'Pet Sematary' - Bringing Stephen King back from the dead [REVIEW]

Pet Sematary

If Pet Sematary, It, Carrie and a dozen other Stephen King novels are getting remade, can somebody please hurry up and make a Salem’s Lot reboot? Cast Adam Driver as Ben and Bob Odenkirk as Richard and then thank me later when it turns out to be a masterpiece.

I’m serious, too, and I’ll even help write the thing if that’s what it takes to get it off the ground.

We’re sadly not here to talk about a hypothetical Salem’s Lot reboot, though, but rather to discuss the very real and very mediocre remake of Pet Sematary, which comes from Starry Eyes directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.

For those who aren’t familiar with the title, Pet Sematary is based off a King novel (a novel that I’ve actually read, believe it or not) that was written in 1983. In 1989, they adapted Pet Sematary into a movie — which, really, isn’t very good at all even though there seem to be a lot of people who have some kind of nostalgic affection for it.

Those people are entitled to their opinion, of course, but I’d challenge them to re-watch it now in 2019 and still say it’s a good movie with a completely straight face.

Pet Sematary
credit: YouTube

The story revolves around the Creed family — Louis (Jason Clarke), Rachel (Amy Seimetz), Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) — who have just moved from Boston out into the countryside in a tiny little town called Ludlow, Maine (which, of course, should come as no surprise to King fans as he seemingly has a never-ending love for the northern state).

Along with the giant farmhouse that the Creed family is moving into comes a couple dozens of acres that sit directly behind it — a detail that Louis considers to be rather irrelevant until he meets his next-door neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow).

Jud, you see, has lived in Ludlow for nearly all his life. He was born and raised, got married (Norma isn’t actually in the movie but is cleverly hinted at in a couple of different places) and then grew old in the house that sits right across from the Creeds.

That means that Jud is well aware of the things that go on in that woods and, more importantly, the significance that a place like the pet sematary holds.

Pet Sematary
credit: YouTube

For some, the pet sematary is just a myth they’d rather not think about. For others, it’s a place where they can respectfully bury their pets and then go on with their lives.

Jud, however, knows that it’s really more than that. Deep beyond the initial graveyard, there’s something much darker and more powerful that haunts those woods — something that has the ability to bring the dead back to life.

Upon hearing all of this, Louis chooses not to believe it. It all sounds like a bunch of make-believe, and there’s no use in startling his family when they all have other things to worry about — like Louis’ new job as a doctor at the local university or Ellie’s lost cat, Church.

When certain events begin to transpire, though, Louis and the rest of the Creeds have no choice to turn towards the pet sematary and the horrors that are buried beneath it.

Pet Sematary
credit: YouTube

And since I’m not a complete scumbag, I’m not going to say anything more than that about the plot — which is a sentiment that the trailers don’t share, as the promo material practically gives away every single detail for this movie much like the trailers for Greta did.

Look, I get that you have to sell your horror movie and I understand that *that* moment in Pet Sematary is the creepiest feature about the film, but can you imagine how much more effective it would have been if we didn’t see it coming from the trailers? Even having had read the book, the character reversal they do in the second half of the movie would have completely blown my mind if it hadn’t already been spoiled for everyone.

What’s arguably worse than that, though, is that’s really the only new, exciting feature this take on Pet Sematary has to offer.

That’s not to say this movie is a complete wash, though. While the 1989 film was hellbent on making as accurate of an adaptation to the source material as possible, this Pet Sematary is at least willing to entertain the notion of venturing off in some areas.

Pet Sematary
credit: YouTube

Granted, they could have definitely done so way more (that moment you see in the trailers with all the kids in the mask is literally just one 20-second long scene), but the film still has a little bit fun playing with things like Zelda and the Micmac Burial Grounds in ways we haven’t already seen before.

It’s also worth noting that, overall, the story to Pet Sematary is one that’s pretty appealing by itself. That credit, of course, goes towards King more than anyone, but even a flat-adaption of Pet Sematary still is guaranteed to offer some atmosphere, some tone and some interesting themes of death and the idea that history is constantly repeating itself.

Some of the casting, too, help this remake along in a positive way. Specifically, it’s Seimetz who stands out in this film. She’s thankfully given far more to do than Denise Crosby was given in the original, and Seimetz makes the most of it, too, as she brings a lot to the character.

Lithgow and Clarke — who’s kind of dead-panned throughout the whole thing, despite that being the way that the character is written — aren’t bad, either, even if I could have used some more screen-time between the two of them to make those moments in the second half of the movie feel more earned.

Pet Sematary
credit: YouTube

Then we get to Laurence and, look, I hate being this guy. Like, I *really* hate being this guy, which is why I’m not going to make a big deal of it or anything. The role of Ellie is a difficult one that — especially in this version — requires an actress who’s up to a big challenge. There are many adult actresses who wouldn’t be able to pull it off, either, I’m sure. Laurence, to her credit, is going for the gold here, but she, uh, can’t quite sell it, if you catch my drift.

The bigger problem, though, really just comes from the script and the directing. There’s nothing in this take that really makes Pet Sematary shine or sparkle. Nothing that begs you to go see it on the big-screen or stands out in any kind of way. It's not that scary, either, as it largely just relies on jump scares and other clichés. This feels like a very average, Hollywood-for-hire kind of gig that, even with this great source material, is just another middling, underwhelming tale churned out by a major studio.

That’s not the worst thing in the world, as Pet Sematary is watchable enough, but it a bummer coming from someone who’s such a fan of the book and wanted this movie to be great — and great this is certainly not.

Watch the trailer for Pet Sematary here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!

'Pet Sematary' - Bringing Stephen King back from the dead [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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