I was never going to do a Pet Sematary review. There is so much trash talk about the film, I put it on the backburner. Well, I finally watched it and I must admit, I think it’s one of the best new horror remakes and adaptation I’ve seen in recent times.
I’m not a massive fan of Steven King’s novels. I’ve read a few here and there, and of course, have a few favorites. The films made from his books are hit and miss. I’m really happy to put this review of Pet Sematary up as something that was not only well written as a screenplay but well-orchestrated as well.
Courtesy of Alphaville Films and Paramount Pictures.
Directed by Kevin Kölsch | Dennis Widmyer
Screenplay by: Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler (original novel from Stephen King.)
Beyond the Cemetery
Firstly let’s counter some of the trash-talk. Pet Sematary is slow-paced. I actually sat down to watch this one night a while ago and couldn’t get into it. Suffice to say, I wasn’t in the mood for the way this story ambles along. Second time around though, I was literally glued to the screen.
I’m not going to compare this film to the original 1992 movie either. The 2019 vision brought to life by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg stands on its own two feet. The pair managed to flip things just enough in various elements that this version holds true to the values of the book. I see some of you shaking your head, but hear me out.
Essentially the novel was based on paying a price for interfering with fate as well as playing with the theories of what happens after something dies. The premise’s relatability is what makes it so great. The house the Creed’s move to has a supernatural history and the family itself doesn’t even agree on their own ideas on mortality. Nothing in the 2019 Pet Sematary narration sways from any of that.
The other aspect audiences were unhappy with is the use of jump scares. I’m usually the first person to grab hold of that wagon, but I loved the way tension and foreboding was introduced here. The story and writing were so on point, the surprises became a bonus and certainly added value each time they sold their scare. I’m going to have to disagree with the score being used too liberally as well.
Cemetery in My Mind
Spooky music applied to banal situations in life were needed here. Whether or not the writers were counting on the wider audience being familiar with the storyline I can’t confirm. But I do feel like some of the earlier scores were placed because nothing scary was happening, but we as the audience know something scary should be happening. It puts us on high alert and when you’re on watch, the jump scares hit their intended target just as well as when you’re not expecting them.
What I loved about 2019’s film was the complete immersion into the effect the burial ground has on everything it touches. I really got a sense of the power of the entity which inhabits the burial grounds. I think the introduction of Victor Pascoe being a beacon to warn the family of impending doom was also well done.
Production levels, of course, were off the charts, I mean $21 million to make this, you’d expect nothing less. Similarly, It (2017) got $35 million thrown down its spiny clown toothed throat, and the box office sends a clear message that it was money well spent.
Finally, I can’t fault the cast here. I loved them all. Jason Clarke as Louis with his stoic and serious tone settled perfectly into this role. I’ve not seen him in much of his listed film or television but learned he is Australian, so that’s pretty cool. He is well known, however, and he was in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) which is his biggest film.
Amy Seimet’s; Rachel and mom were someone I enjoyed despite her character’s jumpy nature. Without giving away any spoiler details, one of my favorite scenes is in the final showdown. What was refreshing about it, is Rachels’ instantaneous belief in what was happening and that I didn’t have to be angry at her succumbing to bad deeds because her love made her blind. Instead, she petitioned a heroic act that was only undone by someone else.
Mr. Jud Crandall
The biggest surprise for me and the only comparison I’ll make between this film and its predecessor is Jud. Fred Gwynne who played Mr. Jud Crandall originally was just so perfect you can’t imagine anyone filling his Jud shoes. John Lithgow was fantastic. His rap sheet for film and television is so well rounded across the genre playing fields he’d be a hidden gem if he were an actual movie and not a person.
As far as the younger set go, they were amazing too. When child actors pull off difficult roles like this on such a large scale you just have to sit up and take notice. Jete Laurence as Ellie was convincing in all aspects of her character’s journey.
If you’ve been putting off seeing Pet Sematary for any reason, now’s a good time to catch up on it. This film gives a much clearer idea of the wider universe that makes up this story. If you have seen it and hated it, that’s fine too, but I loved it. That final scene was one of the eeriest and coldest finales I’ve seen in a while. Blood chilling.
I give Pet Sematary
4.5 sometimes dead is better out of 5
Best New Horror Remakes
Pet Sematary Based Short Film?
Stick around and check out the short film I was sent based on this film. It’s definitely worth the 9-minute run time it has. The Dollmaker. Personally, I adored this short film. It’s definitely not one to miss.
ALTER A YouTube channel for horror fans: See more horror short films on the dedicated Alter Youtube channel— for free.
JEFF BUHLER: Wrote The Midnight Meat Train. Also fantastic.