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Stephen King’s novels are prime targets for being made into movies, and for good reason: he’s an excellent storyteller, and since his books are popular, there’s a built-in audience for his movies. Some of the movie adaptations of King’s books are excellent, like Misery. Others aren’t quite as good as the book, but are still enjoyable movies in their own right, such as Dolores Claiborne or Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Then there’s Pet Sematary, which is a good example of a film that doesn’t live up to King’s print storytelling.

Pet Sematary
Pet Sematary tells the story of the Creed family – husband, wife, and two cute kids – and their descent into horror, as first a minor, then a major tragedy leads Louis Creed to trespass on the dangerous territory of the “pet cemetery” behind his Maine home. The story isn’t terribly original, and after the initial set-up it’s fairly evident how events are going to play out. And the initial set-up is flawed, laced with elements that are evidently there just to get the plot going. Neither parent seems particularly concerned that their new house is next to a road with frequent, high-speed traffic from massive trailer trucks... and of course, actually putting up a fence, or keeping one’s pets indoors, is much too difficult a concept.

The director misses out on methods of increasing dramatic tension; for instance, in one scene a character is hurrying back to stop another character from doing something that is going to go horribly wrong; the movie cuts back and forth between the two characters, but it’s clear from the sequencing of the scenes that the first character isn’t going to make it in time, thus draining the scene of any real drama. In the place of scares based on tension and anticipation, Pet Sematary goes for scares based on physically gruesome images. And yes, those images are scary... but in a cheap and repulsive way.

The acting is so-so. The kids (Blaize Berdahl and Miko Hughes) actually do a better job than the parents, with quite natural performances. The husband (Dale Midkiff) seems to be in “neutral” throughout most of the movie, which ends up detracting significantly from the overall believability of the film. While Denise Crosby isn’t bad as Rachel Creed, it’s safe to say that leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation to do movies like Pet Sematary was probably not the best career move she could have done. The secondary characters are better-acted than the main characters; Fred Gwynne does a competent job as the Creeds’ neighbor, and probably the best element in the movie is Brad Greenquist’s performance as a rather unconventional ghost; it’s an original and well-handled part in an otherwise undistinguished film.

Pet Sematary
The transfer is good enough that if you actually like the movie, you’ll be quite pleased with the image quality on the DVD. It’s an anamorphic 1.85:1 image (with a full-screen version also available), and the image quality is excellent. There’s some soft noise in the picture, but nothing that detracts from viewing. Colors and contrast look good, even in challenging scenes at night with flickering lighting.

The Dolby 5.1 audio track supplies sound that’s satisfactory. Nothing really stands out, but Pet Sematary isn’t a movie that makes extensive use of surround anyway. Dialogue is clear, and the occasional more dramatic effect, such as the trucks passing, comes through reasonably well.

There are no extras on this disc (unless you want to consider the inclusion of a full-screen version as an extra).

Pet Sematary
Overall, this is not a very good movie. If you like horror movies a lot, you might want to pick it up as a rental. If you like well-crafted, scary movies, pass. If you can’t stand movies with gruesome elements, stay far away; there’s nothing here that makes it worth closing your eyes during the bloody parts. If you do like the movie, you’ll be pleased with the transfer, but do try to find it on sale; the $29.99 MSRP for this bare-bones disc is practically highway robbery.