Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Film Review: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary 

Released: 1989

Directed by: Mary Lambert
Starring: Dale Midkiff,
Fred Gwynne
Denise Crosby
Miko Hughes

For the synopsis please read my book review.

OK, so I'm perhaps not the best person to go to for an unbiased account of Stephen King films. I hate to say it, but I'm a sucker for each and every one of them. Some of them truly are stand out films (Shawshank Redemption is in my top 5 films) but even the dodgiest adaptation has this weird Z-grade charm that I find hard to pass up. Because of my love for all of them, it's a little hard to distinguish with some of these older ones whether it's the quirk I enjoy, or the actual film. Especially in the ones filmed during the 1980s, where even the best are known to garner a little eye-rolling from modern audiences. So I guess this was a fairly roundabout way of saying that this film will get a high rating, but you probably should trust it.

 As I mentioned in my book review of the film, this was my very first bona fide horror film. I loved it, I remember relishing the foreshadowing, the haunting, Hermain Munster without the Hermain Munster gear (Fred Gwynne as the neighbour Jud) and all the other creepy things you expect in a horror film. It must have been weeks before I got sick of saying "First I played with Jud, then I played with mummy, now I want to play with you daddy" in a sing-song children's voice. It never really scared me (not like The Exorcist did a year or two later) but it introduced me to how fun horror can be, and how laughs can mingle with fear and general excitement. If I were to categorise this film it'd be as fun, one of those films where you know what's going to happen and you just can't wait.

Like with many Stephen King adaptations, the film does away with a great deal of the "real" horror, in this case the soul destroying loss of a child. It's still there, obviously, but rather than travel with Louis through his stages of grief, and witness the very upsetting reactions his wife and daughter also have, it fast forwards straight from Gage's death to his "rebirth". As a result there is much less time put into constructing any sort of normal life for the Creeds, or setting up any real characterisation for anyone other than Louis. There is also far more emphasis on the supernatural aspects of the story, and while the book was quite prevalent in this regard also, it was far more backgrounded until the climax. In the film however, there is much more ominous foreshadowing (both obvious through the recently dead student Victor Pascow, and more obscure), haunting music, and neighbourhood nice guy Jud is shown through a much more sinister light.

While the book focused on the turmoil that eventually lead to Louis bringing his son back to life, the film focussed more on the murder spree the young lad went on after reawakening in the Indian burial ground. I personally felt like the fear in these scenes were creepier and more nuanced in the book, but hearing teeny child footsteps, sinister words come out of a sweet 3 year old's mouth, and a rather sharp knife clasped in his chubby hand is enough to make the extended version thrilling in it's own way. Gage (played by Miko Hughes) was phenomenal, he was actually 3 years old in this film, I wonder if he had any idea what kind of film he was starring in!

Not only does the film branch off from the book in this regard, but it meanders from the book's plot quite a bit. In that regard it's quite like most Stephen King film adaptations, the bones of the story are there, but the flesh is almost entirely different. I much prefer the story of the book, it's more intense and upsetting, as well as upsetting, but I think the film did what it had to do to make it a horror film and not a drama that concludes as a horror film.

It's not as compelling as the book it was adapted from, and perhaps it's because of the fond history I have with this film, but I really can't fault it. It's the perfect mix of creepy kids, cheesy acting, 80s horror clich√©s and has a theme song by The Ramones. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for a serious scare, and again, I'm probably just a tad biassed, but I think it's a film everyone should watch at some point, even if only to poke fun at the hokey effects!

My rating: 4/5


  1. I could totally have guessed that the film would basically ignore the first part of the book, and go straight for the HORROR! Which is probably why I'm not going to watch this film! Also because creepy murderous children = ARGH!

  2. It's one of the better adaptations, but it definitely misses the real horror of the book. Guess you've never/never going to watch Children of the Corn then?



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