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Pet Sematary (1989) Revisited

I Write These Movie Reviews Locked in the Trunk of Your Car. Thanks for the Snacks!!

Back when movies only had one onesheet. It then became the VHS cover. And then went on a T-Shirt.

Back when movies only had one onesheet. It then became the VHS cover. And then went on a T-Shirt.

MPAA Rating

R for Remake is Better

Running Time

103 minutes


Mary Lambert


Stephen King (novel & screenplay)

With the Pet Sematary remake being released earlier in April, it’s only inevitable that the remake and its original end up being compared. The ’89 version even had a Special Edition 4K Ultra released just before the remake opened in theaters. Some of the more cynical among you might think this a transparent cash grab to further squeeze out any profit from a movie that might have terrified you as a kid but upon watching it without nostalgia goggles realize it wasn’t quite as good or scary as you remembered it.

Having watched it again, you realize they’re right. Pet Sematary '89 simply does not hold up. You’d expect that after 30 years of dated references, funny clothes, antiquated music etc. But there seems to be some Gen-X disease that makes everything made in the 80s an automatic classic. Pet Sematary ’89 is one of many pieces of pop culture that prove that particular theory is as thin as the videotape on which you might have seen this movie the first time.


The Creeds are your average family with 2 kids and a pet. You can bet that roll call will be lower by the movie’s end. Louis (Dale Midkiff) is a doctor who’s uprooted his family from Chicago to Maine because he got a job at the local college. Rachel (Denise Crosby) is his high-strung wife with a deep dark secret. Their two kids Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes) are adorable but have never lived next to a busy street in their lives.

Ellie has a cat named Church that she loves more than anything in the world. This will not end well.

Their new neighbor Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) welcomes the Creeds to the neighborhood with open arms and open bottles of beer. He also has Maine’s largest collection of overalls. He’s lived there all his life and has more than a few stories to tell. Some of them aren’t meant for children’s ears. He warns the Creeds to keep their pets away from the busy road as the Orinco trucks that drive by on a constant basis have claimed the lives of more pets than one can count.

He will eat that play icon.

Rachel notices a path from their property to an unknown backwoods area. Reluctantly, Jud shows the Creeds that it’s an old pet cemetery that goes back to even before he was a boy.

Not long after, during the Thanksgiving holiday Jud notices that Church is dead on his lawn. Louis knows that Ellie will be heartbroken. When they go to the pet cemetery, Jud suggests they go a little bit further up the way to another cemetery.

This cemetery is…special and Louis buries Church. Jud knows he may regret what just transpired.

The next morning Church is back, but he’s different. He smells of death and is a lot more aggressive than usual. This is okay because Ellie got her cat back and nothing bad will ever happen again.

Until that day they decided to fly kites.

The Creeds and Jud are having a picnic and Louis decides to let Gage fly a kite for the first time. If only Louis weren’t so easily distracted and there wasn’t a gust of wind and there wasn’t a giant truck barreling down the road where Church died earlier.

What could possibly go wrong?

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What (still) Works with Pet Sematary 1989

  • The late Fred Gwynne’s jaunty scene stealing performance as Jud Crandall is practically the only thing that feels fresh in the original. With his awesome clam chowder accent and the ominous delivery of the movie’s most famous line, he elevates every scene he’s in because by comparison, every other performance is flat
  • Though she’s, um, he’s only in movie for a fleeting period of screentime, Andrew Hubatsek’s work as Zelda, Rachel’s troubled sister, is the only thing in the ’89 version that can be classified as scary in 2019. Every time Zelda appears on screen the audience is caught off guard in a way they aren’t when diverted back to the main plot.
He doesn't remember putting on that hat.

He doesn't remember putting on that hat.

What Doesn't Work With Pet Sematary (1989)

  • Dale Midkiff’s lead work as Louis is horribly dull and one-dimensional, causing the movie to have huge hole in its center from which it never recovers. Midkiff gives a Keanu Reeves performance before Keanu Reeves started giving them. It’s rumored that Bruce Campbell was considered for Louis. In retrospect, that would have been perfect
  • I wondered why the movie wasn’t working other than the obvious 30 years that have passed by, considering Mary Lambert’s direction and Stephen King’s own screenplay are pretty concise and there really aren’t any dead spots. In retrospect, other than Zelda’s appearances, Pet Sematary really isn’t that scary as the dated effects don’t really help Church’s scenes or the other scenes I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen them.


Sometimes remade is better.

Those 80s shorts have as much material as those overalls.

Those 80s shorts have as much material as those overalls.

Buy Pet Sematary Here!

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Noel Penaflor


Jennifer Jorgenson on July 24, 2019:


Noel Penaflor (author) from California on July 24, 2019:

It's what made them great reviewers as well as excellent Nascar drivers and astronauts.

Jennifer Jorgenson on July 21, 2019:

I had heard that about Ebert an Maslin.

Noel Penaflor (author) from California on July 20, 2019:

Thank you very much. The key is not wearing pants while I write these reviews. Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin used to do it.

Jennifer Jorgenson on April 18, 2019:

Great review. I enjoy the sense of humor you infuse your reviews with. Thanks!

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