R Dir: Mary Lambert | Paramount | 1h 43min
Plot: What’s it about?
Depending on where you get your “facts”, Stephen King has had nearly five dozen of his works that have gone onto television or feature films. The next closest author is Nicholas Sparks who has a paltry eleven. King, a native of Maine, made a name for himself as one of the premier horror writers. And four decades later he’s still at it. One of his more popular works was Pet Sematary, a novel written in 1983 that saw a 1989 release as a feature-length film. The 80’s (and 70’s, 90’s and 00’s) were good to King as some popular adaptations of his saw the big screen like Christine, Cujo, Stand By Me and my personal favorite: The Shining.
Louis (Dale Midkiff) and Rachel (Denise Crosby) have dropped the big city life in Chicago and have moved to a small town in Maine. With their kids, Gage (Miko Hughes) and Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) in tow, Louis is to become the new town physician. He treats a runner, Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who’s been hit by a truck and incurred massive head injuries. He dies on the examining table, but not before giving Louis a strange, cryptic message. Later, the family loses their cat to a rouge truck in the road and neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne) alerts the family to a strange burial ground that might be able to bring the animal back to life. It works. Sort of. Things get further complicated when they lose their son, Gage, who is hit by a car. Not wanting to let go, they try the same thing. This leads to the film’s tagline: “Sometimes dead is better.”
Pet Sematary was a hard novel to bring to the screen and director Mary Lambert did the best with what she had. In the commentary track, she explains some of the problems that persisted with the film and the shoot, yet still the film is considered to be one of the better adaptations. Most notable, for me anyway, was that Denise Crosby who played Rachel, left her role on Star Trek: The Next Generation in order to “pursue a movie career.” It didn’t really work. Crosby made another few guest appearances on the show, but since her character was killed off, that was that. The film also inspired a 1992 sequel starring Edward Furlong and Anthony Edwards (and also directed by Mary Lambert). There are several dozen of Stephen King’s works to choose from, but for many – this represents the Paramount (pun fully intended) of his work.
Video: How’s it look?
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to watch this film and I have to admit that Paramount’s 4K restoration looks amazing. Director Mary Lambert was involved in the film’s restoration and it shows, she even “fixed” a few of the effects for this new release. Originally presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image has been cropped just a bit down to a more “standard” 1.78:1 look. Paramount’s 4K image is nothing short of stunning, showcasing the full range of HDR, increased resolution and detail which really gives the movie a more modern look. Who’d have thought, an older film could look great with modern technology? The film runs the gamut in terms of the color spectrum with the opening scenes looking bright and sun-kissed, though as the movie progresses, becomes more dark and monotonus. It’s far and away the best the film has ever looked.
Audio: How’s it sound?
While not quite as impressive as the film’s look, is the included DTS HD Master Audio mix that seems to be the same one used for the 2012 Blu-ray release. Vocals sound adequate, though I have to say that Fred Gwynne’s Maine accent is just about the best thing I’ve experienced in my movie-watching. Surround effects provide some ambiance, vocals are crisp (aside from Gwynne’s deep voice), though the front stage takes the burden of the mix. It’s nothing revolutionary, but does provide a nice, ample sound field to which we can all enjoy.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – This is the same track that appeared on the 2012 Blu-ray release, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. Lambert obviously has a pretty heartfelt attraction for this film. She was involved in the restoration process for this 30th anniversary release. Still, her straight-forward commentary has plenty of attention to detail about the shoot, casting and adapting Stephen King’s novel (to which she geeks out and admits how much of a fan she is). It’s a great track and her enthusiasm resonates.
- Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance – In case you weren’t aware, they’re doing a remake of this film which is probably the only reason it’s seeing a new Blu-ray and 4K release. We get some input from the new cast members as they reflect on the “original.” It’s basically a glorified trailer for the new film.
- Pet Sematary: Revisitation – Director Mary Lambert discusses the film and dissects it to its core. She explains some of the motivations that led her to the project to begin with as well as some of the nuances (changes) she made to this new 30th anniversary edition.
- Galleries – Three are included.
- Storyboards – A few, recently “unearthed” (get it?) that were discovered during this restoration.
- Behind the Scenes – Stills from the film.
- Marketing – Some posters from the film as well as old VHS and LaserDisc covers. Yes, LaserDisc.
- Stephen King Territory – King, along with others, discuss the origins of the story and how he took what he knew of these myths and sculpted it into what we now know as Pet Sematary.
- The Characters – King and director Mary Lambert discuss the characters in the film, what makes them tick and so on.
- Filming the Horror – King and Lambert also get “down and dirty” when discussing the filming of this movie, how some of the characters differed from the book as well as the novel’s ending compared with that of the film.
The Bottom Line
Yes, it’s been three decades since Pet Sematary first graced theaters and while it’s great we’re seeing a definitive version of this, it also means it’s being remade. Sometimes that’s not always a bad thing. But fans of this, the original, will be pleased that the film now looks and sounds the best it ever has. The addition of a few new supplements (in addition to what was on the 2012 Blu-ray) is the icing on the cake.