King films like MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986) and SLEEPWALKERS (1992) still make me cringe today. Not because they are scary, but because they are really hard to watch and generally horrible. :) So, why did the 1989 film PET SEMATARY work as well as it did? It was still based on a Stephen King story and had a King screenplay. King even directed Maximum.
Even though the well respected Mick Garris directed Sleepwalkers, he couldn't save it from the truck wreck of a script he had to work with. Alice Krige couldn't even save that film for me.
Mary Lambert was the key to PET SEMATARY. I think she got the whole of it - the world it took place in, the players and what was at stake. Loss and death were the main focus of the film and she seemed to take it and run with it. Sadly, she didn't really go on to do more items of note on the horror side of things. SEMATARY II, which I don't recall and a TALES FROM THE CRYPT episode are there, but it looks like she moved on to music videos and B films. I do hope her latest venture - HIGH MIDNIGHT - brings her back into the world of horror direction! (A sheriff teams up with a vampire hunter. Stars Vincent D'Onofrio, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Elizabeth Hurley. Not bad!)
Now, don't get me wrong - this is FAR from a perfect film...even though THE RAMONES did the theme music! :)
We're still dealing with child actors Blaze "I memorized all my lines!" Berdahl and Miko "I'm really too young to understand what a movie even is" Hughes as a backbone to this movie. And, that's really difficult. They are just kid actors and I think you'd agree that more often than not, they are fighting to stay in the movie most of the time and trying not to mug for the camera. Denise Crosby and Dale Midkiff and fine and do a good job, but Fred Gwynne and Brad Greenquist really steal the show. Their characterizations are fun and so very "King". I enjoyed them immensely. Gwynne is fantastic.
The budget seemed ok and there were some fine effects gags going, but everything seemed a bit...low budget. It may have just been the time this was filmed. Late 80s stylings. (And shoulder pads)
When the scares come, they don't pull any punches, however. There is gore and there is violence for sure. And, the vision the created to show the horror movie style spinal meningitis victim...:::shiver::: Rather haunting. The film slices, dices, and plows into several unfortunate folks during its run time and each victim actually means something. It's not just the classic "Set 'em up and knock 'em down" teen movie. These people are loved and it shows. That makes their loss all the more gut wrenching.
The film presents a sad tale of death and how we deal with it. Or, in this case, deal with it badly. That's what makes this film interesting. Louis Creed keeps making the wrong choice. Over and over. Three, to be exact. Each is worse than the last until his luck finally runs out and his bad choices catch up to him. At first, you may say, "That's ridiculous - no one would do that." But I'm sure you know people who have on a lesser scale. Bad choices in jobs of relationships time and time again leading them into troubles they should know to avoid. PET SEMATARY takes that to the extreme, showing just how far some people go to avoid dealing with death. I loved that.
Far from perfect, PET SEMATARY has enough going for it to make it an enjoyable watch. Especially if you toss it on around midnight...with the lights out. :)
What better way to watch the trailer than through a grab of a VHS tape!