It is frequently complained that screen adaptations of Stephen Kings works fail to hold the same impact that they do on the page. Pet Semetary is one such case and is a disappointing adaptation of the book, which in itself was a reworking of the old The Monkeys Paw (1902) tale. While the book is regarded as a classic, one suspects that there are few that would be prepared to hail Pet Semetary the film as a horror classic or even among the best of the numerous Stephen King screen adaptations. Mary Lamberts direction holds few surprises read the books dust cover and you can guess all the twistings and turnings that the film is going to take. Moreover, the return of the Gage character from the dead, reincarnated with a Donald Duck squawk and seemingly patterned after the dummy in Childs Play (1988), inadvertently topples over into the absurd. To be fair, Mary Lambert maintains some effective scares in the scenes with Gage wielding a scalpel and attacking Fred Gwynne. Baby-faced Dale Midkiff and lantern-jawed Denise Crosby perform with a competent blandness the problem is that in Stephen Kings script the characters are virtual blanks and he spends next to no time fleshing them out as people. However, Fred Gwynne (almost unrecognisable from his days as Herman Munster) gives a fine performance as Judd Crandall.
The most interesting part of Pet Semetary is the supernatural aspect the ghostly promptings and portents from the dead Victor Pascow character, Blaze Berdahls prescient dreams interpreted through childspeak and especially the sense in the latter half of the story where events seem to be heading towards a looming apocalyptic confrontation between good and evil. All of these are familiar features of Stephen Kings writing where prescient dreams and half-clues seem to perpetually hover beyond the veil of the mundane. This aspect has been ignored in all other film adaptations of Kings work seen here on screen, it works to haunting effect. The actual Indian circle, sitting amid the bleak, wintry Maine locations, holds a certain primal terror.
The sequel was the anodyne, although not entirely uninteresting, Pet Semetary II (1992), which was also directed by Mary Lambert.
Mary Lambert had previously come to attention as a music video director in the early 1980s, where she had gained fame with her work for Madonna with videos such as Material Girl and Like a Prayer. Lamberts previous cinematic outing was the pretentious deathdream fantasy Siesta (1987). Lamberts work since Pet Semetary, her greatest commercial success, has been uneven with a handful of films and mostly tv work. Her other genre films are the psycho-thriller Face of Evil (tv movie, 1996), the teen psycho-thriller The In Crowd (2000), Halloweentown II: Kalabars Revenge (2001), the horror anthology Strange Frequency (tv movie, 2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), The Attic (2008) and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011).
Other Stephen King genre adaptations include:- Carrie (1976), Salems Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Firestarter (1984), Cats Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), The Running Man (1987), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (tv mini-series, 1990), Misery (1990), a segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Dark Half (1993), Needful Things (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), Thinner (1996), The Night Flier (1997), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Shining (tv mini-series, 1997), Trucks (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), The Dead Zone (tv series, 2001-2), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), Carrie (tv mini-series, 2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Riding the Bullet (2004), Salems Lot (tv mini-series, 2004), Secret Window (2004), Desperation (tv mini-series, 2006), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (tv mini-series, 2006), 1408 (2007), The Mist (2007), Children of the Corn (2009), Everythings Eventual (2009), the tv series Haven (2010-5), Bag of Bones (tv mini-series, 2011), Carrie (2013), Under the Dome (tv series, 2013-5), Big Driver (2014), A Good Marriage (2014), Mercy (2014), Cell (2016), 11.22.63 (tv mini-series, 2016), The Dark Tower (2017), Geralds Game (2017), It (2017), The Mist (tv series, 2017), Mr. Mercedes (tv series, 2017 ) and 1922 (2017). Stephen King had also written a number of original screen works with Creepshow (1982), Golden Years (tv mini-series, 1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Storm of the Century (tv mini-series, 1999), Rose Red (tv mini-series, 2002) and the tv series Kingdom Hospital (2004), as well as adapted his own works with the screenplays for Cats Eye, Silver Bullet, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn 2009, A Good Marriage and Cell. King also directed one film with Maximum Overdrive (1986).