Pet Semetary Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Written by Matt Greenberg (Screen Story), Jeff Buhler (screenplay), Stephen King (novel)
2019, 101 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on April 4th, 2019
Jason Clarke as Louis Creed
John Lithgow as Jud Crandall
Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed
Jeté Laurence as Ellie Creed
The film’s poster boasting that Pet Sematary is “Based on a novel by the author of IT” tells you everything you need to know – it's predominately aimed at a younger audience who couldn’t care less about, or perhaps even know, who Stephen King is, let alone the fact that this is in fact a reimagining of his best-selling novel.
Talk from SXSW was that this one was among the best films of the festival so it's fair to say excitement was high. It's surprising then that the best thing about Pet Sematary is a cat who is intended to scare but does anything but. ’Church’s’ worst crime is scratching someone when getting badly groomed. Yeah, it’s a cat! Duh!
The Creeds, Louis (Clarke) and Rachel (Amy) are moving to a new home to ‘slow down’ and spend more time with their children Ellie (Laurence) and Gage (played by twins Lucas and Hugo Lavoie). Louis worked in an ER and is now changing pace to work as a doctor in a smaller town.
When they move in they are startled by the roaring sound of a truck passing by on the road in front of the house... we bet that comes into play later, maybe some kind of gate or fence would be in order?
When Ellie wanders off into the forest behind the house she meets their neighbour Jud (Lithgow) who goes on to tell her about the titular Pet Sematary. Menacing story locked and loaded.
Life slowing down doesn’t look like it will be on the agenda when Louis has to tend to a student who has been hit by a truck, it's gruesome, but also sets the tone for the rest of the film... unexplained supernatural stuff. The kid haunts Louis as some kind of warning about what is to come, nice of him but why does he have to be so damn creepy about it if he’s trying to help? Maybe just pop round for a cup of tea.
One day Louis finds Church dead by the side of the road and in an ominous tone Jud says they’ll “take care of it tonight.” That night the two men set off to the Pet Sematary but Jud reluctantly explains there might be a better place to bury Church. He takes him further into the forest to a place seemingly with its own ecosystem with fog a plenty, thunder and lightning becomes the backdrop to this strange ritual (obviously) and once over, Louis thinks nothing of it and returns home.
The next day Church is back and is... well a bit grumpy, not evil as such, just a bit ‘you could have buried me in a bag or something, look at my fur!’ evil.
You can fill in the gaps from there on in, the busy road, truck, kids playing, a ‘Sematary’ that brings things back from the dead… you know.
The film is just so painfully average and goes through the motions to get to its obvious and natural conclusion, and although there is a slight change to the original novel, it's not enough and instead trundles along without ever being truly scary or inventive.
The cast is a solid one and does what it can, but no one is ever really given anything interesting to do. The bits of the film that work actually come from the more intimate moments such as Louis and Rachel explaining the concept of death to their daughter, it’s a nice look at how families deal with the larger issues in life and how best to explain to a child when you don’t yourselves see eye to eye. The juxtaposition of these emotive moments and the more supernatural ones just seem awkward and instead of scares coming from the tension created by the story, they are shown in ‘awake’ dream sequences, so just serve as jump scares out of nowhere.
After the success of Stephen King’s other literary behemoth IT, delving into the horror master’s other works (again) is a no brainer but that is also sadly what has been served up here, an empty-headed shell of a film. Where IT succeeded in making you care for its protagonists, here you just feel nothing, thus diffusing any of the film’s big moments.
It wouldn’t be modern horror without a slight twist at the end and although fairly interesting, it's almost a shame the film didn’t start there rather than end, as it would have been far more fun.
If you like cats you’ll get something out of Pet Sematary but if you like good horror then perhaps give it a miss. That said, if Church gets his own spin-off then the Pet Sematary story might just be salvageable.
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