Pet Sematary

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Pet Sematary Movie Poster Image
Book-based Stephen King horror tale is scary and violent.
  • R
  • 1989
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 39 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

Reference to a cat spaying as "getting his nuts cut."

Language

"S--t," "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. Bloody gashes and lacerations, ghastly head/face wounds on victims and zombies. Characters suffer cannibalistic attacks, being hit by cars, burning to death. Profanity: "s--t," "son of a bitch." Smoking and beer-drinking among adults. Kids may be tempted by the sequel, Pet Sematary 2; it's decidedly inferior and adds tacky nudity and tastelessness this one avoids.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynewmommy102103 August 9, 2019

Reviews were wrong about language!

We decided to watch Pet Sematary after it popped up free on the Roku Channel this week. My son is 13 and we always check here first. After reading the reviews... Continue reading
Adult Written byjcmcdowell December 28, 2019

Not too scary

This adaptation of Stephen Kong’s novel was ok, and I’m glad there was hardly any sex in the movie. The review was wrong, though. There should be 1/5 for sex be... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byeazy__breezy July 27, 2014

IT WILL SCARE THE CRAP OUT OF KIDS

Last year, I spent my summer watching Stephen King films such as The Shining, The Mist, IT, Misery and this one, Pet Sematary. And I have to say, this one was t... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byRhinoGamerHD May 19, 2020

Quite good

I'm getting pretty annoyed when people say there's loads of swearing in the film and the fact that the F-word was a shock to them. NEWS FLASH IT'... Continue reading

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? 

  • If you've read the book, which version of the story is better? Why?

  • What's the appeal of horror stories?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

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