Wondra: The Countdown to Halloween continues, which means
another Stephen King adaptation. Today, we’re going to look at Pet Sematary (1989,) which has some really great moments but can be really annoying at times.
I think I’ll start with the setting? The most important
place in the movie has got to be the pet sematary itself, although little of
the action actually takes place there. The tired, worn graves at the “sematary”
look kind of scary – but isn’t it a beautiful idea?
Jay: I love the idea of a pet cemetery. Pets play such a big
part of your life – from a goldfish to a horse – especially growing up. The
dogs you have growing up, you never forget them. They’re a huge part of who you
are, who you become. Growing up, I was lucky. I had dogs, budgies, goldfish –
hell, I had a kestrel and a crow. If they told me there was a pet cemetery (cemetery,
not sematary) opening… one of those new ones, where you can be buried next to them,
absolutely. There are plenty of people who prefer their pets to their families!
A dog’s love is unconditional.
W: Absolutely. I cried harder when Dakota died than when
my dad died. I mean... to be fair, it was my dad, but you know what I mean. No
matter how far away you are, they’re still your family, your best friends.
Okay, so the movie starts and almost immediately, Gage (Miko
Hughes) almost runs out in front of a truck. What the fuck were those people
thinking, not putting a fence up – or, I don’t know, teaching their kids road
safety? As a non-parent, I’m just watching it thinking what horrible, negligent
parents they are!
(By the way, we lived right on a major highway with
trucks flying by all the time. We knew not to go anywhere fucking near it.)
J: Let’s be honest. When you’ve got a lethal road – that’s
why there’s a pet cemetery in the first place – you put up a fence so your pet
or your kid can’t run out in the road. It’s Common Sense 101. You’d have to be
off your head to have a two-year-old kid there without any protection.
W: I hate Denise Crosby’s character. She’s such a whiny
little princess. Her issue with death and “Why should kids learn about death…”
They bought the kid a cat. Didn’t they expect to have to explain death at some
point? What was she going to do if the grandparents died? You have to teach
kids about death at some point! Is there an age that’s too young, ‘cause that girl
doesn’t seem that young…?
J: Well, in their defence, the kids are both very young –
the parents were probably thinking that they weren’t going to have to have the
conversation for a long time. After all,
cats can live up to, what, twenty years? The kids would be in university by
I knew from a young age that death was a thing. I had a Nan
and B but my other Nan didn’t have a B. I knew that he was in Heaven. From the
age of four, I remember crying when my mom went on holiday because I was
terrified her plane would crash and she would die. Would it have been easier if
I hadn’t known anything about death? I don’t know.
The quicker kids understand something, when something
happens, it’s not a shock. My friend’s mother died when she was six or seven at
the age of thirty or so. My parents told me, people die. It won’t happen to
you. It happens to you if you’re stupid.
W: Someone should have had that talk with Gage.
Honestly, I didn’t find either of the parents likeable.
And the grandparents were just hateful. The mother, Rachel, is
neurotic as fuck and the father, Louis (Dale Midkiff,) becomes just as bad as
she is the moment things go wrong. Do you think it’s intentional, like a
commentary on human nature, or am I just reading too much into it?
J: You can never tell with Stephen King because he’s always
had a very interesting view on human nature. Just look at The Mist –
talk about commentary on human nature. King has an amazing grasp on human
nature. Human natures. There’s not just one. He’s really lived a life
and you’ve got to think not wanted to for at least part of it. We’re
lucky his wife believed in him when he didn’t.
King’s books are so relatable. Look at It or Tommyknockers.
The dynamics between people, between friends, are so intricate, so complicated.
You know his childhood was a formidable time because he writes about childhood
so much. Growing up in 50s/60s America, dirt poor, with Coke bottle glasses… it
couldn’t have been easy.
W: It’s common knowledge that King had a rough childhood
so it makes sense that he writes about it a lot.
Oh, I wanted to mention Fred Gwynne as Jude Crandall! I
loved seeing him in Pet Sematary! He’s such a horror icon and a lovely
character. His death is so awful too!
J: Fred Gwynne didn’t act enough for me. He got kind of
pigeonholed into the Herman Munster role and he was so much more than that. It
didn’t matter if he was warning you or whatever, it did it with that slow,
southern voice. I was always so sad that I never got the chance to meet him.
And his death… it is horrific. To slice his ankle, then
slice his mouth open. Brutal. Shocking. For half of Pet Sematary, you
don’t really see a lot but, when it gets into its swing, it really goes for it.
It does get nasty.
W: In typical King fashion, the sister, Ellie (BlazeBerdahl,) appears to be psychic. Weirdly, neither of the parents are. No one
else does, either. And it offers zero explanation for any of it. What’s
going on there?
J: Yeah, it doesn’t explain it at all, does it? It makes you
wonder if she’s tapped into the ground. Children are much more au fait
with spirits than adults are, anyway.
W: There is other supernatural stuff going on, of course,
with Rachel’s sister, Zelda (Andrew Hubastek) – who, by the way, I don’t
believe looked anything like you would if you had the disease she supposedly
had, but that’s beside the point – and with the ghost of the kid who gets
killed on Louis’s first day, Pascow (Brad Greenquist.)
You mentioned before that you didn’t think there was any
point in the thing with Pascow…?
J: No. I understand why, I suppose… to help the story along,
but you didn’t need the ghost telling you. You had Jud doing it. I think
it was for shock value more than anything. I don’t know if it was a homage to An
American Werewolf in London, but I didn’t there was any need for it.
W: It definitely gave me An American Werewolf in London
vibes. The annoying thing about Pascow for me is that he could only go so
far… could only help so much. Why? The ghost of Zelda didn’t seem to have the
same restrictions. I hate inconsistencies.
Alright. I have to ask. If Jud knew bad things could happen
if you buried things in the pet sematary, why the Hell did he take that
J: Jud does explain his reasoning, doesn’t he? He
just didn’t want Ellie’s heart broken. I always thought that he should have done
a better job of warning Louis, mind. Especially since, like you said, he knew
exactly how bad it could get. Jud had good intentions but the whole thing was still
a really bad idea.
W: I love that they had to use 9 different cats during
filming for Church because cats can’t be trained. Do you think it would have
been a different movie if they’d used a dog instead?
J: You could have ended up with dogs that couldn’t act too.
Just look at how obedient our dogs are.
As far as it being a different movie? Well, it depends on
which sort of dog they used… if it’s a yorkie or something, no, not really.
You’d still get the same kind of vibe. If it’s a German Shepard or something,
definitely. If a Doberman growls at you, it’s a different story.
W: And, of course, we already have a King film about a killer
Okay, talk to me about creepy Gage because he’s the best
part of the movie.
J: He was awesome. Dying aged Gage quite a bit, though, didn’t
it? He went from one-word sentences to full sentences right after coming back.
That’s pretty impressive. His second death is the best. When he gets put down,
that “No fair!” is something…
W: Okay… I don’t get it. That mofo saw what happened when
he took the cat there. He saw what happened when he took his son there. Why the
fuck would he take his wife there?! He knew what would happen!
J: I don’t think he really believed it, that it would happen
again. He was just desperate.
You know… after Rachel kills Louis, there’s always the
possibility that she takes him up to the sematary and buries him. You’re in
zombie territory then. Zombies that can think and reason and know how to spread
without eating each other. Now that’s an interesting movie…
W: Okay, last chance to add any thoughts…
J: Pet Sematary is a straightforward, creepy film and
it’s all down to Gage. Anything where you’ve got a kid coming back after you –
and he doesn’t come back as a dumb shit… that’s terrifying. Gage is cunning. He
got Jud and he almost got his father. It’s only by luck that he didn’t. Scary
Wondra’s Rating: 💀💀💀
Jay’s Rating: 💀💀💀💀