Have you ever suffered an unbearable loss? How far would you go to bring that person back
to life? Would it be good for them to rise from the dead? Would it be good for us?
Released in 1989 and directed by Mary Lambert, "Pet Sematary" tells a macabre tale about man
I’m the Haunting Usher. Let me scare you to your seat.
Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff, is a doctor who moves his family from Chicago to a
fictional town in rural Maine. Behind their beautiful country home is a cemetery for animals
killed in the road maintained by “brokenhearted children.” It is the place “where the dead
Beyond the cemetery is an ancient Indian burial ground that allows those mourning loved ones
to grant them the gift of immortality. Only it’s not a gift. It is a curse, one that can have tragic
consequences. That is “where the dead…walk.”
Many horror films rely on blood, gore, and clichéd scare tactics. While this movie contains
many genuinely gruesome and frightening scenes created with authentic special effects, what
makes Pet Sematary unique is that it is a parable. Leave it to Stephen King to deliver a
message that resonates with each and every one of us.
I applaud the movie for well acted performances, a rare quality in a scary movie. Louis Creed
is exceptionally tormented. When (spoiler alert) his two year old son, Gage, is killed, the
scream he lets out is so agonizing that the viewers feel as though they’ve lost someone as
While watching his wife and daughter leave on a plane following Gage’s death, Louis’s
expression seen in a close-up reveals a descent into madness.
On the Special Features side of the DVD, Fred Gwynne says he puts on his character, Jud
Crandall, like a pair of overalls.
Jud is the friendly neighbor who knows too much. By introducing Louis to the power of the
burial ground, he fears he may have murdered his son. “I’m responsible for more pain in your
heart than you should have tonight."
Brad Greenquist is adept at playing the freakish Victor Pasco. Despite being grotesque, he is
actually an angel in disguise. He’s the one Louis should listen to. When Pasco is struck by an
oncoming truck, suffers severe brain damage and is pronounced dead on arrival (DOA he is
then brought back to life to deliver a creepy message. “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier.”
Pascow may appear delirious, but knows what he means when he cautions Louis yet again.
“The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”
Other strengths include the nuances and visual aspects incorporated into the picture. The
rhyming epitaphs on the tombstones, for instance, “Biffer, Biffer, hell of a sniffer until he died
he made us richer,” are both haunting and touching.
Fog settling on the path leading to the cemetery, hysterical loons, a chilling musical score and
supernatural light blasting out from the forbidden burial ground effectively demonstrate a
surreal and demonic atmosphere.
Muddy footprints are a cliché used in numerous scary movies, but they actually work in "Pet
Sematary." It is essential to show the way the dead “walk.”
Demented foreshadowing, disturbing flashbacks and subliminal messaging are a few of the
additional elements that deliver a lot of old fashioned scares. A great novel adaptation,
direction, casting and a masterfully written screenplay all bring about a frightening yet morally
compelling addition to the horror genre.
I’m the Haunting Usher. Let me scare you out of immortality. “Sometimes, dead is better.”
Do you agree with my review? Would you ever use an Indian burial ground? Why or why not?
Let me know in the comments section.
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