Pet Sematary (1989)
Synopsis: The Creed family has moved to Maine in search of a happy and quiet new life. Unfortunately, they’ll find only anguish, suffering, death, and the supernatural instead. The blame for this can mostly be placed at the feet of their neighbor, Herman Munster, but some blame must also be shared by the Indian community.
Killer Scene: The loss of a child is bound to be a horrific and painful experience, but what if you had to lose the same child twice? Louis Creed sees his boy, Gage, heading towards the road as a huge, speeding semi-truck barrels towards the toddler. Creed runs after Gage only to watch as the truck hits and kills his son instantly. Later, after grief convinces Creed to tempt fate and bury Gage in the Indian burial ground, the boy returns with an evil glint in his eyes and a scalpel in his hands. Creed is forced to kill Gage himself, and the emotional pain is visible in his face and tears as his son wobbles, falls to the ground, mumbles “Not fair!”, and dies. Again.
Violence: There’s not a lot of gratuitous violence on display here, but the emotional damage is massive. Loss of a child, marriage woes, and a cat that dies, stinks, comes back, misbehaves, and needs to be killed again. There are also traffic fatalities, scalpel attacks, cats gone wild, gunshots, and matricide.
Sex: Nothing really on screen, but the movie does feature one of the nastier open-mouth kisses in film history. At the end, when Creed has basically lost everything he cares about (except his neglected daughter) he waits for his reanimated wife to return and end his pain. She walks into the kitchen, dirtied and bloodied after a fresh escape from the grave, with one empty and leaky eye socket, and the unhappy husband and wife kiss. Then she grabs a knife.
Scares: The movie has a few jump-scares, but the most frightening scene and the one that haunts me, is the flashback and appearance of Rachel’s sister, Zelda. It’s a skinny man wearing prosthetic effects, I get it, but the bony and skeletal sibling is incredibly disturbing. And the scene where Zelda comes shambling quickly across the room, straight towards the camera? Terrifying.
Final Thoughts: Before you criticize Pet Sematary as not being worthy of the final slot in our 31 Days of Horror, remember that these films aren’t being ranked in any way. That said, Pet Sematary is an underrated horror gem with memorable images and scenes that can carry over into nightmares. The scalpel slice across Fred Gwynne’s Achilles tendon is one of the more painful cuts on film, the zombie Gage is a brilliant melding of the real Miko Hughes and an animatronic one, and the ghostly appearances of a pulpy Victor Pascow are an intriguing buildup of suspense and terror. This is easily the best adaption from Stephen King’s horror canon. Underrated I say! Give it a chance, and you just may agree.
What do you think of Pet Sematary? And Happy Halloween!