The ‘Pet Sematary’ remake is downright bad in just about every way possible.
Since Stephen King’s ‘IT‘ remake was a highly commercial and critical success, film studios are scrambling as fast as they can to remake all of Stephen King’s work to cash in on that newly found interest once again. The latest remake in the King universe is ‘Pet Sematary‘, from relatively new filmmakers Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer. Now I remember reading King’s book long ago, but I admit it has been a while since I read the whole thing, however, the important plot details and themes still resonated clearly in present day. Mary Lambert’s vision in the original 1989 movie adaptation still holds up as well in most sequences, taking the tone of King’s book and translating it well to film. There are still iconic scenes that scare me in the dark from that original movie. With this new 2019 remake though, everything looks cheap, including the scares, which come across as silly and laughable, and is downright bad in just about every way possible.
At its core in ‘Pet Sematary‘ as Stephen King wanted to convey is a sense of loss, grief, and sadness. Most of Stephen King’s stories have a bit of dark comedy to them, but with ‘Pet Sematary‘ that’s not really the case. King has even stated in interviews that when he was writing the book, he wanted to see how one would react and what extremes would they go thru to have one more minute with a dead loved one. It’s a debilitating rollercoaster of emotions for sure and as we know in previous interpretations of ‘Pet Sematary‘, we’ve seen the worst of the worst come to fruition. With this truly underwhelming remake, we come to care nothing for any of the characters and when a jump scare happens or there is a death, it comes across as highly laughable rather than the intended purpose – horror.
Off the top of my head in recent memory, I can think of a few films that have dealt with the sudden and tragic sense of loss and death in the horror genre that was executed spectacularly. In movies like ‘The VVitch‘ and ‘Hereditary‘, the filmmakers produced a slow burn of emotions and dread unlike we’ve ever seen, where we the audience were truly scared and felt the loss of loved ones along with the characters so greatly, that these films are still in our minds. With the remake of ‘Pet Sematary‘, the opposite is in play, where everything looks forced, fake, and funny. Even the scary pet sematary itself looks like it’s on a soundstage and if the actors were to take two steps in either direction, they would run out of set. It’s that bad.
The filmmakers have changed a bit of the story to throw in some new twists and surprises throughout here, but the overall story arc is still in place. The Creed family, including Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz), along with their young daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and toddler son Gage have all moved to the countryside from the big city so that Louis (a doctor) can have an easier schedule at the local university treating students. Their new house comes with about 50 acres, including a creepy pet sematary, which their new elder neighbor Judd (John Lithgow) tells them about. When the family cat Church dies, Judd shows Louis that he can bury the cat in a place beyond the pet sematary, which will bring the dead cat back to life, albeit not the same happy and lovable cat. The cat rejuvenation is a success in the fact that Church is up and walking around now, but the cat now is evil. As we know with the story, there is another awful tragedy where one of the family members is killed and buried in the pet sematary, only for them to come back to life, but again, as something evil.
What was so amazing about King’s story is that he showed what any of us would probably think about at one point during our grieving for a loved one. We would want to spend more time with them if we could, even if it meant bringing them back to life in foul way. The sorrow and grief that slowly turns into insanity is very real when under that much duress and stress from a loved ones passing. Anything seems possible, no matter how crazy it seems. With this remake though, everything has a dark and slow burn feel, however all of it comes across as silly with its cheap jump scares that are repetitive and the overall cheesy look of the film. It all takes you out of this incredible story being told. As for the performances, Clarke and Seimetz do the best they can with the material, but are never truly nuanced. The real spotlight performance is with the young Jeté Laurence, who really captures the character of Ellie. I hope to see more from her in the future, especially in the horror genre.
This remake of ‘Pet Sematary‘ is not the horror film I was hoping for. It’s bland, weak, and downright laughable with cheap scares. Although some of the film tackles the tone that King wanted to create very well, the overall experience is a sour one. Stick with the book or original film and leave this one buried under ground.