4K UHD Review: Pet Sematary (30th Anniversary Edition)

With a Pet Sematary remake due in theaters shortly, Paramount has released 1989’s Stephen King adaptation to the UHD format, with a newly restored 2160p transfer and Dolby vision color grading. The result is a noticeable upgrade from the 2012 Blu-ray. While this release makes no changes to the audio–keeping the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack–it does add several new extras, including two featurettes and several image galleries. Paramount has also released the film with remastered video and new extras on the Blu-ray, which is included with this set.

One of the best-selling authors of all time, it’s not surprising that several of Stephen King’s novels have been made into films. Some of the adaptations have been excellent, like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (though King himself is on the record as having hated it), while others such as Pet Sematary aren’t terrible, they don’t quite live up to the excitement and terror of King’s novels.

With Stephen King onboard as the screenwriter, this film version of Pet Sematary sticks close to the novel.  We are introduced to the Creed family: Louis (Dale Midkiff), Rachel (Denise Crosby), and their two young children. The family has just moved from Chicago to rural Maine so that Louis, a medical doctor, could take a job at a local college. Rachel is a kind, devoted mother. Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) their daughter is a demanding brat; their toddler son Gage (Miko Hughes), is rather quiet. It’s not long before they meet their neighbor across the street, the imposing, yet kind Jud (Fred Gwynne, Car 54, Where Are You?), who shows them a pet cemetery (misspelled “sematary”), tucked in behind their house. Jud warns the family not to go past the cemetery to the mountain above it.

Pet Sematary succeeds in being unsettling, but the gory moments hold no psychological weight; it’s all easily forgotten. As the story takes shape, the cemetery feels less like a real place and more like a hypothetical hell. Louis buries Church in the cemetery in order to avoid a difficult conversation about the cat’s death with his daughter. His motivations for burying Gage there are a whole different ball of wax. Louis wants his son around solely for his own benefit, despite Jud’s counsel that anything that returns from the cemetery is never the same as they were in life; As the old man warns, “sometimes dead is better.”

A longtime video director, Mary Lambert made her feature directorial debut here and misses out on a few good chances to ratchet up the dramatic tension. For instance, in one scene a character is hurrying back to stop another character from doing something that is going to go terribly wrong; the film cuts back and forth between the two characters, but it’s clear from the sequencing of things that the first character isn’t going to get there on time, eliminating any real drama from the scene. The tone is really one of a wink-and-a-nudge rather than scary.

The acting is surprisingly good. I’ve always thought Dale Midkiff an underrated actor and he carries much of the film, very well. In Miko Hughes, the filmmakers picked the perfect child to play Gage. While dummies and cut-away shots were clearly used to depict some of Gage’s bad behavior, Hughes possesses an oddly expressive face. While Pet Sematary isn’t a great horror film, it does offer enough memorable moments to merit a viewing.

The 4K Blu-ray is presented in the 1.78.1 aspect ratio, just as it was on the 2012 Blu-ray, however it was originally shown in the 1.85:1 in theaters. This means there are no black bars at the top and bottom of the viewing area. Under the supervision of director Mary Lambert, Pet Sematary received a substantial overhaul, resulting in a near perfect transfer. Across the board, everything looks more detail and realistic. Yes, some will notice some slight changes to the special effects due to digital manipulation, but the overall, the quality of the presentation is stellar.

As I stated earlier, Paramount has made no changes to the audio, staying with a  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Dialogue is clean and clear, with a bit of directional activity in evidence on occasion. The surround mix utilizes the rear speakers when ambient sounds are necessary, though nothing is particularly strong about this mix. It would have been nice to have a Dolby Atmos option.

English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Thai subtitles are included.

Paramount’s UHD release of Pet Sematary ports over the audio commentary track and the new extras found on the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray, but it does not include the trio of legacy featurettes. The featurettes are encoded at 1080p/SDR, just as they are on the bundled Blu-ray, but the image galleries (Storyboards, Behind the Scenes, Marketing) are presented in 2160p/Dolby Vision. See below for coverage of the Blu-ray disc’s extras. A digital copy code is included with purchase.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Mary Lambert: Lambert gives a thoughtful (if a bit rehearsed), analysis of the novel’s transition from page to screen, the casting process, the filming of certain scenes and more.
  • NEW! Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance: (HD, 7:14) The cast and crew of the remake discuss the 1989 original and its place in the history of the Horror genre.
  • NEW! Pet Sematary: Revisitation (HD, 9:38) Mary Lambert discusses Stephen King’s writing style, how she first became involved in the film, the film’s story, cast and performances, shooting and locations, her work on the restoration, and the film’s legacy.
  • NEW! Galleries (HD) Storyboards: Introduction by Mary Lambert (1:00) the director shares that they were recently discovered during the restoration. This includes a Storyboards gallery with 16 images. Behind the Scenes includes 44 still photographs from the set. Marketing includes 18 images ranging from LaserDisc covers to promos for the VHS release as well as various lobby cards.
  • Stephen King Territory (SD, 13:09) A look at the legendary author’s long and successful career. The inspiration for the book version of Pet Sematary is discussed.
  • The Characters (SD, 12:51) A brief look at each of the characters in Pet Sematary and how they fit into the story. Includes interviews with cast members Dale Midkiff and Brad Greenquist.
  • Filming the Horror (SD, 10:26) Cast and crew discuss making the film

Pet Sematary (1989)

Movie title: Pet Sematary

Director(s): Mary Lambert

Actor(s): Denise Crosby , Fred Gwynne , Miko Hughes , Dale Midkiff , Blaze Berdahl , Brad Greenquist

Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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