Pet Sematary (2019) – 2 out of 5
I don’t read any of Stephen King’s novels because I usually only read comic books and novels with “Star Wars” and “Doctor Who” in the title. However, I will watch every single damn adaptation of a Stephen King story that comes out…even remakes (which I have stated repeatedly on this blog that I have nothing against). I really enjoy the original film adaption (hell, I even like the sequel with Clancy Brown) and the trailer for this one looked gritty and creepy. Heck, there was even a chance I’d get to hear that great Ramones song, so what’s to lose? Well, as it turns out, a lot because I really didn’t care for Pet Sematary.
|"Mommy, I'm thirsty...for blood! Hold on, that was cheesy. Let me try that one|
again. I'm thirsty...for your death. Actually, the first one was better
because that one made no sense."
Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves with his family; his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), his daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and his infant son Gage (Hugo & Lucas Lavoie), to the small town of Ludlow, Maine where he takes a job at a university hospital. Their property is a large plot of land with many acres of forest and they learn that the town’s pet cemetery (spelled adorably as “sematary”) resides in the woods. However, more unsettling, is a large makeshift wall that runs through the “sematary” and the family is warned by their neighbor; Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), to not go there. Not long after they move in, the family cat, Church, is killed by a vehicle on the busy road in front of the home and, fearing Ellie’s emotional pain over the lost, Jud takes Louis beyond the makeshift wall to an ancient burial ground to bury the cat. The next day, Church returns to the house, miraculously alive but dark and violent. Jud reveals that the land has the power to bring back the dead but they don’t always come back as they once were. When tragedy strikes the family again and claims the life of their daughter, Louis is quick to take his daughter to the burial site but he’ll soon learn that sometimes dead is better.
|Seeing this in the woods should have been a warning sign that this town|
might not be someplace to call home.
The cast in this remake is fantastic and the feature has a lot of potential to it as the atmosphere that is constructed is ripe for thrills and terror. However, that’s sadly where the film’s positives kinda end because the rest of the film was, for me, kinda boring, sometimes laughable, and often feeling like it is focusing on the wrong things.
|Cats are kinda evil when they are alive so you'd think they'd be sweethearts|
when resurrected from the dead.
I had a hard time not laughing about various points in the film because, despite having a decent cast giving genuinely good performances, none of the characters were too surprised by the events that were happening around them and few openly questioned anything. It’s actually quite a feat how lackadaisical both the Creed parents react when each finds out about a dead cat being resurrected. Sure, there is some surprise and even some fear but they always felt too low key. This level of subdued reactions is also seen in the lack of dissection when it concerns Louis’ grief and his reasons for wanted to risk his daughter being an undead monster. In the first film, it is the son Gage that is lost and Louis is so overcome with emotions and that is the cause of him doing something he’s already seen to be a stupid move (and don’t cry SPOILERS because the film came out in 1989). In this one, Louis decides to resurrect his daughter too easily. His grief never feels explored or even apparent as his character comes off a little too organized and like the whole plan has been painstakingly gone over a million times in his head. As a viewer, I just saw him doing a stupid move for the sake of lazy horror and not as a father overcome with pain. This is one of the film’s biggest killers for me.
|Lithgow, you are a treasure and deserve better than this...but I don't blame you|
for taking the role. An actor's gotta work and, to be honest, I would have
accepted a role in this one in a heartbeat.
The whole time I watched Pet Sematary I felt like this version was focusing on all the wrong things. There was already the apparent lack of exploration over the grief felt by the father that drove him to do something stupid but this film almost makes the unholy land that resurrects the dead feel like an afterthought. Very early in the film the story lazily reveals the history of the land and the possible supernatural reasons why it does what it does and then the film just acts like that’s enough and then sorta farts out Church and Ellie’s resurrection. This aspect should be the heart of the story’s terror but, instead, the film spends its time giving you easily telegraphed jumps scares, an overuse of dream/nightmare sequences, and way too much time focusing on the mother’s traumatic past with her sick sister. While this attribute is a part of the character and a part of the source material, it feels way, way, WAY overused in this adaptation and, by the end of the film, I felt like I had seen more about her and her fear of her sister than I saw about the unholy land that brings back the dead.
|Why didn't he at least question why they were burying the cat in a nightmarish|
hellscape? He went along with it just a touch too easily.
I always hate it when a remake flounders for me because I feel like it is giving credibility to the people that claim Hollywood is out of ideas. The reality is I saw the original during my formative years and those years tend to become filtered in a rose tint when you look back upon them and you remember things better than they really are—that’s why nostalgia is a toxic impulse. I haven’t re-watched the original in over 20 years, so it is very possible it is also just a bad movie. Pet Sematary has a great cast and has a tremendous atmosphere that is dark and gritty and has the potential for great horror. Sadly, it just didn’t work for me as it felt like it was focusing on the wrong elements, wasn’t developing the right ones, and just didn’t tap into the potential it created and relied too heavily on weak jump scares. This isn’t so much an indictment of remakes but the reality that horror is a super hard genre to get right and a very easy one to get wrong.