After five years of enduring his pestering 8-year-old owner, Ellie Creed, it is no wonder Winston Churchill, called “‘Church’ for short,” pounced in front of a speeding semi-truck. Dr. Louis Creed would rather “Shilly shally” than explain to his whiny firstborn that the feline’s nine lives have finally run out.  Neighbor Jud Crandall, however, doesn’t pussy-foot around and convinces the doctor to bury Church, not in their backyard pet cemetery, but up the mound and into an Indian burial ground. The “sour” ground does indeed resurrect the cat, but “Sometimes dead is better.”    

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Bloody Rundown

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Based on horror master Stephen King’s 1983 novel, and, for the first time, written for the screen by the author himself, Pet Sematary was inspired by King’s personal events. While King, a lifelong Mainiac, and his family were living adjacent to a pet cemetery, his daughter’s cat was killed by a semi-truck on a nearby highway. Furthermore, his son was almost run over by another speeding semi-truck. To ensure that the film adhered to the screenplay, King was onsite for much of the filming, which was shot in Maine. He even appeared in a cameo as a minister.

 

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Directed by Mary Lambert, a prominent music video director, Pet Sematary was her first foray into horror. It is unimaginable how the film would turn out had it been directed by anyone other than Lambert. Female horror directors continue to be a rarity. So, for Mary Lambert to take the helm of a Stephen King adaptation during the 1980s was unprecedented. Lambert has since directed Pet Sematary Two (1992), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), as well as The Attic (2007). Additionally, Lambert was the first female ever to direct a SyFy Channel original movie, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011). (Personally, I wish there were more female horror directors. This desire does not derive from some sort of feminist sentiment, but solely because we need more horror films!)  

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The film’s producer, Richard P. Rubinstein, was already a seasoned horror producer. Together with horror creator George A. Romero, he founded the production company Laurel Entertainment, which produced Martin (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), along with the television series Tales from the Darkside (1984–1988).

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Elliot Goldenthal composed the film’s score with such subtlety that his music refrains from overshadowing the frights. Goldenthal would later go on to score the horrors Alien 3 (1992) and Interview with the Vampire (1994), in which he received an Oscar Nomination.

26An ardent fan of the Ramones, Stephen King cited the punk rockers in his novel. The Ramones, in turn, gifted the author with the film’s theme song, “Pet Sematary.” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” is yet another Ramones’ song that is featured in the film. This 1977 song, from their album Rocket to Russia, blares while a semi-truck driver barrels down the road, in what is surely the film’s most horrific scene.

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David LeRoy Anderson created the film’s special makeup effects with his father, Lance Anderson, a special makeup designer. Both father and son are credited with the makeup in The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Dawn of the Dead (2004), and The Cabin in the Woods (2012). In a twist of horror-movie magnetism, David is married to Heather Langenkamp, known for her role as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

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Dale Midkiff delivered an earnest performance as anguished patriarch Dr. Louis Creed. Midkiff has continued to add to his horror résumé with roles in Route 666 (2001), along with many television series including The Outer Limits (1995–2002) and Dexter (2006–2013).

29Denise Crosby aptly portrayed the devoted yet long-suffering matriarch Rachel Creed. Crosby has also enhanced her horror résumé. In addition to a recurring part on The Walking Dead (2010– present), Crosby starred in Dolly Dearest (1991), Mortuary (2005), and Born (2007).

 

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Brad Greenquist played Victor Pascow, the prophetic ghost who tries to warn Louis Creed about the perils of the nearby Indian burial ground. (The character of Victor Pascow is somewhat reminiscent of the comedic ghost, Jack Goodman, in An American Werewolf in London (1981).)

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Zelda, Rachel Creed’s taunting teenage sister who was afflicted with a most severe form of spinal meningitis, was portrayed by Andrew Hubatsek—a man. Hubatsek, now a member of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, shrewdly depicted Zelda with upmost zeal.

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Eight-year-old Ellie Creed, Louis and Rachel’s bemoaning and inquisitive irritant of a daughter, was primarily portrayed by the darling Blaze Berdahl. Her identical twin sister, the equally darling Beau Berdahl, was on hand to stand in. The role of Gage was played by 2 ½- old Miko Hughes. In yet another reference to Heather Langenkamp, Hughes was cast as her son, Dylan Porter, in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994).

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Mary Lambert’s first choice to depict Jud Crandall, a character who was based on King’s neighbor, was none other than Fred Gwynne. Standing at 6’5 tall, with his baritone voice, Fred Gwynne’s most recognized role is Herman Munster of The Munsters (1964 – 1966). To portray the Creed’s affable and wise neighbor, Gwynne dyed his hair grey and mastered a New England accent.    

With themes of death, dying, and resurrection, Pet Sematary is an original and timeless classic, complete with otherworldly creepiness and hardcore gore.   

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Die-Anne’s Diatribe

18 Torn from the pages of an American horror master, and lead by a talented chic that makes horror flicks, Pet Sematary is puuurrrrfect! I just wish that “dirty secret” Zelda lingered onscreen a bit longer…

 

*On a more personal note, it is devastating that the four founding members of the Ramones, America’s greatest band of all time, have all ascended to the spirit in the sky. Far too early. Their contributions to Pet Sematary are immeasurably haunting.      

RIP – Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy

Plot Mutilator

Coming before April 21st, 2015.

Deadly Details

Director ∞ Mary Lambert                                                                                                           4
Producer ∞ Richard P. Rubinstein
Screenwriter ∞ Stephen King
Based on ∞ Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Music ∞ Elliot Goldenthal
Cinematographer ∞ Peter Stein
Editors ∞ Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill
Set Decoration ∞ Kathe Klopp  
Production Design ∞ Michael Z. Hanan  
Art Direction ∞ Dins W.W. Danielsen  
Special Effects ∞ Bob Ahmanson, Stephen M. Chesney, Tom Chesney, Kevin Swigert, et al.
Visual Effects ∞ Betzy Bromberg, David Emerson, Leslie Huntley, et al.
Art Department ∞ Jo Brown, Carlene Hirsch, Jennifer Law-Stump, et al.
Sound Department ∞ Blake R. Cornett, Jane Lang, Hamilton Sterling, et al.
Makeup Department ∞ David LeRoy Anderson and Lance Anderson
Costume Design ∞ M. Stewart
Distributor ∞ Paramount Pictures
Release Date ∞ April 1989
Running time ∞ 103 Minutes
Country ∞ United States
Language ∞ English
Cast ∞                                                                                                                    25
Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed
Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall
Denise Crosby as Rachel Creed
Brad Greenquist as Victor Pascow
Michael Lombard as Irwin Goldman
Miko Hughes as Gage Creed
Blaze Berdahl as Ellie Creed
Beau Berdahl as Ellie Creed II
Susan Blommaert as Missy Dandridge
Mara Clark as Marcy Charlton
Kavi Raz as Steve Masterton
Mary Louise Wilson as Dory Goldman
Andrew Hubatsek as Zelda
Liz Davies as Girl at Infirmary
Kara Dalke as Candystriper
Matthew August Ferrell as Jud as a Child                                                                    3
Lisa Stathoplos as Jud’s Mother
Stephen King as Minister
Elizabeth Ureneck as Rachel as a Child
Chuck Courtney as Bill Baterman
Peter Stader as Timmy Baterman
Richard Collier as Young Jud
Chuck Shaw as Cop
Dorothy McCabe as Seatmate #1
Mary R. Hughes as Seatmate #2
Eleanor Grace Courtemanche as Logan Airport Gate Agent
Donnie Greene as Orinco Driver
Lila Duffy as Budget Clerk
John David Moore as Hitchhike Driver