Pet Sematary

Dir: Mary Lambert
Star: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes

No matter how many time I try, I can never spell - or, rather, mis-spell - "Semetary" quite right. I always want to put too many e's in there for some reason. This seems like quite a shameless rip-off of classic horror story, The Monkey's Paw. Both share the common theme of magical resurrections, where the people returning from the grave are not the same as they were before they died. Here, it's the Creed family, who move into a New England house by a busy road. When the daughter's cat dies, friendly neighbour Jud (Gwynne) lets dad Louis (Midkiff) in on a local secret: there's an ancient Indian burial ground - isn't there always - with the capability to bring the dead back to life. The cat duly comes back, although is a little more... bitey, shall we say. Naturally, this warning sign is completely ignored, when Louis's son, Gage (Hughes) is hit by a truck and killed. Louis digs up the body and heads off to the burial ground. What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, it pretty much does, Gage coming back as something closer to Chucky with a headache than the cute, adorable son they buried. He may be only three feet tall, but he can still bite your ankles. Or sever your Achilles' tendon with one of Daddy's scalpels.

If thoroughly derivative, you have to admire the gusto with which this goes after its subject matter, not just killing off a kid, but then bringing them back as a villain. [Chris was pregnant with Robert when she read the book, and had to give up on it, because she found it too upsetting. She wrote a sternly-worded letter of complaint to Stephen King, who did actually reply and apologize!] The motivations are a little too murky here, with it never being quite clear why Jed would tell Louis about the burial ground, knowing full-well its' issues, and the same goes for Louis's repeated trips to it - at after how many failures does it start being a bad idea? Apparently, the book does a better job of covering this, and neither Midkiff nor Crosby (she left Star Trek for this?) are memorable, both being convincingly out-acted by Hughes. Gwynne, too, does a good job of capturing the EC Comics feel, which I think likely comes closest to King's aim. Taken on that basis, it's a fun enough ride, especially in the final reel, just not one of the more memorable adaptations of his work.

[September 2015]

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