Stephen King fans mark your calendars; the 28-year anniversary of one his most popular horror movies is approaching. On Friday, April 21, 1989, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary made its theatrical debut. Though most critics didn’t appreciate it for what it is—a fun-filled gory ride—most horror fans loved it; it has a positive audience score on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Like many horror movies from “The Decade of Excess,” there is a cheesy quality to the film, but that’s part of its charm. The corny moments, however, don’t take away from the horrifying images and the creepiness of the whole thing. What makes this particular film so special is that King wrote the screenplay. Plus, he plays a preacher, and it has Fred Gwynne.
Mary Lambert (Arrow, The Blacklist) directed the horror gem, but that wasn’t always the plan. Dread Central expounds on who Stephen King initially sold the movie rights to.
“On June 8th, 1984, the New York Times reported that the movie rights to Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary had been sold … to George Romero. The article went on to state that King sold the book to his Creepshow partner for ‘a handshake, a token payment of roughly $10,000, and a healthy share of profits from the movie.‘
“While King’s wishes to write the screenplay and have the film shot in Maine were fulfilled, Romero of course didn’t end up in the director’s chair. Though he worked on the project for a year and a half, things just didn’t work out in the end, and Mary Lambert eventually took over.”
Stephen King took interest in Lambert because her visuals impressed him. She was known for her bizarre film Siesta, which was compared to movies like Blue Velvet, and she directed numerous music videos for artists including Madonna (Like a Virgin, Material Girl, Borderline, and more). Despite most of his books (including Pet Sematary) being set in Maine, upon his insistence, this was the first of his movies to be shot in The Pine Tree State. This would set the standard for the majority of his movies from here on out.
A remake of this classic horror film is currently in the works, and given the terror of the novel, it’s likely an updated version could end up being as intense (or at least close to it) as the book. StephenKing.com describes the inspiration for this horror story.
“In early 1979, Stephen was serving as a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine at Orono and living in a rented house in nearby Orrington that bordered a major truck route which frequently claimed the lives of dogs and cats. In the woods behind his house, local children had created an informal pet cemetery. One day, his daughter’s cat was killed by a passing truck. Stephen was faced with the task of burying the cat in the pet cemetery and then explaining to his daughter what had happened. It was on the third day after the burial that the idea for a novel came to him.”
Stephen King solidified his name as “The Master of Horror” throughout the ’80s with numerous hit novels and horror movies like Creepshow, Children of the Corn, Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet, and many more, topping off the decade with Pet Sematary and leaving audiences wanting more of the fun, creepy, and gory horror by Stephen King.
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[Featured Image by Paramount Pictures]