Stephen King (novel, screenplay)
Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed
Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall
Denise Crosby as Rachel Creed
Brad Greenquist as Victor Pascow
Miko Hughes as Gage Creed
Pet Sematary is an oft-overlooked horror film, but I can’t really see why. Well, actually, it’s probably because it contains a great whopping load of horror movie cliches (the “Indian burial ground” is probably the worst), and for the most part, movies based on Stephen King novels are death.
Having said that though, this one happens to be so unbelievably dark and TWISTED as to have secured a permanent place in my horror collection. Plus it’s got some genuine scares, which is getting harder and harder to do, so I revel in anything that gives me the creeps. Let me explain.
The Creed family has just moved into a nice family home somewhere in the state of Maine, USA. Well, the Creeds didn’t really check the place out that thoroughly because, as a family with toddlers and a pet cat, it’s a little NUTS to move into a house that has no fences and that fronts a road traveled almost solely by semi trailers going hell-for-leather.
Well, surprise of all surprises the cat is flattened soon after they finish unpacking, and the neighbor across the road, Jud (Fred Gwynne) lets Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) in on a little secret. There’s a pet cemetery not too far away where the local kids have been farewelling beloved pets for years, and it’s said that if you bury a critter there, he’ll be scratching at the door to be let in tomorrow morning!
Well, it works. Only the cat is not really “all there” anymore. He’s gone from a cute family pet to a vicious little monster. So it’s a wonder, really, that when little Gage (Miko Hughes) meets the same fate, Louis decides to bury him – yep, you guessed it – in the pet plot. In fact the big turn off this movie has is Louis – he’s such an idiot it’s simply impossible to sympathize with him. I kept wishing he’d die and get zombified and then axed in the face or something. But alas, it wasn’t to be. So I then just wished he’d do ONE remotely sensible thing. Alas, that wasn’t to be either. So let’s just move onto why this movie is truly twisted.
Freaky children are a sure fire way to scare the beejesus out of me. I can’t stand freaky kids. Just look at Damien from The Omen – good god – I still get chills picturing him riding around on that tricycle!
But Miko Hughes in Pet Sematary surpasses that. I mean, first he’s wiped out by a semi-trailer (that’s disturbing enough), but then he’s zombified after his Dad buries him in the pet cemetery and he’s reanimated as a freaky scalpel-wielding psycho, and then KILLED AGAIN. I mean, holy sh*t, how did this even get made?
But the freakiness doesn’t end there. Oh no. The movie saves the freakiest bit for later… The spinal-meningitis-inflicted sister. A bedroom door opens to reveal a twisted, slimy, barely-human THING that rears up off the bed and leers at the camera. I couldn’t go to bed after watching this the first time. I kept picturing that thing! I think it’s a case in point for the argument that reality is scarier than fiction. The girl is not a ghost, not a zombie, nor an evil entity crawled up out of some sewer somewhere. No, she’s just a normal girl afflicted with a terrible, physically-deforming medical condition. Somehow that makes her so much more terrifying in that eerie way that borders on complete revulsion.
That’s where Pet Sematary succeeds, because I’ve got to give credit to any movie that has me alternately shouting things at the screen (“Just bury him in a NORMAL cemetery, you MORON!!!!”), squirming in my seat and that leaves me needing to watch an episode of The Simpsons to come down off the horror high afterwards.
While Pet Sematary is not the greatest horror flick to infest the silver screen in blood-soaked goodness, it’s a worthwhile watch, particularly the quite unexpected and non-Hollywood ending. Fred Gwynne is always good. And as far as freaky kids go, few do it better than little Miko Hughes…