Pet Sematary



Stephen King shocker a grim, R-rated Goosebumps.
  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • 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 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.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

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

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Great, but sometimes scarier than R-rated horror.
  • South Korean creature feature is wild and witty.
  • Horror masterpiece definitely isn't for young kids.

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 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
Teen, 13 years old Written bySoftballlover August 21, 2010


Teen, 16 years old Written byRockAndRollKid June 13, 2014

Great horror film with grim disturbing scenes. Some language

Pet semetary may not seem chilling but it is. After a family moves to Maine the dad does slightly mad when he sees a ghost who he tried to save from a gory truck incident. After his wife and kids decide to leave for a while and while their gone their cat dies. His new neighbor takes him to pet semetary and the cat comes to life with shocking results. After the family returns his wife starts feeling guilty about her sisters super disturbing deissease. And not only that but their made hangs herself on screen. After also a while their 4 year old son gets ran over by a truck so his dad resserects him with shocking results. Parents this film involves scenes with onscreen hangings,poisoning,people burning,a little boy murdering several people,blood,and his wife's sister dying from a terrifying disease thats hard to live with watching it. There is also language and lots of smoking Violence 4/5: very creepy indeed. A boy murders several adults in gory form,a sister dies from a disease horrablly disgustingly,gore,2 hangings which one is completely on screen, a creepy boy, jump scenes, and a cat that scratches peoples faces. Drinking/drugs/smoking: 4/5: their neighbor is an acaholic so him and the main character drink together often. There is lots of smoking and a few references to getting drunk Sex: 2/5: a man is naked in a bath though you see nothing,there is strong kissing,discussions of marriage,and a reference of nuts said by a little girl which is reapeted after. Language: 3/5: sh*t is used a few times which once used by a 4 year old girl, nuts is also used (again 4 year old girl). Bit*h is used once! Jesus,damn,and crap are used. F*ck is used once
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide