stephen King adaptations.

Direction; Today we recognize Mary Lambert. Though she’s not a household name, there’s also zero reason for her to be. For those who couldn’t tell from the section of our critical breakdown that this falls into, Lambert was the director for Pet Sematary (1989). Mary Lambert’s direction in this cult classic is definitely her best work. Although, most of her films aren’t so great whatsoever. Unfortunately, Lambert was hired to heed this project rather than a big name or at least someone with more experience. The film fits her style through and through with her directed movies prior to this one being B-grade at best. The only differences that can make Pet Sematary (1989) even remotely successful in comparison to her others are the inspiration from a novel and the ability to slap on Stephen King’s name with it. Without that, this film would likely just be another dud from a mediocre director.

Story; While it is pretty safe to assume mostly anyone who’s heard of Pet Semetary (1989) knows the key scenes that define its legacy, but nevertheless we won’t spoil it for you here. The plot revolves around Louis Creed and his family moving from the big city of Chicago to the rural Ludlow, Maine. As they situate into their new environment, the characters deal with great emotional grief, psychological horror, and familial hardships. They are joined by Jud Crandall who uses his knowledge of the area to provide warmth and guidance to the Creed family. This is basically the story of the book translated to screen with a few minor alterations, making for a faithful representation of King’s work. This classic will cater to both horror fans and fans of King himself, with the most important scenes being played out well in the film. So if you want an adaption of a classic book that presents it accurately while also making for an entertaining time, Pet Semetary (1989) is your best bet.

Enjoyment; Almost all movies – no matter how good or bad – are entertaining in some way. But whether or not they’re enjoyable is a completely different story. So in the category defining how enjoyable a film is, Pet Sematary (1989) does not fare well. Watching this film without having read the book can be a mess. It’s hard to keep track of and care about the story as much. But if you have read the book you can at least wrap your head around what it’s trying to accomplish. Besides, the odd enjoyment spawned from scare factor is present in some grotesque and psychologically terrifying sequences. With these sequences are some practical effects that are iffy in convincing audiences, but for the most part they are satisfyingly wince-worthy. Pet Sematary (1989) is best having first read its concept-inspiring novel, as it is loyal to what it adapts. But if you haven’t read the forementioned book, don’t have expectations for enjoyment too high as it may be a muddled and confusing ride.

Personal Review

David: “Even though I recognize that critically Pet Semetary (1989) isn’t so great, I personally liked it quite a bit. Having finished the book earlier in the day of my first time seeing it, I could pick out and understand the pieces well. I enjoyed this film for it being unique in being scary in a sense of terrifying realities just as much as it is with classic horror tropes, something the genre lacks in modern days.”

JP: “When I saw Pet Semetary (1989) at a young age, I was absolutely horrified of it. It had a distinct vibe to it that resonated with me thanks to its excellent source material. It doesn’t have that effect on me now, but it is still relevant for its themes of grief, guilt, and unnerving sense of dread. For an old flick it’s still a scary good time, that entertains me still to this day.”


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