HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Three – 10/03/18

10/03 – 1989: PET SEMATARY

It would become a trope that casual and die-hard Stephen King fans would get used to hearing in the years and decades to come: the “unfilmable” story or novel that Hollywood would be hot to splatter onto the big screen.  Novels that King himself said were either “too scary”, “too surreal” ortoo personal”for him to ever consider putting out there as movie fodder. PET SEMATARY was one of those many novels, but not only was it ‘filmable’, but it’s one of

the films that stuck the closest to the source material; maybe even a bit more than CARRIE and CHRISTINE did.

Avant-garde director MARY LAMBERT (SIESTA), working from a script by the Author Himself, (which didn’t hurt the quality one bit), ramped up the dread and the dead in this beloved, spooky tale of a family who moves to a house in Maine that comes with something extra…a backyard to the backyard that contains the local “pet sematary”, where all the furry family members go on their way to the “Rainbow Bridge.” Ah, but it’s what lies beyond that patch of ground, that’s a catalyst for the phantasmaGOREical horrors to come.

The way-too busy highway in front of the house is a guarantee that the ‘sematary’ will have plenty of occupants…but

so will the place where the dead go to…well, to quote the title of another famed King tale, “Sometimes They Come Back.” Only in this particular case, when

they do, they’re not your loved ones anymore, human or animal, and they’re always…hungry.

 

STAR TREK alumni DALE MIDKIFF and DENISE “Tasha Y’ar” CROSBY play parents Louis and Rachel Creed, who move to this picturesque but dangerous part of Maine with their kids, toddler Gage (everyone’s pick for “Best Weird Kid” MIKO HUGHES) and pre-teen Ellie (BLAZE BERDAHL).

A near-tragedy involving Gage (foreshadowing and then some) introduces the Creed family to their kindly old neighbor, Jud Crandall (the late, great FRED GWYNNE), who is the local ‘keeper of secrets’, and is also the link between Louis and the “pet sematary.”

Those who have seen it a thousand times (and at least a few more than that) knows where things are going from here. Those who don’t, and who haven’t read the book? The less you know going in, the better, because the scarier it’s guaranteed to be, if you’re “in the dark” about the finer details.

The cast is perfect; great performances from all concerned parties.  But the greatest nightmare fuel comes from two ‘unknown’ actors who play the apparitions that help give the story it’s scrotum-shriveling chills: BRAD GREENQUIST, who plays a hapless jogger that Louis encounters, and ANDREW HUBATSEK, who goes above and beyond, playing a terrifying figure from Rachel’s past.

As a fiercely sought-after video director who helmed concert and song clips for everyone from Madonna and Janet Jackson to Chris Isaac and Bobby Brown, the strong, at-times ethereal visual sense she has made her a perfect match for King’s script. SEMATARY gave her quite the cinematic ‘sandbox’ to play in, and she clearly took every advantage of it, creating set-pieces so beautifully creepy, that I still get goosebumps just thinking about them.

This is a choice you could never go wrong with for a cloudy, spooky Halloween night. And as the perfect companion piece, may I suggest UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY? It’s one of the most exhaustive and thorough docs about the ‘making of’ a movie that’s out there.

Oh, and “Post-MORTEM-SCRYPT”: Ready or not, asked for or not, a SEMATARY remake is in the works, with JASON CLARKE (WINCHESTER), AMY SEIMETZ (ALIEN: COVENANT) and JOHN LITHGOW (from a list too long to mention) will be taking over the roles of Louis and Rachel Creed and Jud Crandall, respectively…And before you roll your eyes outta your head at the very notion, check this: KEVIN KOLSCH and DENNIS WIDMEYER (STARRY EYES) are directing, from a script by DAVID KAJGANICH (the SUSPIRIA remake).  That certainly makes me want to give it a fighting chance…


Posted by Samuel Glass

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