by Stephen King — Horror Novel
Released on November 14, 1983 — 561 pages
Narrated by Michael C. Hall (of the Dexter television series)
1989 Pet Sematary — Screenplay written by Stephen King — Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne & Denise Crosby
2019 Pet Sematary — Screenplay written by Jeff Buhler — Starring Jason Clarke, John Lithgow & Amy Seimetz
This review post I wanted to do a little different as this book is one of my favorites from Stephen King and to some fans, the 1989 movie was one of the best movie renditions of his books.
Recently, King released a new audio version narrated by the talented Michael C. Hall who played the vigilante/serial killer on the HBO television hit, Dexter. And this last April, the film reboot was made of Pet Sematary. I felt it was fitting to give you a review of all three.
When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Despite Ludlow’s tranquility, an undercurrent of danger exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing…as is evidenced by the makeshift graveyard in the nearby woods where generations of children have buried their beloved pets.
Then there are the warnings to Louis both real and from the depths of his nightmares that he should not venture beyond the borders of this little graveyard where another burial ground lures with seductive promises and ungodly temptations. A blood-chilling truth is hidden there—one more terrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful. As Louis is about to discover for himself sometimes, dead is better…
PET SEMATARY (1989)
I will admit right now that I am very biased about this film for three reasons: One – the late Fred Gwynne did an absolute stellar performance as Jud Crandall, the well-meaning neighbor, two – Dale Midkiff who starred as Louis Creed, the patriarch of the family as he gives a very emotional performance through the film and three – Brad Greenquist who plays the ill-fated jogger, Victor Pascow, who tries time and time again to warn Louis of the supernatural dangers.
These memorable characters and the roles they played in this tragic tale just stick with you long after you’ve read and/or seen the movie. Jud Crandall a lifetime resident of Maine, comes to life on the screen with his thick Northeastern accent (“Ayup”) and quirky sayings like “The heart of a man is stonier, Louis.” And of course, “Sometimes…dead is better!”.
Overall, I have found this movie aged very well with the retelling, most of the acting and the physical special effects.
PET SEMATARY (2019)
I applaud the effort this reboot made to give some new insight to the reasons why the Micmac Indians burial ground “soured” and became tainted with ghastly evil. The writers delved a tad deeper into “the Wendigo” creature that traveled between our realm and the realm of the dead. They also played up the enchantment the land held over the local children — how they had funeral marches and maintained the Pet Sematary grounds.
The other highlight they accomplished was a better version of Churchill, the Creeds’ cat (as seen above). Its evil stare would for sure lock you in your tracks should you ever come across it on your path.
However, those are the only two highlights for this version. Very poor writing (I even wondered at times if Jeff Buhler even read the original book) as the plot veers erratically and key conversations and events in the book are just haphazardly placed in the film at times.
Another knock against the film is the underuse of John Lithgow’s incredible acting talent. Also, they took away the Jud Crandall accent as well as most of his character building interactions with Louis. Instead of trying to scare the audience with Zelda, Rachel Creed’s dead sister, they should have focused on what made the 89 film a classic: its character stories.
This version tried too hard to introduce its own vague ideas (I won’t go into any detailed spoilers) but the unnecessary jump scares and changes to plot points were beyond annoying and the ending was over-the-top and frankly dumb.
Michael C. Hall was born February 1, 1971, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Michael is a graduate of NYU’s Master of Fine Arts program in acting. He is known for the titular character “Dexter” in Dexter (2006) and as mortician “David Fisher” in Six Feet Under (2001). His most recent performance on Broadway was as “Hedwig” in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”.
Battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma during his run on Dexter, but the disease has been in remission since January, 2010.
Michael does a fantastic job of the voices and the pacing of the story, even channeling Fred Gwynne to perform the classic version of Jud Crandall. Choosing this actor who has a way of delivering great sarcasm with subtly was a great choice for this story.
In summary, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the original book and the audio version. As well I would recommend seeing the 1989 film as it brings King’s suspense and dark undertones to the screen, but don’t waste your time and money on the new 2019 Pet Sematary. Hollywood’s attempt to reboot or “resurrect” this story was a dismal failure… Or as Jud Crandall would say, “Dead is better.”
By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller), IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella and co-author of The Hidden (all available on Amazon & Kindle). Also author of the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (also available on Audible.com!).