Brow Beat

How Scary Is the New Pet Sematary?

Our highly scientific Scaredy Scale helps you determine whether new movies are too scary for you.

Animated meter over a photo of a young girl from "Pet Sematary."
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Paramount Pictures.

For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one may leave you miserable. Perhaps you’ve even lost whole nights of sleep in a struggle to get certain images or ideas out of your head, leaving you to trudge into work or school the next morning unable to function properly.

Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a patented, spoiler-free, highly scientific system for rating new horror movies, comparing them to classics along a 10-point scale so you can determine which are too frightening for you. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore. This week: a new version of Stephen King’s old classic, Pet Sematary.

A chart titled “Suspense: How much will you dread the next kill or jump scare?” shows that Pet Sematary ranks an 8 in suspense, roughly the same as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The scale ranges from The Joy of Painting (0) to Alien (10).
Chart by Slate. Pet Sematary photo from Paramount Pictures.

This new Pet Sematary is surprisingly reliant on jump scares, preceded by long silences that don’t even try to hide what’s coming. Roaring semitrucks, undead cats, and bloody ghosts lurk on the edge of every frame. The movie even seems aware of this, poking fun at the schlocky proceedings with a “medicine cabinet mirror” scare that finds a whole new reason to keep those damn things closed when you’re in a horror movie. If you’re a person who doesn’t like that kind of thing, you’re in trouble.

A chart titled “Spookiness: How much will it haunt you after the movie is over?” shows that Pet Sematary ranks a 7 in spookiness, roughly the same as Psycho. The scale ranges from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (0) to The Exorcist (10).
Chart by Slate. Pet Sematary photo from Paramount Pictures.

Even if you’re not familiar with the book and earlier movie, it’s clear from just the trailers that Pet Sematary is fundamentally a movie about terrible, terrible things happening to a young family’s pets and children, and then more terrible things happening when stupid adults try to undo those terrible things. There are creepy kids running around in animal masks, multiple disfigured ghosts and zombies, several dank burial grounds, and unspeakable killings. Although I will quibble with how scary the movie manages to make all of those things, it’s all fairly spooky.

A chart titled “Gore: the Ick Factor” shows that Pet Sematary ranks an 8 in goriness, roughly the same as Alien.  The scale ranges from Singin’ in the Rain (0) to the Saw franchise (10).
Chart by Slate. Pet Sematary photo from Paramount Pictures.

If you are familiar with the previous Pet Sematary adaptation, all I need to tell you is that the movie keeps the “staircase” scene. If not, yeah, this one’s pretty gross. There are open-brain wounds, twisted spines, creative uses of a medical scalpel, and stapled skulls—you get the drift.

A chart titled “Overall: This is even more subjective, depending on what kinds of scares get you the most” shows that Pet Sematary ranks as a 7 overall, roughly the same as Alien. The scale ranges from Paddington (0) to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (10).
Chart by Slate. Pet Sematary photo from Paramount Pictures.

Here, I should probably out myself as someone who has always been deeply frightened by Pet Sematary, both the book and Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation, which may not hold up so much these days but will forever be one of the most life-ruining experiences of my horror career. (Not to mention the damage it did to my ability to spell.) This new version is … less scarring. Most of the same elements are in place, though the third act is heavily rejigged, but this go-round plays up the macabre comedy and has a dutiful, perfunctory, time-for-another-scare vibe that detracts from the relentless emotional assault that made the original Pet Sematary so brutal. This one will no doubt ravage some wimps among us, but I deem it surprisingly doable for the casual horror-goer.

Previously: How Scary Is Jordan Peele’s Us?

Additional chart photos by PBS, Buena Vista Distribution Company, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, IFC Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Lions Gate Films, Pixar, TWC-Dimension, and Sony Pictures.