First things first: Fred Gwynne, playing Jud Crandall, puts on one of the finest horror performances I’ve ever seen. He is brilliant through every scene, and helps legitimize the film. Without him, this might be just another Stephen King adaptation. With him, it’s one of my favorites.
Pet Sematary is the film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. It follows a young family who moves from the city to the sticks. The house they move into is right on a major semi-truck route, and has been known for causing a lot of deaths, specifically to animals. Because of this, there is a pet cemetery, or “pet sematary”, as it is erroneously spelled in the film, behind the family’s house. After the family cat is killed, though, the patriarch learns that a little ways behind the cemetery lies an old Indian burial ground that is said to bring the dead back to life. When it works of the cat, though with evil results, he is delirious enough to try it on another victim of the freeway: his son.
I’ve seen most of Pet Sematary in the past, but this is the first time I’ve sat through the entire thing from beginning to end, and it’s much better than I remember. The only reason I ended up watching this is because I recently picked it up on Blu-ray after reading a positive review of the transfer (which looks great, by the way). I’m glad I did.
The best part of the film is definitely Gwynne’s performance, but a close second is the incredible special effects work. There is one character who is creepy enough to give nightmares thanks to the effects (Zelda). In an era that saw “body horror” and extreme graphic content become all the rave thanks, in large part at least, to Rob Bottin’s work in The Thing in 1982, Pet Sematary absolutely holds its own.
Pet Sematary is another underrated horror gem, but it’s different in that it contains one of the finest horror performances out there from Fred Gwynne. It is absolutely worth checking out. The only thing that really hurts it is the fact that is also contains the single thickest (dumbest) character I’ve seen in a horror film in a very long time (Louis Creed).