"Pet Sematary" Review - (Non-Spoiler)


If remakes must be produced by the Hollywood machine, thirty years feels like an acceptable amount of time between film iterations. A whole new generation of viewers will be introduced to a property, while us old-school fans can at least appreciate the technical improvements that film making has undergone since the original version hit cinema screens.



The 2019 version of "Pet Sematary" nevertheless feels very familiar. Perhaps because the source material - Stephen King's 1983 novel - is a very simple story at its heart, or maybe because some scenes in Mary Lambert's 1989 feature are iconic in the horror community (scalpel, anyone?), this version by Starry Eyes directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch takes a very long time to find its feet.



Louis (Jason Clarke), Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their children, Ellie (an excellent Jeté Laurence) and Gage, relocate to a small town outside the hustle and bustle of Boston where Louis was burning out. They meet their odd but caring neighbor, Judd (John Lithgow), and learn that there's a pet "Sematary" on their spacious acreage that the town has been using for generations. Of course things go pear-shaped, a death occurs, and eventually, things are coming back wrong and all hell is about ready to break loose. Maybe literally.



There's too much going on in the setup, even if they are all threads which exist in King's novel and Lambert's film. Louis sees visions of a dead student he failed to save warning him not to go beyond the barrier; Rachel is still traumatized from the death of her sister when she was a child and is seeing her own visions - a haunted house theme which wears thin and provides only one scare.



The film throws a curveball at those overly familiar with the story (which was spoiled in the trailer *sigh*), before it jumps off any previously warped rails in the third act, going for the jugular with grim abandon. There are some odd laughs thrown into the mix - a couple of which feel tonally off - but one performance in-particular saves the film from becoming too funny for its own good.



"Pet Sematary" looks and sounds excellent, with the mist-shrouded forest proving a creepy setting, and the sound design working overtime (with the aid of Christopher Young's score) to immerse the viewer in the Reeds' descent into hell.



There are some clever deviations from the book that had the old-school fans chuckling in appreciation, and the ending has been tinkered with significantly enough to give most something to latch onto. That said, there is also a bizarre inclusion of an additional piece of Native American folklore which goes nowhere and adds nothing to the story.



It's certainly no "It", but "Pet Sematary" is a decent retread of the old' "sometimes dead is better" theme. Most drawn to this type of material will derive at least some enjoyment from it, but few are likely to be exposing its virtues by the end of the year. It's too long and too familiar, and attention spans in 2019 ain't what they used to be - mine most definitely included. I'm going to give "Pet Sematary" a 6 out of 10.


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