Remaking horror movies always seem like a tricky task to follow through in Hollywood nowadays. If you take a look at the track record when it comes to those remakes, not a lot of them are able to match the success that they’re original had. Some have been good, while others should be forgotten. 2019’s version of Pet Sematary is the newest edition in hopes to make the audience be scared once again.
Based off one of Stephen King’s most popular horror novel, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), and their two kids, Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), to Ludlow, Maine to spend more time with them while keeping a steady job on the hand. What they didn’t know about before moving into their home is that deep in the wood is a burial ground known as the “Pet Semetary”, where people bury their pets in hopes to bring them back from the dead.
Yes, this is another adaptation from the legendary author as well as being a remake of the Mary Lambert’s 1989 film. Have I ever watched it? No, because I heard it wasn’t that good. But I have listened to the Ramones song of the same name because it’s that great. I would’ve been excited about this remake, but to be honest, I keep forgetting this was coming out since the trailers never fully hooked me. This just looked to be something to hold most over until the two other King adaptations come out this year the wave of his adaptations: It: Chapter 2 and Doctor Sleep. With Pet Sematary, it’s fine, and it’s a shame.
First off, gotta say all of the performances stood out, which was a surprise on my end. Clarke has always been an underrated actor who rarely puts out a bad role, and this utilizes his acting skills, in my opinion. Seimetz is the most layered character in terms of knowing her history that traumatized her when she was little. And I also really enjoyed John Lithgow’s performance as Jud Crandall, their old next-door neighbor who knows about the mysterious “Pet Sematary”, who carries the film. But besides him, it’s Laurence who provides a scary performance as the daughter, Ellie. She plays the creepy factor when it plots begins to thicken.
Directing duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Holidays) should be given credit for creating a sense of atmosphere throughout while being pretty well-made. Even though I can’t say it wasn’t exactly scary, they tend to make King’s story a bit more investing, for better or worse with the drama when it deals with grief and guilt. Even Jeff Buhler’s screenplay of the source material does go for a different feel for the story without feeling too predictable.
But here’s why Pet Sematary made it pretty average for me: The first act was getting me hooked with its setup (probably the minority with that), and once it was starting to get to the actual plot, it was beginning to become slow and even to the point of actually losing me with what’s going on. Some things didn’t come as a surprise since the second trailer did spoil what’s to come for the Creed family. After that, Pet Sematary quickly became another decent horror flick to put on the background to keep people company.
There wasn’t a moment where I all that frightening. Most of the scares just relied on loud jump scares, which shouldn’t always be the easy answer to getting people to feel something. Sure, Church, the family cat, can be seen as an unnerving family pet when it came back to life after being run over by a truck, everything else wasn’t there. Some scenes involve some gory but weren’t anything that was effective once it was over.
And since I haven’t read the book or seen the original from ’89, I don’t know what has been changed to make it better and what stayed the same. The hardcore King readers will surely compare and will definitely know what’s up. All leading up to a rushed third act that I can’t help but feel underwhelmed with how the movie ended.
In the end, Pet Sematary is a bit of a mixed bag when the credits rolled. And it’s not that this remake should’ve been “insert recent good horror movie here”, but maybe I wanted it to be a lot better considerating the low expectations before walking in. Perhaps this won’t go down as one of the best adaptations of King’s work, but true fans of his won’t even matter if they think it’s better than the original.