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Featured Blu-ray Review: Pet Sematary

October 1st, 2012

Pet Sematary - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary,
I don't want to live my life again.
That song has been stuck in my head all week. At least it is a good song. Pet Sematary is making its Blu-ray debut this week, hence the Ramones induced mind worm. When the film first came out, it only earned mixed reviews, but it earned nearly $60 million on a production budget that was just under $12 million. At the time, it was the biggest hit by Stephen King, in terms of raw dollars at the domestic box office. (One could argue Carrie and Stand By Me were more profitable based on percentages earned.) The film is now 20 years old. Does it live up to its box office numbers? Or is it one of Stephen King's lesser films in terms of quality? Is the Blu-ray worth picking up if you are a fan?

The Movie

We are introduced to the Creed family, Louis and Rachel, their two kids, Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage, and their cat, Winston Churchill, as they are moving into their new home. Louis has moved his family to a small town and become the doctor at the local university. They quickly meet their next door neighbor, Jud Crandall, when he saves their toddler as he's about to cross the road between the two houses. It's a winding country road, but also a throughway with truckers driving past as high speeds. Later that night, while Louis is retrieving his cat from a tree, he sees Jud sitting on his porch bench and Jud invites him up to share a beer. Jud mentions there's a pet cemetery near their house, due to all of the pets killed along that road.

Louis barely has a chance to settle into the new town when he has to treat a dying patient, Victor Pascow, who had been hit by a truck. It's clear right away that Victor is a goner, so much so that Louis gets ready to call his time of death, when suddenly Victor wakes up and gives Louis a cryptic message ("The soil of a man's heart is stonier, Louis. I'll come to you.") and calls Louis by his name, something he shouldn't have known. That night, Louis has a dream where Victor comes to him and tells him the secret of the Pet Sematary. It's the place where the dead talk and the ground beyond is where the dead walk. Victor warns him never to go to where the dead walk. That ground is sour. And when Louis wakes up, his feet are covered in dirt.

That Thanksgiving, Rachel and the kids head off to her parents' place in Chicago, while Louis stays home. (The in-laws don't like Louis at all.) They are not gone long when Jud calls and tells him their cat was hit by a truck. Knowing how much Ellie loved that cat and how much Louis doesn't want to ruin her Thanksgiving, Jud offers another way. They can bury Church, in the ground beyond the pet sematary, where Victor warned him not to go. We then hear strange animal noises, Jud is clearly worried, but claims its just a loon. They finally get to their destination, a Micmac burial ground. After that's done, Jud tells Louis to keep what they did a secret. He says it should be easier for a man to keep a secret than it is for a woman to keep a secret, because... "The soil of a man's heart is stonier."

The next day, the cat comes back, but there's something different about it. It's meaner. When Louis talks to Jud about what they did. Jud tells him the story about when he was a kid and he was told by a Micmac Indian how to bury his pet and bring it back to life. But when his dog came back, it wasn't the same. It was meaner. When Louis asks if a person had ever been buried up there, the question shakes Jud, but he says that's never happened.

But given what we've seen so far, you know it is about to happen.

I admit I liked this movie when I first saw it, but I will also admit it has been a while since I've seen this movie. I'm afraid it didn't live up to my expectations for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don't remember the acting being this bad. Except for Fred Gwynne, the acting is bad across the board. Part of the problem is that none of the characters are developed enough to give the actors something to work with. Also, for a horror movie, it is not very scary. I don't remember such a reliance on jump scares. I think the film was effecting when it first came out because first the toddler is killed, which is a disturbing thing to do in a movie. But then the kid is brought back to life and becomes the big bad guy in the finale. In 1989 that might have been shocking, but now there are too many scary kid horror films for this to work based on the shock value. Perhaps if the film was better at generating tension, it would have been scarier, but I thought it was more often dull than spooky.

Overall, Pet Sematary isn't among the worst films adapted from one of Stephen King's novels, but it certainly isn't among the best either. There is a steep decline from First-Tier to Second-Tier Stephen King, and I would consider this closer to Third-Tier than First-Tier.

The Extras

The extras on the Blu-ray start with an audio commentary track with the director, Mary Lambert. It is a solo track and doesn't have a lot of energy. There are also a trio of featurettes starting with Stephen King Territory, which is about the original novel and how Stephen King came up with the idea. The Characters and Filming the Horror are pretty self-explanatory.

The video quality is not quite up to the level I would like. It is a little too grainy or a little too soft, while the flesh tones are not quite right. There's a bit of edge enhancement here, but nothing distracting. To be fair, it wasn't a big-budget movie when it came out more than 20 years ago, so it looks fine. It doesn't look great, but it looks better than it did on DVD, and that's just fine. The audio is likewise fine. The dialogue is clear and and there's good separation on the front speakers, but there's not a lot of activity in the rear ones.

Finally we get to the price, which is $15 on Amazon.com. That is on the high end of the acceptable range for shovelware, but if you like the movie, it's not a bad deal.

The Verdict

I was really looking forward to seeing Pet Sematary again after so many years. However, I was disappointed. The best part of the film is "Pet Sematary" by the Ramones. Actually, that's not fair. Fred Gwynne's the best part, while the theme song is the second best. The Blu-ray is shovelware and the technical presentation is good, but not great. Keep that in mind when you are deciding whether or not to spend $15 on the Blu-ray.


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Filed under: Video Review, Pet Sematary, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Fred Gwynne, Dale Midkiff