Pet Sematary





Most scholarship on Mary Lambert's Pet Sematary (1989) overarchingly focuses on the Stephen King novel (1983), and tends strongly towards housing the story within the Gothic literary tradition. The film itself is often absent from considerations of North American horror cinema of the 1980s, and from wider horror scholarship in general. This Devil's Advocate stands as a corrective, and provides a holistic analysis – textual, contextual, and industrial – of the film, in order to properly situate it as an important entry into the history of horror cinema.

This book joins a growing body of works – both journalistic and academic – that aim to revisit older films in order to call attention to and/or redress the gendered imbalance in our written horror histories. McMurdo charges Pet Sematary with several contributions to the horror genre: as an important entry within the tradition of “grief horror”; as a horror film that both adheres to and defies the generic conventions of its historical context, one both engaged with and respondent to its time of creation; as a film that changed the fortunes of the cinematic Stephen King “brand” on the cusp of a new decade. Pet Sematary is the highest grossing horror film directed by a woman in cinematic history, and it stands as a story that we keep returning to – as seen by the 1992 sequel, the 2019 remake, and a forthcoming prequel. Pet Sematary’s modern relevance and importance to genre history then, is manifold, and this book argues it is past time for its reconsideration as a classic of horror cinema.

This is a meticulously researched and engagingly written analysis of an under-represented classic in the Stephen King adaptation canon. Shellie McMurdo painstakingly locates the film within the context of the 1980s horror genre, reclaiming it as the significant work of horror cinema it undoubtedly is. In a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion, McMurdo examines the significance of the film as a rare example of a female-directed horror film (and an even rarer example of a female-directed King adaptation), offering an insightful and welcome analysis of the contribution of Mary Lambert to the project, her collaboration with King, and the long shadow cast over the production by the absence of George Romero. Not only is this destined to become a key volume in the Devil’s Advocate series, it will also undoubtedly become a standard reference work in future writing on King adaptations and will take its place as the seminal work on this particular film and franchise. Above all that, it also represents the emergence of an exciting, major new voice in horror studies. – Simon Brown (author, Screening Stephen King: Adaptation and the Horror Genre in Film and Television, 2018)

Author Information

Shellie McMurdo lectures in film and television at the University of Hertfordshire. Her research focuses on contemporary North American horror cinema. Her most recent work is Blood on the Lens: Trauma and Anxiety in American Found Footage Horror Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming).