(director/writer: Mary Lambert; screenwriter: Stephen King/based on the novel by Stephen King; cinematographer: Peter Stein; editors: Dan Hanley/Michael Hill; music: Elliott Goldenthall; cast: Dale Midkiff (Louis Creed), Denise Crosby (Mrs. Rachel Creed), Fred Gwynne (Jud Crandall), Susan Blommaert (Missy Dandridge), Brad Greenquist (Victor Pascow), Blaze Berdahl (Ellie Creed), Miko Hughes (Gage Creed), Andrew Hubatsek (Zelda); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard P. Rubenstein; Paramount Pictures; 1989)
“It bombs despite King adapting the screenplay from his novel.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Mary Lambert (“Siesta”/”The In Crowd”) directs this absurd Stephen King horror story with few surprises and in a leaden way. It bombs despite King adapting the screenplay from his novel. This was the first-time King adapted to the screen one of his novels. The best-seller novel became a box-office hit despite being morbid, shot as a low-level slasher pic and lacking any edge, genuine scares and suspense. Any way you slice it, the pic,a reworking of the The Monkey’s Paw(1902) tale, was a dud on the screen while in print it wasn’t that bad.
Medical doctor Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) accepts a teaching position at a local university in Maine. His wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and their two small children, the 6-year-old daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and 3-year-old son Gage (Miko Hughes), relocate from Chicago to rural Maine. The property is beautiful, but a road just outside their front yard has speeding trucks passing on a regular basis making things dangerous. Their old-timer neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), tells of many pets becoming road kill and their owners burying their pets at the Pet Sematary at the end of their property line. Jud also mentions that behind the Pet Sematary is an old Indian burial grounds and it’s rumored those buried there come back to life.
When Ellie’s pet cat Church is run over by a semi, Louis buries it at the Indian burial ground and that very night the cat returns to life but seems different. Not learning his lessons from Church’s burial, Louis buries Gage in the same spot when he’s run over by a semi. Gage returns, if you dare to believe such crap, and he’s a scalpel-wielding zombie attacking Jud.
King has a cameo as a preacher during a funeral.
The pic is so gloomy, with no intelligent point brought forward, except the horror of a parent confronting a threatening resurrected son. It seems to trivialize every psychological aspect it presents instead of exploring such strange developments for deeper insights. The patient viewer will have to wait for the ghastly climax in the last fifteen minutes to receive any reward for watching the flick from beginning to end.My most pleasurable moment was taking in the Ramones singing the title song “I don’t wanna be buried, in a Pet Sematary…”.