By Zach Butcher
Originally released in 1989, Elliot Goldenthal’s Pet Sematary received a new vinyl edition from Mondo last Halloween which was, according to creative director Justin Ishmael, “the most comprehensive version yet” presumably meaning on wax as the complete score had already been released by La-La Land Records.
The Mondo release marked the complete score across nineteen tracks, with many of them including three or four tracks in one. There were also thirteen other tracks included on side D of the Mondo release that included the Ramones’ track ‘Pet Sematary’, which had not been included on any prior release of the album, along with alternate mixes, album versions, and source cues. The LP was issued in black vinyl and a randomly inserted color variant called “translucent green/blue vinyl with black haze”. All of this was Mondo’s way to honor the 25th anniversary of the film and score.
As the score opens, the first track gives us a very 80’s vibe; there are heavy pianos and a lot of relaxed yet hesitant feelings coming from it. The end of ‘The Pet Semetary’ sounds like children’s music combined with the music from Charles Bernstein’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. ‘The New Home’ continues the softness, and it’s very similar to the music of Angelo Badalamenti’s from Twin Peaks, with the final quarter reminding reminds me of Danny Elfman as well. As ‘The New Home’ and ‘The Path’ go on, the soothing and relaxed feel becomes full of excitement and nervousness, with the latter also sounding like Elfman’s scores (coincidentally Elliot Goldenthal did the music for the third and fourth Batman films from the Tim Burton era). ‘The Warning Tour’ leaves us feeling like we are walking down a dark alley by ourselves, and by ‘Halloween’ we realize we are not alone in the alley. Moving forward, ‘Church Is Back’ and ‘Missy’s Apology’ give off a lot of despair, and the strings again remind me of the music accompanying bad news from Twin Peaks. All of the suspense builds up until the seventh track, where it abruptly stops, making things even scarier because there was no indication of why it ended.The seven tracks on side A paint a picture of stress and despair.
Side B’s piano opening gives off a Donnie Darko vibe to me, it starts off very slow and sad. and those “la la las” from side A return and creep you out even more. The flashback vibes of ‘The Facts of Death’ and ‘Kite and Truck’ are thickened by the trailing sound, like the music’s echoes are drifting in as the memories come up. The latter’s slow build up for the big finish ending and the quick follow up of ‘The Kite’ flow very well together. This is a great example of well this score works by itself. We’re given hints of hope but they quickly disappear and are deafened by the loud buzzing sound of silence. The droning buzz, the sound of a dying VHS, it brings chills and the sense that nothing is right with the world. The brooding baritones and echoes are phenomenal, with the echoes remind me of the dream sequences in Elm Street. The finishing tones, the ending wahs, reverb and echoes are like the sounds in a empty room, ringing back and forth for what feels like forever. The strings plucking in the beginning of ‘The Deadly Choice’ sound like the children from side A and as we start to tense up, there are drums and wind instruments that are off putting and so out of sequence that it pulls us out of the dark mood, although the last few tracks stick us right back where we have been the rest of the album.
With side C’s string opening being so strong, everything tenses up. The end of ‘The Latch’ gives off an Argento vibe, although more piercing than anything he could imagine. There is so much despair and fearful excitement in the music and the piano sounds sad, and while the strings keep your heart racing the bass and horns remind you that something bad is around the corner. By ‘The Return Game II’, the strings sound like an angry cat ripping and scratching while the rest of the instruments sound like your heart’s racing as the cat rips you to shreds. With the track being over seven minutes and including so many smaller tracks, the way it runs together is great. The la’s are back and they help the slow motion death from cat scratches pass just a little bit easier. ‘Death Do Us Part’ – the final cue of the track – it almost has happiness in the piano. Like the rain has finally stopped and the day is just bound to get better.
Side D opens with source music in the form of ‘Piped-In Death’ and is quickly followed by an alternate mix of ‘The Pet Sematary’, and it’s just a little bit creepier. The same could be said with the alternate mix of ‘Sour Grounds’ that comes after. The next four tracks are that dark and brooding feeling that loomed around the score itself, although the final two tracks on the album, ‘Pet Sematary’
and ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, are two of my favorites on the album. The former, as stated earlier, has not been included on any previous releases of the score, and ‘Sheena’ is a great reminder of the scene that includes it with the trucker singing along.
The packaging for this score is groovy, but I wish Mondo would have taken a few hints from their new buddies Death Waltz included a poster here and there. I am a big Rob Jones fan and love that he is the art director for this, as well as many other Mondo releases. The gatefold image is fantastic, Mike Saputo did a great job, and the glossy front cover leaves us expecting to see everything at first glance only to find out there’s more upon each looking.
The score is phenomenal as a stand alone but the tracklisting does not line up with the sequencing of the music in the film*. There are some tracks that are early to appear on the album, but much later in the film. Aside from the Ramones, the big seller for me was the sound. I thought it was amazing and for an album that has been gone from vinyl for twenty five years, the sound held up quite well, and there were no points where I thought it was hard to hear any single instrument.
Pet Semetary is a winner on vinyl, and it left me wanting to rewatch the film and then call my mom in the middle of the night.
“I brought you something, Mommy”.
Pet Semetary is out now from Mondo
*Editor’s note: This is something that frequently happens when composers are involved in the creation of the album, and Elliot Goldenthal himself did the same thing when working with La-La Land on the expanded archival presentation of Batman Forever, sequencing it for his own listening preference.