Pet Sematary is a 1989 American horror movie based on Stephen King's 1983 novel of the same name that was directed by Mary Lambert, starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne, Brad Greenquist, Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl.
A sequel Pet Sematary Two was met with less financial and critical success.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The Creed family (which consists of Louis & Rachel, their daughter Ellie and son Gage) move from Chicago to the rural town of Ludlow, Maine when Louis is offered a job as a doctor with the University of Maine. After settling in, they befriend their elderly neighbor Jud Crandall, who takes them to an isolated pet cemetery in the forest behind the Creeds' new home.
On his first day at work, Louis meets a jogger named Victor Pascow who is brought in with severe injuries from a car accident. He warns Louis about the pet cemetery before he dies, calling Louis by name despite the fact they have not previously met. After Pascow dies, he comes to Louis in the night and leads him to the Pet Sematary, warning him not to cross the barrier because the ground beyond is "sour". Louis awakens assuming it was a dream, but notices his feet are covered in dirt.
During Thanksgiving while the family is gone, Ellie's cat, Church is run down on the highway in front of the house and Jud takes Louis to the cemetery and deep into the woods where they reach an abandoned Micmac burial ground. Without explanation, Jud instructs Louis to bury the cat and warns Louis not to tell anyone else about what they have done.
The next day, Church comes back to life, but he has a bad odor, moves slugglishly and is vicious towards Louis. Later on, Gage is killed after being hit by a truck along the same highway. The family is devastated over Gage's death and Jud thinks that Louis is considering burying his son in the Micmac ground, but Louis denies it.
After Jud tells Louis about how his son, Timmy was buried in the Micmac ground after he was killed in World War II and came back to life as a zombie, he warns him that the ground is evil and should not bury Gage there. After Gage's funeral, Ellie and Rachel go back to Chicago while Louis stays back home where he exhumes Gage's body and buries him at the ritual site despite Jud and Pascow warning him not to do it.
Back in Chicago, Pascow appears to Ellie in a dream and warns her that Louis is about to do something terrible. Rachel is unnerved by Ellie's dream, but she is only able to reach Jud when she calls home, who tells her Louis is not home.
Rachel decides to return to Maine and that same night, Gage returns home and he steals a scalpel from his father's bag. He taunts Jud before slashing his Achilles tendon and kills him.
When Rachel returns home, she is lured into Jud's house by the voice and specter of her deceased sister Zelda (who died from spinal meningitis when Rachel was young) only to discover that she is actually seeing Gage, holding a scalpel. In shock and disbelief, Rachel reaches down to hug him and he kills her.
Waking up from his sleep, Louis notices Gage's muddy footprints in the house and discovers that his scalpel is missing. Receiving a phone call from Gage that he has "played" with Jud and "Mommy", Louis fills two syringes with morphine and heads to Jud's house.
When he encounters Church, he kills it with an injection before entering the house. Gage taunts Louis further and Louis is startled by Rachel's corpse which is falling hanged from the attic before he is attacked by Gage.
After a brief battle, Louis kills Gage with the morphine injection, then lights the house on fire and carries Rachel's dead body out of the house.
Pascow appears to Louis and warns him not to "make it worse" but Louis (who is now grief-stricken to the point of insanity) believes that because Rachel wasn't dead long as Gage was & burying her "will work this time". Pascow cries out in frustration and vanishes as Louis passes through him.
That night, a horribly mutilated Rachel returns to Louis & they embrace each other, but Rachel takes a knife from the counter and Louis' screams of pain are heard as the screen cuts to black, ending the movie.
- Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed
- Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall
- Denise Crosby as Rachel Goldman-Creed
- Miko Hughes as Gage Creed
- Blaze Berdahl as Ellie Creed
- Brad Greenquist as Victor Pascow
- Michael Lombard as Irwin Goldman
- Susan Blommaert as Missy Dandridge
- Mara Clark as Marcy Charlton
- Kavi Raz as Steve Masterton
- Mary Louise Wilson as Dory Goldman
- Andrew Hubatsek as Zelda Goldman
- Lisa Stathoplos as Jud's mother
- Stephen King as Minister
- Chuck Courtney as Bill Baterman
- Peter Stader as Timmy Baterman
The film rights to "Pet Sematary" were sold to George A. Romero in 1984 for $10,000. Stephen King had previously declined several other offers for a film adaptation and Romero eventually had to pull out of the production, because he was busy working on "Monkey Shines."
The movie was filmed from September 15, 1988 to November 11, 1988 and was shot in Maine, including Mount Hope Cemetery. The Micmac burial ground in the film was constructed upon an actual mountain top and according to Mary Lambert, bulldozers were brought in to build the stone mounds.
The role of Rachel's sister, Zelda was played by a man because Lambert wanted Zelda & her scenes to be frightening and didn't believe that a 13-year-old girl could be scary, so he cast a male actor, Andrew Hubastek in the role to make it something be "off about Zelda."
Judd Crandall's house for the film was actually a facade built upon a smaller preexisting house. For the movie's finale where the house is burned, an asbestos shield was constructed between the two houses so that while burning the facade so no damage would occur to the smaller house that it was built upon.
Stephen King made a cameo appearance in the movie as the minister at Gage's funeral.
"Pet Sematary" topped the box office, grossing $12,046,179 during its opening weekend with an average of $7,600. In total, it grossed $57,469,467.
On Rotten Tomatoes, "Pet Sematary"reports that 43% of 23 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.2/10. Variety called it "undead schlock dulled by a slasher-film mentality".
Critic Vincent Canby wrote that the film "has some effectively ghoulish moments" but "fails mostly because it doesn't trust the audience to do any of the work".
Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Lambert goes for strong, succinct images and never stops to worry whether there's a lack of credibility or motivation."
Richard Harrington of The Washington Post called it "bland, cliched, cheap" and he criticized Gage's actions as disturbing and the climax as "an ugly payoff to an inept setup".
Bloody Disgusting rated it 4.5/5 stars and wrote, "The plot alone would make for a scary movie, but by injecting excellent atmosphere, capable acting and generally nightmarish scenes, Pet Sematary is a truly effective horror flick and well worth the price of admission."
At Dread Central, Steve Barton rated it 4/5 stars and called the movie one of the best King adaptations. Jason Jenkins rated it 3.5/5 stars and also called it "one of the better King adaptations of the period".
Andy Webb from movie review website TheMovieScene.co.uk wrote in his review of the film: "What this all boils down to is that whilst "Pet Sematary" may be based on the Stephen King story and even sees the author appear in a small cameo, is for the most disappointing. It feels almost rudimentary in the way it sets up the story and feels like it's been hacked to pieces in it's adaptation to the big screen. It's only really saving grace is a memorable visual ending which is both horrific and disturbing, but this doesn't make up for the misplaced humour and over telegraphing of dramatic moments."