Based on Stephen King’s novel, Pet Sematary follows Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and his family (Denise Crosby’s Rachel, Blaze Berdahl’s Ellie, and Miko Hughes’ Gage) as they move into a new house and quickly discover the title spot near their backyard – with the movie detailing the horror that ensues as it becomes more and more clear that the pet cemetery possesses mystical powers. It’s clear immediately that filmmaker Mary Lambert is the worst choice for the material imaginable, as the director, working from King’s screenplay, has infused Pet Sematary with a flat and styleless sensibility that grows increasingly problematic as time progresses – with the picture generally devoid of the suspense and tension one might’ve anticipated based on the setup. There’s little doubt, as well, that the almost passable yet mostly uninvolving vibe is compounded by a bland lead performance by Midkiff, as the actor’s charisma-free turn as the far-from-sympathetic protagonist ultimately winds up exacerbating the film’s various problems. (Conversely, Fred Gwynne, cast as the Creeds’ folksy neighbor, is so good here that it’s hard not to wish his Jud Crandall were the main character.) The pervasive movie-of-the-week atmosphere paves the way for a final third rife with supposedly “scary” elements that are hardly able to make the impact Lambert has surely intended, which ultimately does cement Pet Sematary‘s place as a misbegotten adaptation that could (and should) have been so much better (ie King’s novel is frequently terrifying).
** out of ****