Pet Sematary

Apr 8, 2019

Solid horror. Fun, with layers of meaning.

Pet Sematary

Grade: B

Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Screenplay: Jeff Buhler, from Stephen King novel

Cast: Jason Clarke (The Aftermath), John Lithgow (Interstellar)

Rating: R

Runtime: I hr 41 min

By: John DeSando

“Sometimes, dead is better.” Jud (John Lithgow)

I’ve seen a few horror films in my time, and too few rise to the level of, say, The Exorcist or The Shining.

But now and then a good one comes by, scary with a social conscience such as last year’s It by Stephen King. His current Pet Sematary doesn’t necessarily eclipse its own previous iterations; rather it provides with some plot changes, a venue for a classic notion, life after death, and it does it well enough.

Louis (Jason Clarke), an ER doc, moves his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz); daughter, Ellie (Jete Laurence); and son, Gage (Lucas Lavoie and Hugo Lavoie) from frenetic Boston to rural Maine to escape the madness. However, this is Stephen King territory: Right away they have to deal with the change in their beloved cat and with the weird pet cemetery on their property. Oh, yes, and an adjacent burial ground that provides the film’s largest horrors.

Although I appreciate the usual tropes like jump scares and gross bodies, I’m mostly moved, or scared as the case might be, by the treatment of belief in the afterlife. Our doctor doesn’t believe until faced with cat, Church, coming home from his grave, and, well, other strange occurrences. Let the scares begin.

Mostly I am moved by the man of science’s dismissal about the afterlife to his full belief in the concept. He becomes a believer, fulfilling my fervid hope for a commitment on the religious themes and the obvious terror of meeting ones you loved, gone but not for good.

Secondarily, Pet Sematary is also about striking out for a new life and leaving goodness behind while evil visits in every turn. It’s a cautionary tale about knowing what you are getting into when you alter your life.

“She won’t come back the same.”  Jud

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at