Shaun Munro reviews all three Pet Sematary movies…
The Pet Sematary remake is in cinemas now, so as well as offering up our opinion on the new movie, what better time to revisit both the 1989 Stephen King adaptation which brought the story to the masses, and also the ill-fated sequel that most audiences have long since forgotten?
Pet Sematary (1989)
Directed by Mary Lambert.
Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard, Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl.
For those opting to watch the 1989 Pet Sematary for the first time in anticipation of the remake’s release – this critic included – it’s practically impossible not to view Mary Lambert’s film as lousily dated; a curio relic for sure, albeit not always for good reason.
A number of frustrations are immediately apparent – for starters, the performances are almost uniformly wooden across the board, with only Fred Gwynne getting away with his dignity in tact as the Creed family’s endearingly quaint – and ultimately quite tortured – neighbour Jud Crandall.
In the lead role, Dale Midkiff fails to make protagonist Louis Creed even basically personable or believable, and the child actors cast as his screen children offer only the most feckless of line readings (nobody likes to rip on young performers, but it has to be said). Meanwhile as Louis’ wife Rachel, Denise Crosby isn’t bad, though her character is ultimately too much of a wet blanket to much relate to in human terms.
Exacerbating the wonky acting is Lambert’s stiff journeyman direction, evoking a distinct made-for-TV vibe and lacking almost any sense of atmosphere whatsoever. Even the devastating pivotal accident mid-way through the film has much of its heartbreak undercut by unfortunate shot selections and editing, not to mention a giggle-worthy scream of lamentation from Louis.
Things take a turn for the weird in the movie’s second half, of course, and here the film comes further unstuck, embattled by itself as Lambert tries to make sense of the screenplay – penned by King himself – and figure out a steady tone. At least to contemporary eyes, it’s tough to sit through Louis being attacked by his undead, reanimated son without giggling. To some, this may lend the film a trashy midnight movie vibe, while to others banking on a legitimately moody King adap, they’re sure to be left crushingly underwhelmed.
One of the stodgier King adaptations of its period, Pet Sematary 1989 squanders much of its promise with cardboard performances, flat direction and a dire lack of both emotional heft and chilly mood.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Click below to continue on to Pet Sematary Two…