Sometimes, dead is better.
I do not like director Mary Lambertís Pet Sematary. I do, however, absolutely adore author Stephen Kingís original novel on which the movie is based. Considering the screenplay is written by King himself, thatís a somewhat strange position to find oneís self in, as the differences between the two (ending aside) are somewhat ephemeral and not particularly important. The majority of the themes remain the same, as does the absolutely terrifying central premise revolving around the loss of the child and the chilling thought one can be driven to bring them back no matter what the cost. Yet this movie, seriously this movie, it drives me nuts and makes me furious in ways I can hardly put into words, the feelings it engenders not ones Iíd want anyone else to ever have to deal with for themselves.
The story revolves around doctor Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and his two young children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes), recently moved from the big city into the country choosing as their residence a home adjacent to a street truckers seem to think is their own personal speedway. Their next door neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) warns them to keep their pets indoors and to keep track of the children, the trucks passing by notorious for steamrolling over the former and having trouble coming to a stop when faced with the prospect of colliding with the latter.
Itís not much a stretch to imagine what happens from there, but what has always made Kingís story so unsettling is the prospect that one could bring back the dead even if doing so isnít such a great idea. Thanks to an old Indian burial ground Ė the ground is sour! Ė next to a relatively peaceful pet cemetery built by children over the decades, Jud shows exactly what the place can do when the family cat is unceremoniously flattened by a traveling semi. Sure the cat comes back a bit evil but so what? At least Ellie is happy to have him back and, as far as Louis is concerned, thatís really all that matters.
But what happens when inexplicable tragedy occurs? What is a father to do when faced with unspeakable death that rocks the family to the core? Those are the questions King finds interesting, the balance between life, death, sacrifice and responsibility a thin one full of contradictions on every and all sides. But everything is presented with a heavy-handed didacticism thatís mind-numbing, all of it building to the type of outrageously disgusting conclusion thatís more revolting than it is terrifying. Itís a sensationalistic hodgepodge of bad ideas and shock-scares, none of it mattering in any of the ways the filmmakers obviously intend.
It does not help that the cast, with the exception of Gwynn, who is admittedly rather excellent, is uniformly terrible (at least as far as the adults are concerned) or that some of the events that worked so chillingly in Kingís book come across as unintentionally silly and emotionally obtuse when depicted within the confines of a film. It also does not help that Lambert tends to foreshadow coming events with little to no subtlety, making what is about to take place during the climactic stretch devoid of anything close to a surprise.
But it is the unrepentant cynicism that drives me nuts as far as Pet Sematary is concerned, the way it constantly belittles its audiences treating them with almost no respect. This isnít fear, itís carnage for the sake of carnage, bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed, and as such the emotional connection required for the characters to resonate in any sort of meaningful fashion sadly never materializes.
It should be noted that this movie has an ardent fan base that have somehow kept it popular and in the cinematic lexicon for over two decades. Some find what transpires to be horrifying to the nth degree, and Iíd be lying if I didnít admit that countless films Ė most of them not very good Ė have blatantly stolen from it these past twenty years. Personally, though, I do not get it, never have, and now after watching the movie again for the first time in ages on Blu-ray arguably never will. Pet Sematary revolts and disgusts me, but not in the ways that it should. In my opinion, this is a bad movie, and one Iím glad Iím done with and wonít have to watch again anytime soon.
Pet Sematary is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with French Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here are ported over from previous DVD editions and include:
∑ Audio Commentary with director Mary Lambert
∑ Stephen King Territory (13:09)
∑ The Characters (12:51)
∑ Filming the Horror (10:26)
The audio commentary is to the point and highly involved, Lambert diving into all aspects of the production. Sheís a bit dry as a speaker, but Iíd imagine fans of the film will want to give it a listen all the same, as her discussions about translating the book to the screen are certainly interesting, and even if I donít like Pet Sematary all that much I do give her at least some credit for not shying away from many of Kingís darker and more disturbing themes.
The rest of the featurettes are fine for what they are, the one on Stephen King probably the best of the bunch. That said, the ďFilming the HorrorĒ short does dive into the climactic differences between book and film, and I did find it interesting why the filmmakers, including King, decided to stray from the authorís original denouement choosing instead to go with the chilling, if obvious, one used for the closing moments of this cinematic sojourn into terror.
I do not like Mary Lambert and Stephen Kingís movie adaptation of Pet Sematary. Some creepy moments and imagery aside, the film is a cold, heartless and poorly acted attempt to bring one of the authorís crowning literary achievements to life. That said, this effort does have its ardent admirers and fans, of that there is no doubt whatsoever, Paramountís strong Blu-ray presentation sure to please them and as such I have little problem recommending that they, and absolutely no one else at all, add the title to their personal hi-def libraries.