Pet Sematary (1989)
Director: Mary Lambert
Louis Creed- Dale Midkiff
Rachel Creed- Denise Crosby
Gage Creed- Miko Hughes
Ellie Creed- Blaze Berdahl
Jud Crandall- Fred Gwynne
Victor Pascow- Brad Greenquist
Zelda (Rachel’s sister)- Andrew Hubatsek
I’m doing this review in a slightly different format. This is yet another movie adaptation of one of Stephen King’s novels. As a movie from my childhood, I truly always enjoyed this film. It was one that I watched with my Dad as he was a HUGE King fan and had read almost every book King had written. I have since inherited what was left of those books. But as a kid, this movie was both pleasant and creepy to watch.
This is the story of a family tragedy. A tragedy of love, hate and denial. Louis Creed thinks he’s doing a good thing for his family when he moves them from Chicago to a small, rural community called Ludlow in Maine. This place is a magnificent change from the hustle and bustle of the big city and the idea of small town living seems like just the refresher they need as a family. Louis has gotten a job as a doctor at the University of Maine.
They quickly befriend their neighbor, Jud Crandall, who is an old man that lives across the road from them. He warns them about the crazy traffic on this little country highway, a road that truckers and other vehicles seem to fly down at outrageous speeds with little to no regard for anyone’s safety. This warning comes from an incident that happens the first day there. Gage is a toddler and while no one has their eye on him, he wanders out through the front yard and almost gets hit by a trucker barreling down the highway. Jud grabs him up just in time and proceeds to give the warning to Lewis and Rachel.
Meanwhile, as they unpack the car, we meet their older child, daughter Ellie and her beautiful cat Winston Churchill, Church for short. They get to talking about pets and Jud tells them about a pet cemetery that is down a path that starts in their yard. He takes them to the pet cemetery and tells them that his own pet is buried there. It’s a creepy makeshift graveyard with a sign over the entrance that reads, “Pet Sematary”, scrawled in childlike paint strokes.
Now, when Louis goes to work on his first day, the day is anything but uneventful. He meets a young man named Victor Pascow who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Louis tries to treat him but, he soon succumbs to his injuries. Just before Pascow dies, he warns Lewis about the pet cemetery telling him the not to cross the barrier. Louis is shaken and creeped out as Pascow lays there dead and bloody, his words echoing in his ears. Later that night, Pascow comes to Louis and takes him to The Pet Sematary, warning him again that the barrier should not be crossed and that the ground is “sour”. Louis wakes up thinking it was just a dream yet, his feet are soiled with dirt.
Some time later, when Rachel and the kids are away for Thanksgiving, Church gets run over but a truck on the dangerous stretch of highway. Jud and Louis, to prevent Ellie from finding out her cat died and her sorrow that would inevitably follow, take the cat past the bounds of the Pet Sematary and bury Church in the “sour” ground.
Church comes back but, he’s not himself. He’s lethargic, he smells really bad (perhaps like death) and is viciously aggressive towards Louis. When Louis bring this difference up to Jud, Jud tells him that he buried his own dog up there and he wasn’t the same when he came back either. He still reassures Louis that, though Church is different, it’s worth sparing Ellie the heartache of losing her favorite pet.
Shortly after all this happens, poor little Gage, who once again wasn’t being watched closely, wanders into the road after his kite gets away from him and is hit by a truck and killed. Guilt ridden and devastated, Louis ignores Jud’s warning to not bury Gage in the sour ground and steals Gage’s body from his actual burial site and re-inters him in the area beyond the Pet Sematary. Rachel and Ellie are not home as they have gone to Rachel’s parent’s house after Gage’s funeral. Unfortunately, Ellie has been dreaming of Pascow ever since he died and he now comes to Ellie, warning her that her Dad is going to do something terrible. Rachel is unsettled by this and decides to return home after being unable to reach Louis.
That night, Gage comes back and kills Jud with a scalpel he takes out of Louis’ medical bag. Rachel returns to her home only to be coaxed over to Jud’s house by the haunting voice and memory of her dead sister Zelda. Instead of finding her sister, she finds Gage with the blood covered scalpel. She reaches down to hug him, not realizing what has happened and Gage kills her.
Louis returns home to get a call from Gage. He’s at Jud’s. He asks his Dad if he wants to play and says he’s already played with Mommy. He concludes the call with an eerie childlike giggle.
Louis fills two syringes with Morphine and heads to Jud’s house. On his way out of his own home, he encounters Church and kills him with an injection. Then he goes to Jud’s. He finds both Jud and his wife dead. After a brief struggle he injects Gage with the Morphine and Gage dies again.
Absolutely devastated by grief, he takes Rachel’s body and burns down Jud’s house. He takes Rachel to bury her in the “sour ground” even though Pascow comes to him yet again, warning him not to make it worse. But, Louis is losing his grip on reality and believes that this time it will work because Rachel has not been dead as long as Gage was when he buried him up there.
That very night, Rachel returns, her body a bloody and slashed shell of what she once was. She approaches Louis, who has been awaiting her return and they hug each other, Rachel’s rotting flesh not bothering Louis. As they hold each other, Rachel picks up a large butcher knife from the kitchen table and Louis screams in agonizing terror as the screen goes black.
This is a great movie. Though it’s not on King’s list of his top ten favorite movie adaptations of his books, he does still have a cameo in this film as the minister that performs Gage’s service. He often cameos in the movies of his books.
The special effects make up in this movie are excellent. Rachel’s sister, who is played by a man, is probably the scariest character to me. It’s truly just bone chilling the way they portray this sister.
Also, the whole idea is one that people often think about after losing people they love. What IF we could bring them back? Would they be the same? This is a story that tells the age-old lesson of how you shouldn’t mess with nature and things beyond nature too much. It’s almost like the tale of the trick the Devil pulls when he grants a wish or trades your soul for fulfilling a desire you have.
Also, these parents would NOT be getting the Parents of the Year award, let me just say that. There are two times in this movie that a toddler wanders to the street. What the hell are these people doing???? They just are some of the most inattentive parents ever!
The laughs and giggles from Gage and the cries and yells from Zelda are truly something that could give you the willies.
This movie is truly a gem of a classic Stephen King horror story. Any King fan will love it and I can’t imagine horror fans not liking it because of the whole story line.