This Day in Horror History: PET SEMATARY Was Unleashed in 1989
On this day in horror, back in 1989, Paramount Pictures unleashed director Mary Lambert’s classic adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary with Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, and Denise Crosby.
The film was released on April 21, 1989, and grossed $57.5 million on a budget of $11.5 million. A sequel, Pet Sematary Two, was released in 1992 and a remake was released in 2019.
Happy 31st Birthday, Pet Sematary!
Bruce Campbell was the first choice for the role of Louis Creed. Fred Gwynne was director Mary Lambert‘s first and only choice for the role of Judd Crandall.
Stephen King has said that Pet Sematary is the only novel he wrote that really scared him.
The role of Zelda, Rachel’s terminally ill sister, was played by a man. Director Mary Lambert wanted Zelda and her scenes to frighten the audience but did not believe that a 13-year old girl was scary so she cast Andrew Hubatsek in the role to make something be “off about Zelda.”
Stephen King was present on location for most of the shooting of the film. The area it was shot in was only twenty minutes away from his home in Bangor, Maine. King required the movie to be filmed in Maine and his screenplay to be followed rigorously.
In Stephen King’s novel, Judd mentions that a dog went wild in a nearby town and killed several people. This is a reference to the events of Cujo (1983), another novel by King.
Stephen King is a big fan of the Ramones and referenced some of their songs in the novel. In homage, The Ramones wrote and performed the theme song “Pet Sematary,” which is featured in the film’s closing credits. The truck driver was also listening to “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.”
Twin actresses played the role of Ellie Creed. Blaze Berdahl, however, was mainly credited for the role while Beau Berdahl Oliver is credited as “Ellie Creed II.”
George A. Romero was originally set to direct, but when filming was delayed, he dropped out and Mary Lambert stepped in and Romero directed Monkey Shines (1988).
Pet Sematary centers on Louis Creed who moves his family to Maine, where he meets a friendly local named Jud Crandall. After the Creeds’ cat is accidentally killed, Crandall advises Louis to bury it in the ground near the old pet cemetery. The cat returns to life, its personality changed for the worse. When Louis’ son, Gage, dies tragically, Louis decides to bury the boy’s body in the same ground despite the warnings of Crandall and Louis’ visions of a deceased patient.
It stars Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed, Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall, Denise Crosby as Rachel Creed, Miko Hughes as Gage Creed, Blaze Berdahl as Ellie Creed, Brad Greenquist as Victor Pascow, Susan Blommaert as Missy Dandridge, and Andrew Hubatsek as Zelda.
The killer classic is rated R for adult situations, language, and violence, the film sports a 50% approval rating over on Rotten Tomatoes with a Critics Consensus that reads: Pet Sematary is a bruising horror flick that wears its quirks on its sleeves, to the detriment of its scare factor.
It was directed by Mary Lambert from a screenplay written by Stephen King based on his novel. Richard P. Rubinstein produced and Paramount Pictures unleashed it back on April 21, 1989.