Pet Sematary (sometimes referred to as Stephen King's Pet Sematary) is a 1989 horror film adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name. Directed by Mary Lambert and written by King, the film features Dale Midkiff as Louis Creed, Denise Crosby as Rachel Creed, Blaze Berdahl as Ellie Creed, Miko Hughes as Gage Creed, and Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall. Andrew Hubatsek was cast for Zelda's role.
A sequel, Pet Sematary Two, was released which was met with less financial and critical success. For the 2019 film adaptation, look here.
The Creed family (Louis, a doctor, his wife Rachel, their daughter Ellie and their infant son, Gage) moves into a new home in the state of Maine, close to a road where high-speed truckers often carelessly drive by. They meet their new neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne), who grabs their newly-walking son, Gage, who wanders into the road in front of their house where trucks, mostly from a nearby Orinco chemical plant, race by at high speeds. Ellie notices a path leading away from the house and into the woods and Jud promises to take them on a hike when they've settled into their new home.
Later, Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff), working at the University of Maine at Orono hospital, treats a car accident victim named Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist), whose skull had been broken open when he was hit by a truck. Pascow dies in the examination room, but not before suddenly grabbing Louis and whispering a mysterious and cryptic message to him just before expiring. That night, in what is seemingly a dream, Victor visits Louis in his sleep, warning him about the burial ground that lies behind the "barrier", the deadfall at the back of the pet cemetery, a large pile of branches and brush that's dangerous to climb on. Louis dismisses the experience as a dream but wakes up to find his feet covered in dirt.
Rachel takes the kids with her to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Louis doesn't join them; he has a strained relationship with his in-laws and feels Rachel and the kids will have a better time without him. Church, a British Shorthair cat owned by Louis's daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdahl), is run over by a truck on the road in front of their house. Jud takes Louis to a burial ground a few miles beyond the pet cemetery they visited earlier. Jud shows him a way to walk on the deadfall without falling in. At the other burial ground, one constructed by the local Micmac Indian tribe, Louis buries the cat underneath a cairn while Jud supervises. Church is brought back to life, but is an evil shell of himself; he attacks Louis and reeks of decomposition. Jud tells Louis about the grounds. Louis asks if a person was ever buried in the grounds and a startled Jud says no and harshly suggests that no one ever would. Before he leaves, he tells Louis that the heart of a man can be "stonier", part of the same message that Pascow had given Louis when he died.
Not long afterward, Missy Dandridge, who'd been assisting Rachel with housework and helping with their children, commits suicide. Missy had been battling a terminal illness and leaves a note saying she couldn't stand the pain any longer. A funeral is held (Stephen King himself cameos as the priest overseeing the funeral) and Rachel becomes very upset. She tells Louis the full story about her sister Zelda, who'd died of spinal menningitis when Rachel was very young. Rachel had been left alone and in charge of Zelda by their parents the night her sister died and the experience scarred Rachel for life.
The following Spring, Gage is tragically run over by a truck on the road during a picnic and is killed. The entire family falls into shock and deep depression, particularly Rachel and Ellie. At Gage's wake, Rachel's father, whom never respected Louis or Rachel's wish to marry him, berates Louis for Gage's untimely death. The two fight in the funeral home and upset the casket.
Louis considers burying Gage in the burial ground. Jud tries to dissuade him from doing so, telling him about a young man from town, Timmy Baterman, who died in service during World War II. His father, Bill, placed his son's corpse into the Micmac burial ground, only to have it reanimate and terrify the townsfolk. Jud and three of his friends tried to burn down the house with Timmy trapped inside, but Bill was attacked by his son and both perished in the fire. Jud believes that the place made Gage die because he introduced Louis to it. Jud concludes by saying "Sometimes dead is better."
Ellie and Rachel travel again to Chicago, but Ellie is reluctant, as she had a bad dream about her father, Gage and Pascow. She begs Louis to go with them, but he declines. Louis heads to the cemetery Gage is buried in, intending to exhume his son's body. He is met at the graveyard by Victor, who tells him the barrier was not meant to be crossed, and that the ground is sour.
In Chicago Ellie has a nightmare, claiming that Victor warned her that Louis is going to do something really bad, and that he is trying to help because Louis tried to save his life. Rachel, with a little help from Victor, whose spirit is still inside the house, realizes who her daughter is talking about and calls Jud after Louis does not answer the phone. She asks if he has seen Louis, and then tells him she is returning. He warns her not to, but she has already hung up.
Louis digs up Gage's body, taking his son's corpse to the burial ground. On the way, Louis sees a demonic face, thought to be the Wendigo that had haunted the woods and had cursed the Micmac ground. Louis returns home, exhausted from his activities. Gage is resurrected and enters his father's room, removing a scalpel from one of his medical bags. He heads for Jud's house, taunting the old man and hiding in his bedroom. When Jud looks under the bed, Gage slices Jud's Achilles tendon, slashes his mouth, and rips his throat out, while Church watches.
Rachel arrives home, hearing something that sounds like her late sister, Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek), calling her name, then Gage's laughter. She enters Jud's house to find Gage, dressed in one of Jud's old hats and one of his canes. He tells her he brought her something, and shows her Louis's scalpel. Thinking nothing of it, Rachel hugs her son in disbelief, and screams when her "son" attacks her.
Louis wakes up to find Gage's muddy footprints on the floor, his doctor's bag opened and his scalpel gone. He receives a call from Gage saying, "Come play with me daddy! First I played with Jud, and then I played with Mommy. We had an awful good time. Now I want to play with YOU."
Preparing shots of morphine, Louis heads to Jud's house, running into Church once more. He distracts the cat with a raw steak, then gives him a shot of morphine, killing the cat almost instantaneously. He heads into the house, once more taunted by Gage, and prepares the second shot of morphine. Louis searches the house only to have Rachel's corpse fall from the attic, hanged by her neck. Gage leaps from the attic door, biting and stabbing Louis. Finally throwing his reanimated son off him, Louis grabs a morphine shot. Gage heads for him again, scalpel in hand, but Louis injects the boy with the shot. Gage walks away muttering, "No fair", until he slumps against a wall, dead. Louis soaks the house in kerosene and sets it on fire, carrying his wife's body out. Victor appears, knowing what he is doing, and tells Louis he is sorry, and not to bury Rachel in the same place. The now-insane Louis replies that he waited too long with Gage, and that it will work with his wife because she just died. Pascow screams helplessly for Louis to stop and disappears.
Later, Louis plays solitaire at home while he waits. At midnight, an undead Rachel comes through the kitchen door, walking towards her husband. She coos, "Darling..." and the two embrace, kissing. Rachel reaches for a knife on the kitchen table and grabs it slowly. The screen blacks out as Louis screams.