Film Review – Pet Sematary
Thirty years separated from the mediocre original film, a new take on Pet Sematary has arrived in theaters to further push the narrative that Stephen King adaptations are good again, damnit! And what do you know, this one mostly is. Keep it up, Hollywood.
Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) stay close enough to the source material to please the King diehards (self-professed Constant Reader here) while also shaking a few things up, mostly to good effect. Arguably the biggest of these changes is spoiled in the trailers so I’ll let them take the heat and avoid specifics.
Louis and Rachel Creed (Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz) tire of their hustle-and-bustle city lives and decide to move to rural Maine in order to spend more quality time with their two young children, Gage and Ellie (Jeté Laurence). Their affable, grizzled new neighbor Jud (a very game John Lithgow) takes an instant shine to the family and Ellie in particular. No wonder, then, he offers a unique form of help when Louis discovers her beloved cat Church (full name Winston Churchill, naturally) has been ran over and killed.
See, on the Creeds vast property is a homemade pet cemetery, but just beyond it, as helpfully explained by Jud, is a different kind of burial ground. A burial ground that allows those you love who have passed to “come back.” Louis assists in the kitty burial, seemingly just to appease Jud’s kooky eccentricities, and plans to tell Ellie that Church simply ran away. Before he’s given the chance, though, Church is back. And..different.
A familiar horror movie trope is a cat leaping from off screen to provide the requisite jump scare/false alarm. Pet Sematary gets to have its cake and eat it too, making Church a volatile if pint-sized threat. A scene in which he invades the crib of toddler Gage is particularly unnerving.
With a plot device this deliciously wicked, it’s only natural to presume the movie won’t end without a human being buried there. The question then becomes, when overcome with grief and despair, what are you willing to overlook in order to make your family “whole” again?
Kölsch and Widmyer have settled on a decidedly modern approach to this new incarnation. Aside from the obvious addition of smartphones and other useful technology, they’ve borrowed several elements from modern films of this mold. Is our antagonist scarier when donning creepy masks ala The Strangers and moving suspiciously like the girl from The Grudge? Not really, but it sure is familiar.
If you’re going into Pet Sematary hoping for some gruesome imagery and decent scares, you’ll likely walk away satisfied. Easter eggs aplenty for those in the know as well. (That closing credits song sure seems familiar.) This adaptation lines nicely with this recent spate of good-to-very-good King adaptations; It, Gerald’s Game, 1922, not The Dark Tower, never The Dark Tower.
This may be the only time I’ll be able to write this in a positive light so here goes: This thing is dead on arrival. Just don’t count on it staying dead.F