Pet Sematary Movie Poster Image

Pet Sematary

Stephen King shocker a grim, R-rated Goosebumps.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most all the (living) characters here are decent people who think they're doing the right thing out of love. Nonetheless, their actions lead to slaughter and unleashed occult evil (the book was a lot better explaining their rationalizations for digging themselves in deeper and deeper). It's never directly explained why loved ones come back from the dead as vicious and murderous; the novel suggests that demons are possessing the corpses.


Bloody gashes and lacerations, ghastly head/face wounds on victims and zombies. Characters suffer cannibalistic attacks, being hit by cars, burning to death.


Just a reference to a cat spaying as "getting his nuts cut."


The s-word, "hell," and SOB.


Car brand names. Of course, there's a Stephen King book tie-in, and the Ramones had a minor hit with the theme song.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Smoking and beer-drinking among adults.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie plays on worst fears and grief over death, of both pets and children. Toddlers, animals, and adults get killed violently -- via murder, suicide, and a traffic accident. There is grotesque imagery in the contorted physiognomy of a victim of spinal meningitis; her illness makes her monstrous and vile, which some critics felt was over-the-line cruel. Kids may be tempted by the sequel, Pet Sematary 2; it's decidedly inferior and adds tacky nudity and tastelessness this one avoids.

What's the story?

Young doctor Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) moves with his family to rural Maine, ominously near a dangerous, truck-traveled highway. After his daughter's beloved tomcat is killed in a hit-and-run, an elderly neighbor informs Louis of an incredible local secret. Hidden near the town's pet cemetery lies an ancient Indian burial ground with paranormal powers; the deadburied in its stony soil actually come back to life. Even with warnings from the ghost of one of his patients, Louis resurrects the cat -- but the once-friendly feline is hostile and menacing. Despite this disappointing result, another wrenching family tragedy leads the tormented Louis back to the burial ground. Again and again.

Is it any good?


This isn't the worst adaptation of a Stephen King book ever made, but considering how bad others are that isn't a compliment you'd want for your tombstone. Without the writer's sympathetic, explanatory prose filling in the back story and motivations (and Stephen King as a scriptwriter has never been as strong as Stephen King the novelist), the plotline plods from one rather cheap shock to another, some of them just arbitrary nastiness that have little to do with anything (like a sickly woman suddenly deciding to hang herself).

As a basic, icky, unvarnished scare show PET SEMATARY renders some of the creepiness effectively in Halloween-spookhouse fashion. The angle about undead pets and kids has something of the Goosebumps vibe, and sex and nudity are absent. You can't say any of that about the vile sequel Pet Sematary 2, which carries over none of the characters from this feature, just the burial ground.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters' motivations. Should a grieving person try to bring a loved one back, at any cost? A reading of the novel provides more discussion material on this. Does a horror movie format deal with this difficult topic effectively? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 28, 1989
DVD/Streaming release date:September 26, 2006
Cast:Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne
Director:Mary Lambert
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of Pet Sematary was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

  • The Sixth Sense Movie Poster Image
    Great, but sometimes scarier than R-rated horror.
  • The Host Movie Poster Image
    South Korean creature feature is wild and witty.
  • Psycho Movie Poster Image
    Classic Hitchcock horror masterpiece still thrills.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byBMOsHardrive November 19, 2015

creepy, but suspenseful snd somewhat good

I saw this movie when I was ten years old, s it was pretty traumatizing at first, but, now I like it a bunch. While being incredibly gory, it is fun at times. though the character "Zelda"is pretty scary, she is not the scariest part of the movie. I only recommend this movie to brave 11 year olds and up. Do note that the last seen in the movie, is very disturbing, The flesh on the woman's face is half off, and puss drips down her face. Over all, I enjoyed the movie despite it's gory flaws
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 11 years old August 14, 2014

Too much blood and gore

Lot's of death, not for Young viewers
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written bycheese-process August 29, 2010

Great Stephen King movie!

Good movie, follows the book very well, and is really scary!
What other families should know
Too much violence