Pet Sematary Franchise Ranking

This seems like a pretty easy franchise to rank. Not only because there’s just four films so far, but also because of the varying quality from each film. Still though, I love these films, and more importantly I love Stephen King’s novel. In fact, the novel is easily one of King’s best and sits comfortably in my top five of his works.

The movies themselves have been a little frustrating as far as adapting the source material. The first two films from Director Mary Lambert perfectly captured the themes of death and grief, which made King’s novel so compelling to begin with, whereas the latter two films did not, and on the flip side of this is the fact that the newest two films, the remake and prequel, did a much better job at establishing the supernatural elements and the power of the evil that inhabits the town of Ludlow and its sway over the residents, where the first two films did not. To this day there are many horror fans who view Jud Crandall as an idiot who should have known “bettah” than to show Louis Creed the Mic-Mac burial ground, with many not fully understanding the context behind Jud’s actions: old, lonely, and vulnerable, Jud became corrupted and susceptible to the evil’s influence, thus using him to prey on Louis’s grief. But I digress.

Just read the novel, you F-ing monsters!

Anyway, here is my ranking from least favorite to favorite:

04) Pet Sematary (2019)

The 2019 remake is a bit of an oddity: It has a great cast, including Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow; it’s directed from very competent filmmakers Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer; it has a score from Christopher Young, and as I mentioned above, it’s based on one of Stephen King’s finest novels – and yet somehow despite all of the talent behind it and everything going for it, the end result feels like a soulless effort. On top of this, it doesn’t help that the marketing completely ruined what could have been a curve-ball of a twist, robbing the audience of what could have been an effective deviation from the source material. It’s not the worst remake in existence, but it does fail to capture the emotional gut-punch of the novel. The potential is there, but the pulse is not.

03) Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)

The newest made-for-Paramount Plus prequel actually surprised me. I went into it not expecting much, and I walked away entertained. It’s a fine horror movie, even if it does suffer from some of the same problems as the 2019 remake as far as failing to capture the elements that made King’s story so captivating to begin with. It’s well directed and has some good gore, and I personally liked some of the newer additions to the mythology, including the descendants of Ludlow’s founders who have formed a secret group that tries to keep the evil at bay, so to speak. Yes, it does change Jud’s character slightly – going from a character who originally knew about the evil of the Mic-Mac burial ground since childhood, to a character who was ignorant of it until the Timmy Baterman situation, among other deviations from the source, but I still had a good time watching it and will likely watch it again. The only thing I really disagree with is the decision to start the film with Bill Baterman (David Duchovny) burying Timmy, and not showing us the characters reaction to learning that his only child was killed in the line of duty, giving us a potentially interesting parallel between Bill Baterman and Louis Creed.

02) Pet Sematary Two (1992)

I have a huge soft spot for the second film. This has been a favorite of mine since childhood, when I would watch it back-to-back with the original on the USA network. What I really enjoy about this film is the choice to make it the reversal of the original story: the first is about a parent who loses a child, and the sequel is about a child who loses a parent. Again, Mary Lambert’s two films have come the closest to exploring the themes of death and grief from King’s novel. I think Edward Furlong and Clancy Brown give solid and fun performances here. The only issue that I have with this film is the sudden leap with Furlong’s character from the end of the second act to the beginning of the third act. It feels like there was a scene of two missing that would piece together the shift in the character. Regardless, ‘Pet Sematary Two’ is easily the best follow-up thus far in the series.

01) Pet Sematary (1989)

The original film has always been one of my favorite horror films, and to repeat myself yet again, the novel has always been one of my favorites of Stephen King (although to be fair, I haven’t read it in a few years). It should come at no surprise that this is the closest interpretation of the novel since King himself wrote the screenplay, and naturally when you’re trying to adapt a 411-page novel into a less than two-hour feature film, not everything is going to make the cut. But what Stephen King and director Mary Lambert did well with is keeping the core story intact. Fred Gwynne is the definitive Jud Crandall, and I may get shit for saying this, but I actually like Dale Midkiff’s performance as Louis. Also, Miko Hughes delivers a very creepy performance as evil Gage. Additionally, despite the fact that I had seen this movie many, many times growing up, the weight of it didn’t fully hit me until I was in my mid-twenties, when I had bought the DVD shortly after my children were born. I remember putting them to bed, and then being excited about popping open some brews and revisiting the movie, but once it got to the pivotal scene with Gage’s death, I couldn’t help but choke up. Seeing the tiny shoe flying in the air, seeing Louis drop to his knees and scream as he holds his dead son, and then the images flashing on the screen of Louis and Rachel holding their newborn child – it hit a little too close to home at the time. In the years since, I’ve been able to revisit the movie and the novel, but my appreciation for both had grown significantly because of how it taps into my greatest fears as a parent. It hits me in the feels, as the kids today say.

So, there it is, my ranking of all four films in the ‘Pet Sematary’ franchise. How do YOU rank them? Jump on over to our Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

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About Seth T. Miller 90 Articles
I am first and foremost a proud father of two daughters who may or may not be possessed by demonic entities/deadites -- time will tell on that one, but I am pretty confident that one of them translated the Necronomicon. I enjoy short walks to my movie collection, reading in goddamn piece and quiet, and watching the same movies and tv series over and over instead of discovering new stuff.