April 5, 2019 Pet Sematary (Movie Review)
For better or for worse, the past always seems to return, haunting the mind’s of the present at the most unexpected moments. In the modern entertainment world, there are more and more modern adaptations of older films coming up each day. Especially the case in the Horror genre, fans survived the onslaught of remakes in the mid-2000s, with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, 2005’s The Amityville Horror, 2007’s Halloween, 2008’s Prom Night… do we need to go on?
A period many thought hopefully had come and gone, the remake bug reared its head again in recent years with 2015’s Poltergeist, and more successful outings such as 2017’s It. That in mind, with the It remake being such a hit, Hollywood dips into the Stephen King well once more with a Pet Sematary remake which hits theaters everywhere on Friday, April 5, 2019 through Paramount Pictures.
Loosely based off the 1983 Stephen King novel, 2019’s Pet Sematary is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, written by Jeff Buhler, from a screen story by Matt Greenburg. Together, they explore a tale of supernatural with suspenseful plot points throughout. Nearly the 30th anniversary of the 1989 film, the question is, how does the second adaptation of Stephen King’s story hold up?
As it is told in this 2019 edition, the story of a doctor named Louis Creed (Jason Clarke: Terminator Genisys 2015, Mudbound 2017) and his family move from the hustle and bustle of Chicago to a small town in Maine to relieve stress as well as spend more quality time together as a family. Seemingly a typical scenario, what makes this unique is the addition of a few horrific tragedies that begin with the accidental death of the daughter Ellie Creed’s (Jeté Laurence: Younger series, The Snowman 2017) beloved cat named Church.
Before going any further, right off the bat, there are noticeable differences in the directional style between the 1989 film version and this new one. Although the visuals stayed in the realm of the older film, the emotional attachments are portrayed very differently.
There is a strong sense of disconnect and a touch of comic relief that is not apparent in the first film. Reflecting back, the 1989 adaptation was heart-wrenching and actually more realistic in its graphic horror effects. For those whom remember, it certainly was not the kind of film that young school children should have be watching without expecting to have nightmares later. Three decades since, it is pushed upon directors that political correctness must be acknowledged, which is perhaps what truly brings 2019’s Pet Sematary down to a more mild PG-13 feel, despite its confirmed R rating.
This aside, for a film where a cat is one of the main characters, there is honestly a bit of an absence of scenes involving the cat; although they do pop up sporadically. The relationship between the cat and Ellie is not established well in the beginning, and the reason for that is, well, there does not seem to much of a bond.
Additionally, there are the important characters such as the Creed family’s son, Gage, who is played by twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie; the Mother, Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz: Upstream Color 2013, Alien: Covenant 2017); and a nosey, yet helpful neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow: Blow Out 1981, 3rd Rock from the Sun series), all of whom are portrayed well by the respective cast.
Two other “undead” support actors, Obssa Ahmed (Kim’s Convenience 2017, The Expanse 2018) as Victor Pascow, and Alyssa Levine (Un monde à part series) as Zelda Goldman also deserve mention. Zelda is Rachel’s ill sister who is part of her haunting past, and Victor is Louis’ dead patient who haunts his waking life as well as his dreams.
Both Amhed and Levine play the parts as well as can be expected, but unfortunately they serve as cardboard copycats since these character’s visual depiction resonated so strong as scare factors in the 1989 version. Irrelevant to the conversation, but still interesting enough for anyone who just loves the story of Pet Sematary, in the 1989 film, Zelda’s character is portrayed by a man.
All these factors in mind, the unexpected plot twist is the highlight of 2019’s Pet Sematary, however, it is also possibly its downfall; that is all depending on the audience’s reaction. On one hand, the new twists makes for an entertaining, more tolerable, and less shocking ending, one that also sets up nicely for a sequel. On the other hand, Stephen King is no stranger to utilizing bizarre character traits that create shocking emotional developments, something which seems to be missed a bit here.
When it is all said and done, 2019’s Pet Semetary is enjoyable and the elements of suprise work for relevance in its making. Although, those that did not read the book, or see the original film, it is uncertain that this new film gets it’s message of pure horrific emotion across.
While many of Stephen King novels have been made into films through the years, it is always an issue of editing since the book usually covers so much depth of a character, much more than can possibly squeezed into 100 minute feature; sadly the maximum attention span of an audience these days. So, after careful open-minded consideration, the new Pet Sematary is certainly worth watching, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives it 3 out of 5 stars.