In Pet Sematary, a Boston doctor moves his family from the bustling city to a country home in rural Maine for a more leisurely life, but second thoughts creep in almost immediately, on little cat feet.

Doc Creed (Jason Clarke) and wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) notice right away that monstrous trucks from a nearby factory roar dangerously down their country lane, and the first victim is the family cat.

Which leads us to the second hazardous feature of the home, apparently not included in disclosure forms, or noted by the inspector: There is cursed ground on the family’s 50 acres, “sour land” where buried things come back to life.

Rachel gets wind of it when she sees a procession of local children taking a dog to the haunted pet cemetery. They are wearing pagan animal masks that would be scarier if they did not look like something a graduate of an expensive design school had labored on for six months to meet the specifications of a Hollywood art director. (Also, the slow-motion, head-tilt close-up of a masked figure is such a cliché it’s been parodied in the Taco Bell fake-movie commercials.)

Meanwhile, apparitions also come with the house. Rachel has unpleasant memories of a deceased sister, and Doc receives warnings from the ghost of a horribly wounded crash-victim patient about the inviolable barrier between the living and the dead.

These warnings are of course ignored by Doc, who wants his daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) to have her cat back, so he follows the instructions of neighborhood folklorist Jud (John Lithgow) to plunk the cat in the sour ground, with the understanding that when the cat comes back, it will be “altered” — irritable and disobedient.

The movie is based on a book by Stephen King, one that the author considers his most terrifying, and since there is nothing particularly terrifying, or even unusual, about a contemptuous and ill-tempered cat, we can assume that at some point, some human will be interred and resurrected.

Suffice it to say there is a child’s birthday party, the party is held next to the dangerous highway, and something distressing happens. Followed by speculation: What would happen if someone’s child were buried in the sour ground, and came back irritable, disobedient, and parent-hating — which is to say, a teenager?

Well it’s all too awful to contemplate, which is why King contemplates it for us. The author usually isn’t a fan of the movies (more than 70!) made from his books, but he says he likes this one, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s generally faithful to the contours and intention of King’s tale, rooted in the psychological and emotional distortions brought about by grief, and how gruesome they could become when added to by the supernatural, and also by whiskey.

The direction by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, is competent and efficient, if not especially stylish or ambitious, and the squeamish should know the movie is backloaded with stabby, graphic, slasher-movie content.

Pet Sematary. Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. With Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jete Laurence and John Lithgow. Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.

Parents’ guide: R (horror violence, bloody images, and some language)

Playing at: Area theaters