PET SEMATARY REVIEW
Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.
Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Writers: Jeff Buhler (Screenplay by), Matt Greenberg (Screen Story by), Stephen King (Based on “Pet Sematary” by)
Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, JD the Cat
Pet Sematary, based on the novel by horror master Stephen King, runs two-minutes less than the 1989 original for which King penned the script. This version is a fast-paced dive into the macabre with a constantly unnerving mood, jump scares galore and fantastic performances. A big change to the source material may annoy purists, but either way this 2019 release could have used more character development to truly deliver it’s final punch.
If you’ve seen the original movie, or read the classic novel, the plot may seem very familiar until a certain change that the recent trailers had spoiled (I didn’t have it spoiled), so with that in mind, we’ll be plot-thin here.
Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two children, Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie) have just arrived at their new home in rural Maine. A big move from their city life in Boston, but one that’s supposed to allow the family more time together with the slower country life. Things take a turn for the weird though when the family’s cat dies and Louis, upon advice from their neighbour, Jud (John Lithgow) buries it in the eerie Pet Sematary, just down from the family’s new home and it subsequently and amazingly rocks back up at the house alive the following morning.
Pet Sematary’s themes of death, life and our own privileges within our time on Earth are evident very quickly, but played with little. Early in the film Louis and Rachel’s eldest, Ellie, asks questions about what happens after you die which opens up potentially interesting moments later in the film, but they seemed wasted. Louis and Rachel have differing opinions on if a heaven exists or not in that particular scene which leads to a fight about the handling of their daughter’s questioning. Louis himself as a Doctor obviously fills his life somewhat with the smell of lingering death, but an early incident at the local clinic begins haunting him at night, as death calls out to him from the forest. As the weirder things start happening at the house, the family buries their cat and Rachel begins questioning if they should have moved as memories of her sister haunts her stronger and stronger and the question raised several times about what happens when you die and what it means to be alive recur over and over again.
Rachel lost her sister at a young age due to an accident spurred from a spin-disease she had, but not before her sister instilled in her the fear she’d end up like her one day. Although Rachel’s hauntings make for some creepy memories and moments, the side-story itself never goes anywhere and it really felt like it should have, given the amount of time spent on it.
Although I don’t think Pet Sematary had nearly enough time spent on its characters to truly land its final act and moment, it does spend a lot of time focusing on plot itself — and I mean it really just dives in there. From the moment the film starts there is a constantly off-putting tone about the place, a ‘you really shouldn’t be here’ feeling that absolves the screen and you with it. And then it’s off: creepy neighbours, creepy kids, creepy woods, creepy cemetery spelt wrong. Paired with the dark and somewhat otherworldly at times cinematography from Laurie Rose, whose work with Ben Wheatley shines through here, and the score from Christopher Young, directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have crafted a 90 minute skin-crawler that’s light on dull moments.
The characters may be thin but the actors behind them carry the story well with stellar work all around. Jason Clarke is this very relatable Dad just trying to do more for his family, Amy Seimetz gets the least to work with as her — as discussed — side story is never taken anywhere but is a warm parent nonetheless. The standouts though are Jete Laurence as this bundle of joy in the family and also John Lithgow as the aging neighbour who’s lived in Maine his entire life. Lithgow and Laurence also share a lot of scenes together and are fantastic as a team.