Louis Creed's (Jason Clarke) family seems to have hit the jackpot: He's moved with his wife and daughter and son to an idyllic new home in rural Maine, and taken up residence as the local university's doctor, treating everyday student injuries and keeping regular, healthier hours to spend more time with his family. He's made a friend in their elderly widowed neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), who warns him about the busy highway they live near ("It uses up a lot of animals") and shows him the pet cemetery, a small plot of land with a charmingly misspelled sign in the Creeds' woods the children of the town use to bury their dead furry friends.
Nothing seems too sinister until the Creed family cat, Church, is found belly-up on the side of the road, its body twisted and bloody from a collision with a fast-moving vehicle. Jud, knowing how much Louis' daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) loves her cat, tells Louis to follow him deep into the woods to bury it, leading them through a swamp and up some old stairs carved into a rock to the top of a misty hill. Louis buries Church in the dirt, stacking a little cairn of stones on top, and that night the cat returns to the Creeds' house. Except… not quite. Something seems off about Church; he's more liable to scratch, and one night Louis finds him menacing his 3-year-old son Gage (twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) in his crib.
The horror, when it comes, requires Louis to make a choice he should never have been in the position to make in the first place. (This is your final warning before I spoil what you probably already know if you've watched the trailer.) On her ninth birthday, Ellie gets bludgeoned by a huge truck when she runs out into the street to pick up her cat, and instead of letting dust return to dust, Louis takes her to the cursed burial ground to bring her back. "I just wanted more time with her," he says to his stricken wife (Amy Seimetz) when he comes clean. Of course, as we all know by now, it isn't Ellie who comes back. Not entirely.