“That damn road… uses up a lot of animals” The scariest movies speak to something we all identify with, then dial it to eleven. Those telegraphed jump scares where the mirror opens and closes with someone behind you, or when the music suddenly stops – then cue the deafening shriek – always help, but they do not linger. What effectively haunts us is when we are put into a position where we identify with what we are seeing. An innocent girl becoming something she isn’t, an animal doing what it does best, the dark, and the source of tonight’s tawdry tale: Death. But not a typical horror movie death, no one is slashed or eaten. It’s an accident plain and simple, but what happens after is when things get not just scary, but evil. The universal truth is everyone between heaven and hell will depart in one way or another, but the question is, if you could bring someone back, would you? In the depths of grief, could you truly let go of your loved one, or, if you could, would you visit Pet Sematary? Before we meet The Creeds, the art department knocks it out of the park as we tour the pet cemetery. To accompany us is a creepy score by Elliot Goldenthal with a piano and a haunting children’s choir (is there any other kind?). Makeshift crosses covered in leashes, rusty birdcages even a fishbowl scatter a circular patch of forest with apparently one way in, opposite the entrance are the leftovers of a logging operation, deadwood enveloped in spiderwebs, ominous and sharp, thick brush serves as a barrier between the quaint yellow house and what is beyond. Louis and Rachel Creed have just moved to Maine with their two kids, Ellie and Gage, and their cat, Church. It doesn’t take long to meet the other two main characters of the film. Neighbor, Jud Crandall and The Road. The road leads to a busy plant where eighteen wheelers haul ass, day and night. Jud, being the old timer he is, has seen many a household pet meet its demise at the hands of the road. Louis is the new Doc in town and on the first day, a hit and run brings in a young man missing the side of his head. Unable to do much, Louis has no choice but to call it, but not after the young man delivers him a message: “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier.” Later that night, his ghost visits Louis and takes him to the pet cemetery behind Louis’s house, warning him, “Do not go on to the place where the dead walk…the ground beyond is sour.” Despite muddy feet, Louis dismisses his late-night visit as a dream and sleepwalking…. Shame. Bad blood between Louis and Rachel’s parents keeps him home during Thanksgiving, this is when Jud tells Louis, Church has met the road. Louis thinks he will wait to tell Ellie, but Jud has a better idea. They venture beyond the barrier of the deadwood to the Micmac Indian burial ground. Where Louis buries Church. When they return home, Jud tells Louis that they did a secret thing and that “the soil of a man’s heart of a man is stonier” – echoes of a ghostly warning. The following morning, Church has returned and is clearly not himself. This is only the beginning, Louis by defiling the laws of nature has released forces that will affect the rest of the film. Few movies have a scene or subplot or character where the movie truly lies. The “In Dreams” sequence from Blue Velvet, and “Jesus” from The Big Lebowski, to name a few. These little bits could justify their own movie and for Pet Sematary we have Zelda. Rachel is touchy about death. When Jud gives the family a tour of the pet cemetery she is visibly uncomfortable and rudely argues that children shouldn’t have to learn about death. She even makes Louis promise Ellie, nothing will ever happen to Church. After the maid Missy commits suicide, Rachel tells Louis the details of her experience with death. As scary and as disturbing as this movie gets, this brief subplot goes further. As a young child, Rachel was left at home to care for Zelda, her body overcome by spinal meningitis. Under the unnerving makeup is actually a male actor, Andrew Hubatsek, who expertly contorts and chokes as a young Rachel looks on in disgust. Rachel tells Louis she was not just happy she died, but ecstatic. Common sense has no place in any horror movie. We should stay on the main road, we should not partake in drugs or sex, we should not tamper with science. And, obviously we should put up a damn fence, but we do need a movie. It’s a matter of time before poor little Gage chases his kite onto the road and into the afterlife. Dale Midkiff gives a slightly wooden performance throughout the film except the final frames (we’ll get to that) and this scene here. All he can do is scream “No!” But the way it’s done here is far beyond bloodcurdling in the most powerful way, as we are reminded of how precious a young child can be and horror can have immeasurable grief beyond the scope of imagination. There is a rule in Hollywood, don’t kill kids and animals. Thankfully Maine and Stephen King are awfully far from California. Now I am not saying let’s kill ‘em all, (maybe I am) but when this happens the audience doesn’t feel safe. That’s what lingers when the movie is over and what makes us afraid – when horror movies are at their most almighty. Devoured by grief and thinking thoughts best not thought, Louis does the one thing he was warned not to do. Warned by Jud, by the ghost of Pascow, by the dreams of his daughter. He makes the trip to the pet cemetery again. What is fascinating and terrifying at the same time is the thought that in the same circumstance, who among us would not do the exact same thing. Pet Sematary makes the audience ask the question or face the truth that they would do the same thing. This isn’t seen in horror movies today. We get the scares and we get the gore, but we don’t get the questions. The questions and the not knowing are what fear are made of. Movies today, when adapted from source materials, tend to come from comic books and a flood of young adult nonsense filled with teenage yearnings and dystopias and crappy names and sparkling vampire bullshit. However, in the 80s we had one of the most popular writers of our time and the measuring stick of the scariest and most disturbing material: Stephen King. His talent was able to couple with some of our favorite directors – John Carpenter, George Romero, David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick and Rob Reiner to name a few – to make great movies all around. These collaborations alone make the 80s essential and today it simply is not happening. There are some good book-to-movie adaptations, but none can match the strength and consistency of Stephen King. The third act of Pet Sematary is when child actor Miko Hughes steals the show. The cute baby boy is long gone when we see the pale, angry, scarred remains of little Gage, go after Jud – specifically his Achilles’ tendon. The evil of the Micmac burial ground is released as visions of dread pervade all that Rachel sees when she knows Louis needs her. But Gage is waiting with a scalpel. One bad mistake deserves another, and soon it is Rachel’s turn to visit the pet cemetery and Louis gets one final chance to learn that sometimes, dead is better. It is a miscarriage of justice that Mary Lambert did not direct more horror movies. She does an excellent job here and masterfully brings Stephen King’s terrifying script to life. The creepy and disturbing touches are potent and forceful. The dead frozen cat peeling off the ground, the maid committing suicide with a note pinned to her, dreams of Zelda coming to get you, the parallel of Gage and the portrait of Rachel’s nightmares. The hanging bodies, violence done to children. It is all so effective and so very essential to horror cinema. The one constant in horror movies is that we’re all gonna die, but Pet Sematary doesn’t end with death but rather begins…. Cue Ramones! By the way, some of you may be wondering why I chose Pet Sematary over The Shining since both were made in the eighties. I am gonna take an unpopular opinion here, but The Shining is boring as fuck. I am not saying I dislike it, or it’s a bad movie – Stanley Kubrick made it for chrissakes – it just doesn’t punch me in the gut the way Pet Sematary does. After Pet Sematary, I am endlessly freaked out by the sister Zelda; after The Shining I always wonder, “What’s the deal with the hot chick poster over Mr Hallorann’s bed?” Also, it doesn’t have an 80s vibe. No Ramones, no real gore to speak of, and an awfully low body count. I can’t deny the creepiness of an elevator overflowing with blood, but goddamnit does it have to take so long? This was the coked up 80s! Time is money and I’ll take a toddler run over at high speed any day of the week. See larger image Pet Sematary (1989) [Blu-ray] Pet Sematary (1989) (BD) After moving to an idyllic home in the countryside, life seems perfect f or the Creed family…but not for long. Louis and Rachel Creed and their two young children settle in to a house that sits next door to a pet ce metery – built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Their mysterious new neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), hides the cemetery’s darkest secre t…until a family tragedy brings the secret to life. Now, an unthinkabl e evil is about to be resurrected. From STEPHEN KING, the Master of the Macabre, comes a journey that leads to hell and back. Though not everyon e survives the trip. For the Creeds, home is where the horror is. New From: $9.96 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.