Given the choice, should you, and would you, mess with the natural order of life and death?
Be it to bring your favourite pet dog or cat back, or more tragically, to bring your dead child back. If the premise sounds familiar, it’s because the questions were all raised by horror maestro Stephen King is his 1983 novel, Pet Semetary. The novel was adapted onto the silver screen in 1989 by Mary Lambert, with the screenplay written by King himself. Sadly the film never really became as much of a classic as other films based on King’s works did, like The Shining and It.
Now, a remake of Pet Semetary is here, directed by Kevin Kölsh and Dennis Widmyers. This dark and tragic tale is notedly different from the first Pet Sematary film, and while it mostly just skims the surface in the first two acts in the movie, it doubles down on the horror and delivers a film that mostly succeeds in bringing to life once again (See what we did there?) a tale that has already been told many times before.
While there are a few noticeable differences, the movie mainly follows the same few beats as the novel, save for the third act where it veers away from the source material, though the twist will be largely spoiled for you if you have already watched the trailer prior to watching the movie. We follow Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), a doctor from Boston, who has moved to the rural side of Maine with his wife Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz), and their two children, eight-year-old Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (played by Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), and their friendly cat, Church.
Fortunately for them, this move means the days of long overnight shifts in the emergency room for Louis is over and the family will get to spend more time together. Unfortunately for them, the house is right next to a busy highway that trucks like to speed by on. Really, speeding trucks seem to love this particular highway.
The Creeds are soon introduced to Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) a genial old man who is especially partial to Ellie. Jud is also the one who took it upon himself to tell Louis about an ancient burial ground that is able to reanimate the dead, and that is exactly what they do after the death of Church, who got hit by a passing truck. Though resurrection doesn’t seem to agree with Church, who becomes a lot surlier after rising from its grave.
Despite not uttering a single line, Church the cat gives a stellar performance throughout the movie. It does not need to speak, being able to convey so much with just its long, silent, and unnerving stares. The cat is an evil genius as well, having made its way back to the Creeds despite Louis driving for what seemed like quite a distance and setting him free there. It knew to stand in the middle of the highway, which leads to a tragic event involving Ellie, and brings the film into its action-packed third act.
Praise has to be given to Jeté Laurence who gives a stand out performance in the third act, showing the stark shift in her personality from the Ellie at the start of the film, to the Ellie we see by the time the film is nearing its end.
In the film’s defence, it really did try. It tried to be different from Lambert’s 1989 film and it succeeded, it tried to amp up the horror with its many jumpscares and it’s more or less a success. But one thing the movie should not have done was rush through too much of the first and second act, as it is ultimately difficult to feel much for the characters when we were hardly given any time to emotionally connect with them.
Themes of grief, trauma, guilt, and how characters in the film chose to cope with them are briefly touched on in the film but never fully explored in favour of more horror and more jump scares, which is frankly a pity as it could have given a lot more emotional depth to the film.
The jump scares in the film were also fairly predictable. Any discerning moviegoer, or if you’ve already watched the spoiler-filled trailer, will be able to correctly guess when a jump scare will happen which will is not anything too punishing, does make for a rather formulaic horror movie where the jump scares are concerned.
Ultimately, Pet Sematary is still fun to watch, but quite forgettable. It attempts to tread on new grounds, and introduces new elements to the mythos of King’s original novel and while some of its attempts succeed, several others fail to stick the landing.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Pet Sematary serves to bring King’s work to a new generation and it mostly succeeds. For those who wish to wish to watch the movie, we highly recommend you to not watch the movie’s trailer before going to watch the film as too many important beats in Pet Sematary are spoiled in the trailer.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 7.5/10
Characterisation - 6/10
Geek Satisfaction - 6.5/10