What parents need to know
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?