Pet Sematary

  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Stephen King shocker a grim, R-rated Goosebumps.
  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

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.

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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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 release date:September 26, 2006
Cast:Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne
Director:Mary Lambert
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Horror
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of Pet Sematary was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySoftballlover August 21, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Love....

I LOVED IT!
Parent of a 7 year old Written bythe bobo January 11, 2010
AGE
4
QUALITY
 

the bobo

best stephen king movie
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written bycheese-process August 29, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Great Stephen King movie!

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

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