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Well, considering that Stephen King movies have been on a hot streak, I guess it’s only fitting to resurrect another oldie from the library of the master of fear and suspense. But did it have to be Pet Sematary? Man, I did not like the original. Hell, I barely remember it. But fine, that only means improvements are possible. Fingers crossed.
The story looks like it’s about a family that moves into a new home. The cat dies, they bury it in the Native American burial site, it comes back mean, then the eldest daughter dies, they bury her too, and she comes back homicidal too.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jason Clarke (AFTERMATH , CHAPPAQUIDDICK , KNIGHT OF CUPS , EVEREST , and the upcoming THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME ), Jeté Laurence (SNOWMAN ), John Lithgow (PITCH PERFECT 3 , ACCOUNTANT , and upcoming films THE TOMORROW MAN  and LATE NIGHT ), Amy Seimetz (LEAN ON PETE  and ALIEN: COVENANT ), and Obssa Ahmed (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, both known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Penning the screenplay is Jeff Buhler, known for THE PRODIGY (2019), and the upcoming GRUDGE (2020). Composing the score is Christopher Young, known for SINISTER (2012). The cinematographer is Laurie Rose, known for STAN & OLLIE (2019), JOURNEY’S END (2018), and FREE FIRE (2017). Finally, the editor is Sarah Broshar, known for READY PLAYER ONE (2018).
Overall, I doubt I’m going to like this movie. It just looks exactly the same as the original with one or two details changed around to play up more of the unpredictability, because now it seems like the mother is aware of their resurrected child as opposed to finding out on the fly, like in the original, but I don’t think it’s going to amount to much. About the only thing I would truly want, which would likely stray heavily from the novel, is make the Pet Sematary relevant to the story in some way and not be a misnomer. It’s the Native American burial grounds where the freaky shit happens, not the Sematary.
This is my honest opinion of: PET SEMATARY
The Creed family, Louis (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), their older daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and toddler son Gage (twins Lucas and Hugo Lavoie), have moved to the quiet suburbs of _ Maine to get away from the hustle and hurry city of Boston. Not long there, they discover a local landmark near their home, named by local kids for generations called the “Pet Sematary,” where beloved pets are buried. However, one day, the Creed’s neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) discovers their family cat Church has been run over by a truck. Louis, at the request of Rachel, keeps the cat’s death a secret, but to bury it at the Pet Sematary. However, with Jud’s help, he takes Louis out further to an ancient Native American site long abandoned and buries Church there. The next day, Church mysteriously returns home, but… more hostile. Thinking the cat is too much for Ellie, after it scratches her, Louis releases the cat into the wild. This proves to not work as he finds his way home on Ellie’s birthday. Seeing the cat first, Ellie races in the middle of the road and is inadvertently killed by a truck. Not content with her untimely death, Louis decides that if the Native American site can bring back Church, maybe it can bring back Ellie.
Yeah, I think this is better than the original, but I was about right with my expectations. It’s a nothing horror film. Somethings were done right, some things were subpar.
Let’s talk about the improvements this makes over the original film. For one thing, I thought Louis was a better character. In the original film, and this is more of a problem with the writing and possible directing, but he has glimpses of being a bad husband. Never played into it at all, so I guess they decided to rectify it here and just make this family a standard loving family.
I might also say that Church is a much more intimidating evil cat this go-round. He’s dirty, his fur is unkempt, he’s not just a prankster throwing dead rats into the tub. He scratches everyone, he eats a bird that’s not quite dead right in front of everyone, that’s a cat that needs a Dead Space-styled curb stomp, ASAP. That’s a mean-ass cat. Also, I like how unpredictable it really is. Though the cat doesn’t rush in to eat people in their sleep, there are some legit creepy moments. Like when Church is in Gage’s crib? Dude, I froze stiff right in my seat. There’s even a scene where Louis tries to inject Church and kill it, but then Church becomes all sweet and calm. I’d swear to God that cat was manipulating Louis like a champ.
I will also give credit that I think the look of the deformed older sister in Rachel’s flashbacks looks a lot more grotesque. I mean, her bones look like they want to protrude out from the skin. She looks creepy as fuck.
I definitely buy into the child’s death scene better. In the original film, it was a result of shitty, shitty, SHITTY parenting. New neighborhood FAMOUS for speeding trucks on the road, which your house is next to, and you have a toddler who is known for exploring… fuck, the real twist of that movie is if a kid didn’t die. Personally, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Here, I felt for Ellie. After Louis abandons Church far away, he comes back home, in the middle of the street, and Ellie runs after him because of course she would. Of course she’d be too distracted by her happiness to see her beloved cat to see a truck coming. This wasn’t a result of shitty parenting. This really was a horrible series of circumstances. As a result, her resurrected self is significantly creepier than Gage ever was in the original. Age difference aside, Laurence looks like she crawled out of a grave and is none too happy about it. And give young Laurence some credit, she plays both roles as the happy, innocent young girl and the homicidal not-quite-zombie extraordinarily well. She’s just as talented as her older sister Oona Laurence. I would love to see more from the Laurence family in the future.
Beyond that, those are my only positives.
One of the inherent problem with the flick is that the actual Pet Sematary is a red herring. It has absolutely nothing to do with the overall story. It’s not where the freaky shit happens. That’s the Native American burial site. I know this is probably a small problem in a lot of peoples’ eyes, but this is a huge deal for me. This movie is titled, “Pet Sematary.” One would think that it would have some baring on the story, or thematically serve it in some way. But no, it’s just a fun little landmark in the setting and means absolutely nothing.
But fine, that could just be a nitpick. It bothers me, but fine, there are worse problems with this movie. Like the other built-in mistake that Jud shows Louis the site in the first place. Jud knows that the site brings the dead back because of his dog and knows that they come back hostile and murderous. Just because his dog had a mean streak doesn’t mean that it only applies to mean animals. This is an unknown force and until you know what you’re dealing with, don’t take chances. I’m sure plenty of cute kids have lost their “good pets” to the oncoming traffic of trucks. Bet ya that Jud never told them to go to the site. Everything that happens in this movie is a result of stupidity.
A serious downgrade for the film is Jud, compared to the original film. In the original, yeah, Jud was kind of a creepy dude, but you knew he meant well. He was kindly old man who just wanted to do right by the Creed family. However, the Jud in this movie is far creepier, and not nearly as approachable. This dude constantly stands around looking like he wants to kill everyone. It’s only once he gets some screen time in the scene where he warms up, but I don’t think this is how Jud is supposed to be represented. Look, I’ve not read the book. If that’s how he’s supposed to be, then fine, enjoy him for his accuracy. Personally, I liked the original Jud better because I wasn’t intimidated by him. Tell me how that works! The man who ran up to Will Ferrell and kissed him on the lips like it wasn’t the least bit unusual is significantly more scary than the man who played an iteration of Frankenstein’s monster.
How is the discussion of death only now cropping up in the Creed household? Is this not something that married couples talk about when it comes to their children? I get that kids ask hard questions sometimes and we want to shield them from the things that are too hard to understand at certain ages. But to be so disjointed on how to talk to her about it, one saying that death is natural and there’s no afterlife, whereas the other absolutely believes in the afterlife… this is handled pretty poorly. One would think if she’s never asked this question before, the topic would be put on hold until an agreement is made between the parents as to what should be said. Instead, it happens on the fly and no one seems to agree with each other. Just a whole lot of, “what (s)he is trying to say” stuff.
I never understood how the supernatural stuff worked in this universe. Why does Louis experience supernatural visions of Victor (Obssa Ahmed) before doing anything? Is it simply because his house is so close to the Native American site? If so, where’s the cutoff point? Does Jud experience supernatural shit? He sure doesn’t seem like it. Does the rest of the town experience supernatural visions? It sure isn’t hinted at. So what makes Louis so special? If is seriously just the Creed household, then how many people are aware of the Native American site? Is Jud the only one that knows of its freaky powers and what it does? Why are there not more animal resurrection stories? Even if the movie were to acknowledge that the town is aware, one would think that security would be tighter around the graveyards to prevent desperate, grieving family and friends from digging up the bodies of their loved ones and taking them to the site. Or… you know, make it standard procedure to cremate the bodies upon death… so, no real use for the graveyard.
Jud’s an idiot! He deserved to die! But never mind that, his death could have been prevented. Just hunker down in a small room and wait out the little bitch. In the bathtub with the revolver. I mean there’s no reason for wandering a house with a little sorta-zombie ax-murder running around.
I keep wondering to myself… what would I do to make the movie better and not be so “dead on arrival” for me. Well, for one, I would have a twist. That Jud was resurrected the whole time, or is actually the Wendigo that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual movie despite the build-up to its reveal that never happens. In fact, I would have it that the entire town was resurrected. I wouldn’t know why the people wouldn’t just outright kill the Creeds and resurrect them, but at least I would know why Jud and the rest of the town doesn’t experience the supernatural visions that the Creeds face. I don’t know, but as is, the execution of this idea is flawed.
Overall, this movie just doesn’t do it for me. On top of it simply being not scary, most of the characters are pretty bland and not memorable, there were some serious downgrades from the original, like making Jud creepier, and just a bunch of other little things. I won’t say it doesn’t have some redeeming values. Clarke and Laurence are both pretty solid, some of the violence is satisfyingly violent, among more than a few other improvements over the original. Still, I think this movie is pretty forgettable. I don’t hate it, I don’t think it’s a bad movie, it’s not poorly made, but there’s nothing to it. As a recommendation, I say pass. Rental at best, but you’re not missing a thing. Just watch PET SEMATARY 2, then you’ll know what entertainment is.
My honest rating for PET SEMATARY: a weak 3/5
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