Pet Semetary was the first Stephen King book I ever read.
I was pregnant with my first child and looking for things to do that didn’t tax me. I thought that since I hate horror movies, a book would be safer. I could just close the book, right? No. No, I was treated to a movie I couldn’t turn off because it was in my brain. A story about evil spirits, the loss of a young child, and the depths of madness that a man sinks to when he’s in despair. I saw in the forward that Stephen King was inspired to write this when his 2-year-old son got away from him, ran into the road and was nearly creamed by a semi-truck. King was so shocked and devastated by what might have been that he decided to write about a man who loses his own baby in a similar way. It was horrifying. I can’t even remember how it ended because I was suffering right along the main character the whole time, and the weight of becoming a parent, and the ties to your child was a new and very real thing to me.
So, you might imagine it took me a long time to work up the courage to watch this movie
It’s very similar to the book in a lot of ways, but it sort of tricks you into thinking this is a lesser horror movie without much substance. The casting was odd to start off with. The leading male was bland and forgettable, the leading woman was “Tasha Yarr,” Denise Crosby, who I love, but who didn’t strike me as “Maternal Housewife with hangup” materials and always looked like she was about threaten to leave a bad review on Yelp.
And who do we get as the creepy old New-England neighbor? HERMAN MUNSTER.
This movie gets major points for lulling us into a false sense of security. We get weird zombie visits from a dead biker (like something out of An American Werewolf in London) and a fun storyline about bringing a dead cat to life so our dear daughter won’t be upset. Tralala, right? Then we get punched in the gut. The baby’s death is every bit as unspeakable as the book, and the subsequent plot takes us down that same spiral of madness. Little moments, like the glimpse of a tiny dead hand, the bloody shoe in the highway, and Mr. Munsters desperate talks about life and it’s purpose, and how sometimes death is better.
The end is a little cheesy and diverts from the book (I think, again, I’m not sure) and we’re treated to a little groan-worthy moment.
Regardless, the real scares of the 3rd act are indelible, and very well staged. If I have to nitpick, I’d complain about the zombie biker, a movie add-in to let the audience know what they’ve already figured out if they know ANYTHING about any kind of folklore or horror at all. It added nothing to the tension and gave us a contrived reason for Crosby to show up at the end. Oh and they threw in a psychic kid. Just incase we’re REALLY stupid. I think all of these were probably due to production notes.
ATTEN: PET SEMETARY: NOTES:
HOW WILL THE AUDIENCE KNOW THAT THE EVIL ABANDONED BURIAL SITE THAT BRINGS BACK UNSPEAKABLE ZOMBIES IS EVIL
ALSO WHAT IS A WENDIGO? SOUNDS TOO ETHNIC. CUT WORD AND REPLACE WITH DEMON.
The other thing I’m mad we’ve lost is that first midnight walk to the old burial ground. That passage that King wrote about the night and the blackness behind his flashlight and the feeling of large dark nameless beings in the void beyond. That scene chilled me to my core. I’ve been in the woods at night. I know that feeling of darkness pressing in on your feeble light. King put in words that terror of untamed nature at night.
So yeah, highly recommend this movie for a good scare. Just be prepared to roll your eyes at the end.