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Pet Sematary - Movie Review

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Pet Sematary

2017’s IT adaptation has heralded somewhat of a renaissance of Stephen King based films. The deftly adapted retelling of King’s doorstop novel from the Eighties raked in over 700 million worldwide, so it was no surprise to hear that further re-adaptations were quickly put into production.

2019 will see no less than 3 hit our big screen. With IT: Chapter 2 and Doctor Sleep hitting later this year. But first cab off the rank is a new version of what King Die-Hards refer to as his scariest work: Pet Sematary. It is a beloved novel, with a highly regarded film adaption from 1989 already under its belt. So was this one worth the trouble?

"It is a decent, well made horror film, with great actors and production design ... it is a marked improvement on the first adaptation"


Set in modern day Ludlowe, Maine, this tells the story of the Creed family, a quartet of Chicago dwellers that move to the countryside for a fresh and slower pace of life. Dr. Creed (Jason Clarke) is a decent, pragmatic and understandably scientifically based man; his wife Rachel is his devoted wife, but polar opposite, and has a sensitivity that springs from a childhood trauma; and then their two kids: Ellie, their 9 year-old, Gage, their toddler, and ‘Church’ the cat. By all appearance, they are the perfect, ‘normal’ family—relatable and remarkably uninteresting. What could possibly go wrong here?

Well the Creeds have just had the misfortune of buying a strip of land with a very busy trucking lane out front, and a pet cemetery hidden deep within their woods. It (and the forest beyond it) holds ancient and dark secrets that, through a series of misfortunes, bring down tragedy and supernatural hell on them.

Let’s get this out of the way up front. I never liked the original film. To me, it suffered the same misfortunes as many of the King adaptations did back then: TV special level acting, neutered rating issues, and a generally ambience of cheap and nasty. As a longtime King fan, it is a rare day when I consider one of these cinematic adaptations worth the bother. None of these shackles from the past hinder this movie. It is free to adapt King’s dark story free from any confines.

Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have come out swinging with a brave adaptation. I say brave, because they have deviated not from the arc of the story but by the means in which shit goes bad. King purists already were crying foul from the reveal of a major change in King’s story, but much like Lewis Teague’s changes in the film adaptation of Cujo, this one works pretty well. 

Here you have actors with some serious acting chops, easily outstripping the previous go around. The likes and Clarke and Lithgow can do this stuff in their sleep. They deliver nuanced, empathetic turns each and the film is better for it. Young Jeté Laurence is a stand out as Ellie and delivers the natural and preternatural aspects of this character in an impressively understated and off-putting manner.

The film looks ominous and rich for the most part, but there are certain scenes where it edges into the hokey misty cemeteries of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Unfortunately there is an over-reliance on jump scares as well that cheapens the proceedings. But by far this films greatest flaw is its pacing. There is great care placed on the audience bonding with these characters—the better part of the first two acts in fact. What believability they earn through this is washed away quickly after the death of their Ellie. The grief is implied but not explored, not given time to wash over Dr. Creed and aid in his bat shit crazy notions of resurrecting his daughter. No sooner has the man attended her funeral than he is now slipping his kindly neighbor a drugged nightcap to fulfill his plan. It’s just an unnatural leap that needed more scenes between. My final niggle is that the character of Gage is essentially made redundant by making Ellie the one who is killed and resurrected. There is an added sense of peril, having him there at the finale I suppose, but it really was hammered home by Ellie’s effective physical threat anyway. In my opinion the script would have worked better excising Gage completely.Pet Sematary

They use the audience foreknowledge of specific scenes to make changes and play with them, which you’ll either get a kick out of or despise them for. If you’re going in cold, with no knowledge, it won’t matter.

I enjoyed this movie. It is a decent, well made horror film, with great actors and production design. In my opinion, it is a marked improvement on the first adaptation, but it still fails to capture the true horror of Stephen King’s darkest tome: what mad things grief makes a man do. A good night at the movies for sure, but it won’t haunt you afterwards.

3 stars

Pet Sematary

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language.
Runtime:
101 mins
Director
: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Writer:
Jeff Buhler
Cast:
Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
They don't come back the Same.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Sometimes, dead is better."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 5, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.

Pet Sematary

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Pet Sematary

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