Sometimes it’s Best to Stay Dead
Stephen King’s bestselling “Pet Sematary” first hit theaters in 1989, but it never fully hit with audiences. This time around, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have a few tricks up their sleeves to entice a brand new audience. Having just moved from Boston to a small town in Maine named Ludlow, the Creed family settles into their new surroundings. Not long after arriving, they witness a group of masked people parading their dog in a wheelbarrow in a procession-like formation. While Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) attempt to explain death to their daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), their cat, Church, is found dead by their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow). While attempting to hide this from Ellie, Jud leads Louis past the Pet Sematary to a secluded spot and instructs him how to bury Church. The next day, Church is magically alive and Louis tries to find answers; but Church is clearly not the same. Some months later, tragedy strikes the family and Louis is left with an impossible choice; and he must deal with the repercussions from his actions.
I’ll admit, the original “Pet Sematary” never struck a chord with me. With poor effects and sub-par storytelling, it was a forgettable offering in King’s engrossing collection. However, this version of “Pet Sematary” does a great job telling its story, staying tense and unnerving from start to finish. The film isn’t exactly “scary”, but there are a few very unsettling moments that caused a few people around me to jump. The events of the film are anchored by a surprisingly-strong, charismatic cast. Clarke and Seimetz share a strong chemistry (especially during the climactic scenes) and Lithgow is great as the mysterious neighbor, but it’s Laurence who steals the show. This young girl is truly terrifying; the range she shows bouncing from a cheery, young girl to a dark, demented child is pure genius.
Obviously, the film’s main plot is well-established, but I truly appreciated the shroud of mystery left over the story. It provides opportunity for thought and for a possible revisit down the road as well. This version of the story also has a few well-thought and story-driven changes from the 1989 film and the novel and I personally think they fit much better. The film features some gore-filled moments, but nothing that was too difficult to handle. While the film is a success, it often hiccups due to its predictability at times; but as this is a remake that was bound to happen from time-to-time. Throughout its 101 minute run time, “Pet Sematary” will keep you on-edge as it creeps its way into your brain and leaves you with a very uneasy feeling.
“Pet Sematary” has enough scares and unsettling moments to make it worthwhile, but its real success comes from the performances and the mystery of the film’s plot. I have no doubt this will find an audience and we can all expect a sequel in the near future; hopefully it will be a prequel to explain a bit more about the magic of the grounds, how it is powered, and how it came to be!
PET SEMATARY is rated R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language, in theaters APRIL 5TH!