The Creed family move to a new house in Maine, close to a busy road. When their cat is run over, neighbour Jud (Fred Gwynne) suggests to the father Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) that he place the cat in an Indian burial ground some way beyond the local pet cemetery... and the cat comes back.
Stephen King adapted his own lugubrious novel for this, one of umpteen film versions of his work. But, as so often with King, what works on the printed page doesn't translate so persuasively to the big screen. Not that it's a terrible film, it just shows up the flaws in the book.
Death is all-pervading in Pet Sematary. It's on everyone's mind and is the source of much pain and guilt - not regret, but guilt. The film's message, often repeated, is "Sometimes dead is better", but doesn't amount to much more than that. Let the dead stay buried, remember them as they were, because the alternative is, erm, killer zombies.
Midkiff is a colourless lead, but Jud is the most intreresting character. Morally ambiguous, he sets off the chain of events that leads to the horrors of the final half hour. Gwynne is somewhere near his best in the role, one of the few actors who could take King's folksy dialogue and make it sound entirely natural.
Otherwise, you have to wonder what Louis thinks he's doing - after what happened to the cat, it's bloody obvious that sticking dead people in the burial ground is a bad idea. The zombie attack sequences are distinctly strange, and not a little ridiculous. The film's prophet of doom, the ghost of a car crash victim, also seems silly.
Overall, the film is too morbid to be enjoyable, and its flat handling means it is constantly in danger of trivialising a potentially distressing subject. And the ancient supernatural evil that looms over proceedings is too vague, it smacks of plot covenience. Watch for: Mr King as a preacher. Listen for: the title song by the Ramones; altogether now: "I don't wanna be buried, in a Pet Sematary..."