Release: 12th August 2019
Format: BR / DVD
Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
Anyone who remembers the hokey and laughable Pet Sematary of 1989 will either hail it as a classic or a total botch. The acting was, frankly, naff, the horror was non-existent (except for a chilling poster), and the central premise of the dead haunting the living in their many forms was severely undercut by a lack of emotional depth. The only thing that can truly be agreed on, is that Zelda was pretty unsettling. All of the above is true, but in opposite, for the newly adapted version of Stephen King’s classic tale of grief. With an overarching sense of dread, and some star turns from a solid central cast, all met with Laurie Rose’s storybook cinematography; Pet Sematary has finally received the adaptation it deserves, albeit at the expense of watering down and losing the creepiness of the once glorious Zelda.
Like most mid-level, high concept horror films, this iteration of Pet Sematary does not have the bravery of Midsommar or the intensity of The Exorcist, because it wants to be an accessible but not overly troubling viewing experience. The goriest moment comes where you might expect (Judd), and what should be a heart wrenching gut punch is diluted by the general atmosphere of an urban legend best told around campfires. So, although Pet Sematary is hardly going to feature on the list of scariest films for anyone over the age of 13, it does its best to bring much needed gravitas to make us genuinely feel for and care about the Creed family.
As the film settles in to its witchy 3rd act, the usual Achilles heel of King’s storytelling take center stage; over exposure. The premise of a once dead child resurrected to do the devil’s bidding, creeping around in the forest, is enough to stain the whitest of pants. But when she continually pops up, talks, wears a mask, takes the mask off, puts the mask back on again, talks, stares, and, worse of all, explains everything, a lot of the tension is dispelled. Two endings were filmed, with imagery from the alternate ending being stronger, but the emotional impact of the theatrical ending has more weight to it; especially as we learn to actually care about the Creeds.
So, is Pet Sematary a classic? No. It is far from a prestige piece like The Shining or The Green Mile, but no less so than most of the KCU (King Cinematic Universe). It has some defined strengths and a number of weaknesses, and this particular version feels diluted in its willingness to creep us out. However, it is a well-made and well-acted film, which in a world where Blumhouse are setting the pace for horror for the teen demographic, is a refreshing approach to a more classical ghost story.
Film Grade: C
For a film that seems like such a throwaway piece of cinema, there is an exceptional level of content made available here. With over an hour of behind-the-scenes material, very little about the project has been left unturned. The alternate ending is a bit of a damp squib that seems to drag, and the odd dream moments and John Lithgow ghost story seem like proof of concepts repackaged.
Special Features Grade: B-
Not exactly one for the history books, but a passable thriller that will likely scare a new generation of pre-pubescents at sleepovers across the world.