When the Creed family (parents Louis and Rachel, daughter Ellie and son Gage) move into their new home in the countryside, they quickly strike up a friendship with their neighbour Jud Crandall. Two things instantly come to their attention, the narrow road that seperates their house from Jud's where trucks carelessly speed down day and night, and a path by the side of the house. When asked about the path, Jud tells the family that it leads to a pet cemetary that children made to bury their pets that died on the road. Whilst the family are away visiting relatives, Louis stays behind and Church, Ellie's cat dies. Jud tells Louis that the ground beyond the pet cemetary is an old Indian burial ground, and any pet that's buried there will return from the dead. Louis buries the cat and a few days later he returns, but it isn't the same as it was before. Sometime later, Gage is tragically run over by a truck during a picnic. Grief stricken a few days after the funeral, Louis digs up Gage and buries him at the Indian burial ground. Gage later returns, but is a very different child to the sweet innocent one that was run over. The film also contains two subplots, Pascow who was a student that was killed by a truck who tries to warn Louis about the dangers of using the burial ground, and Zelda, Rachel's sister who died years earlier who suffered from spinal meningitis which is an agonizing, disfiguring disease.
The acting is pretty decent with Fred Gwynne the stand out as Jud, the rest of the cast do a reasonable job. Dale Midkiff seems to attract alot of criticism for his role as Louis, but i've always felt he did a good job and his performance certainly doesn't harm the film. Miko Hughes did a great job as Gage considering he was 3 years old, he later gave an excellent but overlooked performance in the film Mercury Rising as an autistic boy whose parents were murdered. Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist and Andrew Hubatsek are good, Hubatsek played Zelda and it's obvious Zelda is played by a man once you know, but it's still creepy. The one character and performance that I really don't like in the film was Ellie played by Blaze Berdahl, the movie could have coped without her, but I think it's more the whiny, annoying performance that makes me really dislike the character. Fred Gwynne is fantastic in this, virtually every line of his is quotable and I assume the South Park creators also loved his performance as they've used the character several times. Stephen King has his usual brief cameo as a reverand.
It was directed by Mary Lambert who returned to direct the sequel 3 years later, as good a job as she did, George A.Romero was originally set to direct until the movie was delayed and he had to pull out. I love the film anyway, but I feel that Romero would have maybe done the film quite differently and as a big Romero fan i'd have loved him to have done it. Tom Savini also turned down the chance to direct before the project was given to Lambert. Bruce Campbell was first choice to play Louis, i'm also a big fan of Campbell and again feel his inclusion could only have benefited the film. This was the first filmed screenplay that Stephen King adapted from one of his own novels, and as a big fan of the Ramones the film has 2 of their songs in the film. Sheena is a punk rocker and Pet Sematary, the latter was done specifically for the film. The music in the film is great, from the spooky music over the opening credits with children saying goodbye to their pets, to the sombre, atmospheric music in the films second half when the horror really kicks in. There's a fair few disturbing scenes in the film, Zelda is very disturbing and horrified me as a child, but there's quite a few gore scenes that will keep the blood and guts fans happy such as severed tendons, puss and blood dripping from an eye socket and Pascow's head wound.
I'm a big fan of Stephen King, and although the film isn't as good as the book, the film is still very good and does more than enough right. Gwynne is the perfect Jud Crandall, Miko Hughes is very good as Gage. The Ellie character wasn't as annoying in the book, but this is definitely one of the more faithful movies based on a King book. Some reviewers have stated "just read the book instead", i'd say if you have seen and liked the film then definitely get the book. If you've read the book then the movie is well worth seeing. Not as good as Misery, The Shining, Creepshow or Carrie, but it's just about the best of the rest.