Pet Sematary

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Pet Sematary Movie Poster Image
Stephen King shocker a grim, R-rated Goosebumps.
  • R
  • 1989
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 23 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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).

Violence

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

Sex

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

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pet Sematary 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydarkknightrises232 July 14, 2012

Constant swearing and smoking makes it for older teens.

S--t, b---h, sl-t, god d-mn, f--got, pr--k, d--k, and "Lord" are the swear words in this film. Constant smoking.
Parent of a 11 year old Written byHealthWyze.org April 28, 2012

Great, Clean Horror Film

This is a fantastic horror movie that really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is one of few good horror movies that is clean and safe for kids to watch.... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 14, 2014

Too much blood and gore

Lot's of death, not for Young viewers
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's the story?

In PET SEMATARY, 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters' motivations in Pet Sematary. 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

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