In 1989 a movie hit the big screen that frightened a generation.  Based on a book by Stephen King, Pet Sematary was one that was seared into our brains as one of the most frightening films of it’s time.  The thing was, it wasn’t as much that it was scary in the traditional sense, it was that we all could relate to the subject matter. By that time we had all experienced the pain of loss, whether it was a pet or a beloved family member. So when the question was asked, ‘ What if you could bring a dead pet back to life?’ we were intrigued but then they asked, ‘what if you could do more?’ and it chilled us to the bone.

Today’s Key Movie:

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The story is simple, In Pet Sematary, we follow Creed family, (played by Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby (of Star Trek fame), Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl) as they start their new life in a new town where Louis Creed (Midkiff) has taken a job as the new Doctor.  But, when a terrible tragedy strikes, the Louis must make a dark decision that could change all of their lives.

It is a story of tragedy, a story of desperation and a story that is based on one of King’s most terrifying tales.  This is Pet Sematary.

Why this movie?

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As I mentioned earlier, this is one that touched on an experience everyone has had in their life but then asks dangerous questions.  It is in those questions that we find dark truths and realizations of our own mortality. Death is an inevitable fate for every living being on the planet so, when the family loses their cat Church, Louis learns about a special place in the forest that can bring back the dead.  Following the lead of neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Qwynne), Louis reluctantly buries his cat in a place that has dark powers and, when the cat returns, he soon discovers that it is not the same cat that he had originally buried.  However, when one of his own family members are killed, the temptation is too great to not use the powers of the Sematary again, even though he knows there is no way it will be the same person that returns.

The Dark Question is simple, if the resurrection of a loved one is possible, would they be the same person they were before, would their soul return with them?  This has been a question in horror and science fiction for years and one that can never really be answered. From The Monkey’s Paw to even Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the concept of resurrection has been a fascinating and frightening subject that has had mixed results at best. The temptation to bring back a loved one is one of selfishness and sorrow, one that, if you really think about it, is more for the griever than the grieved.

Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?

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This is perhaps one of King’s finest works, It is dark and frightening but at the same time thought provoking.  Directed by Mary Lambert with the screenplay by King himself, this is one of the most well rounded and intense films in the King library. Every aspect of the film is done to endear you to the very family that endures the terrible suffering caused by the Sematary’s powers and the dark decision Louis Creed is forced to make.

To this day, when their family member is brutally killed, I feel the pain and anxiety in those moments leading up to that event.  It is a scene that I cringe at every time I see it coming, but I know that it is a key part to the story and can never be changed.  It is this emotional connection to the characters that is rare in many films, but this one has it in spades.  King manages to create a world that feels real despite it’s dark fantasy theme.   It is intense, it is endearing, it is fascinating, and it is creepy as hell.

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One other aspect to the film that has stuck in my mind and still creeps me out to this day is a side story that provides some background to Denise Crosby’s character Rachel.   In the film, Rachel tells the story of the death of her sister Zelda and, of course, we get to see it as she tells the tale.  It is perhaps one of the most frightening flashbacks in any film and one I have never forgotten. When you see it, it will stick with you as well.

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Everyone in this film is amazing, from Dale Midkiff’s portrayal of the grieving father, Denise Crosby’s role as his haunted wife and, of course, Fred Qwynne’s unforgettable portrayal of Jud Crandall. Additionally the special effects used in this are some of the best of the late 80’s.  Using practical effects, the team in charge of this task managed to create some of the most memorable and frightening visuals on the screen that still manage to terrify people to this day.

All in all, as we saw with the updated version last year, this original adaptation will always be the superior one.  This is a wonderful adaptation of King’s incredible Novel and there is something special about this film that just can not be duplicated. 

OK, where do I get this movie?

This is one that I doubt will ever go out of print. It is a horror classic and remains one of the best of the King novel adaptions.   You can grab a copy here for a decent price and it is of course available digitally from almost every place digital films are sold.  If you like good solid horror, this is one you should not pass up.  It is not your typical jump scare variety, but one that likes to creep up on you and slip under your skin.  Plus, you get a great song by the Ramones so, how can you pass on this one?!

Of course, here is the trailer.

One last note, As the story involves bringing the dead back, I am forced to wonder just what was trapped in that tainted Indian burial ground and, why it had the dark power it did.  We never learn these things and that only makes the film that more frightening.

Late To The Game 4/9/2020

If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.

For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

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