By Bradley Lane
Pet Sematary was originally written by Stephen King in 1983, shortly after it was adapted into a feature film in 1989. So, now after 30 years have gone by, we are getting an updated version from the directing duo, Kevin Klösch and Dennis Widmyer. In 2017 Stephen King’s It, a similarly remade property, was released and made its money back 20 times over with a budget of $35 million. This sort of box office success nearly ever goes unnoticed, so of course in the coming years we can expect a slew of Stephen King remakes and reboots, of which Pet Sematary is the first.
Pet Sematary follows the story of the Creed family as they uproot their lives in Boston to move to Ludlow, a rural town in Maine. Soon after arriving in their new house, they soon discover a cemetery for the town’s pets that have passed in the woods on their property. Soon after this discovery, strange things start to happen to each of the family members, including their cat, Church. After Church is presumably hit by a car, Louis, the father of the family, and Judd, their new neighbor, go to bury him in the pet cemetery. However, Judd shows Louis a dark secret deep in the woods that leads Louis down a dark path that will affect everyone he loves.
So many elements of Pet Sematary are incredibly frustrating, none more frustrating than the first and second acts of this film. The first act of Pet Sematary, and more specifically the first 20 or so minutes, are fantastic. The film does a great job of foreshadowing what horrors await as well as teasing heady themes of death, past trauma and letting go. Unfortunately, after those opening sequences, the film dips dramatically in quality. For the next hour audiences will be treated with ample expositional dialogue, bland generic jump scares and character building that leads to nowhere. It is a long slog to get to the third act, and even then the film fumbles the ending, leading to a very anti-climatic ending.
The performances range from great to just okay. Jason Clarke, and especially John Lithgow, give emotional and convincing performances, while Amy Seimetz and the child actors give performances that are passable, but never hit the emotional depths that their roles demand.
Pet Sematary’s weakest elements, however, lie in the filmmaking surrounding the story. The gray and washed out color palette they use at night and in the forest is visually displeasing, and the green screen utilization in the woods does not belong in a movie with a wide release in 2019. Additionally, the shot structure and editing in this film leaves a lot to be desired.
The most puzzling decision that the filmmakers made was the decision to remake this film. The original is certainly not a masterpiece in any right, but the remake does not further the themes of the original, nor does it have anything new and distinct to say about the source material. The film and source material deal heavily with letting go and the idea that things get nasty when you try and drag something back from the past. If only the producers, writers and directors had paid more attention to the messaging within their own film.