Beware, not only will this be a scathingly honest look at a movie from someone who is by no means a movie expert, spoilers will be talked about. You have been warned.
Pet Sematary, the 2019 remake, is directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s take on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. This is the second time the movie has been remade, following a 1989 adaption directed by Mary Lambert.
The plot. The Creed family, consisting of doctor-dad Louis (played by Jason Clarke), mother Rachel (played by Amy Seimetz), 9-year-old daughter Ellie, (played by Jeté Laurence), and their son, toddler, Gage (played by Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), relocate to the rural town of Ludlow, Maine, to escape the pressures of Boston life. After meeting their neighbour, Jud Randall (played by John Lithgow), they learn about a creepy cemetery (stylised as sematary), where people bury their deceased pets and animals. Long story short, it’s a weird place that has strange powers of reanimation. When Ellie is hit and killed by a truck, Louis attempts to bring her back from the dead. He manages, but she is not the same. Carnage ensues, and the movie comes to a final, twisted conclusion.
Like I said earlier, I am not an expert. But here is what I took from the movie. The progression of the film was fine. There were few times that I found myself wanting more, or being bored, but that was the highest compliment I could pay the progression—it was fine. For those that have read the book, or seen the 1989 version, the plot followed a similar path for the most part. One significant change they made, worked well. Instead of Gage being hit by the truck, the responsibility was passed on to Ellie. This was great for a couple of reasons. The impending sense of dread and despair you get throughout the movie fit better with the death of Ellie’s character, who could understand death and was old enough to question “what happens after you die”. The second reason that this was great was that Ellie’s actor, Jeté Laurence, was waaay better playing the psychotic killer as opposed to the sweet and inquisitive girl. I was getting annoyed at Laurence’s “classic-actor longing looks around”, and her practised slow-walks. However, when her character comes back as a zombie-type killer girl, she is convincing and quite scary.
Perhaps I am simply too apathetic to think deeply about the “things that the movie was trying to tell us”, but Pet Sematary attempts to delve into the unknown. The central theme is dark—the loss of a child. That is hectic for anybody, and quite frankly, is reason enough for a movie to be scary. The Creed family encounter the chance to talk about death and the afterlife throughout the movie with the death of their cat, Church, as well as the incessant, although scary, flashbacks to Rachel’s scary sister who has a “twisted spine”. But by the end of the movie, and especially with the twist ending, you’re left thinking, “Oh yeah, alright.” On top of this, the whole Indian burial ground, the mention of the Windigo, and Jud’s foreboding about reincarnation were rather lacklustre. When stuff got weird, I was distracted by scary things happening in front of me, when I left the cinema, I felt like I still had no idea about why people were brought back from the dead, why they were different, or what significance the Indians and the graveyard even had. Additionally, although Ludlow was supposed to be a creepy town where inexplicable things happen, the only real attempt to explain this was with a scene where Louis googles the town and some mildly uncomforting pictures show up. The history of why everything was happening was disappointing to someone like me: a sceptic that needs things explained. The whole idea of death, reincarnation and the supernatural were great themes. But Pet Sematary failed to utilise the fantastic concepts it had at its disposal.
Let’s talk about the acting, very quickly. For the most part, rather robust. I touched on Ellie’s character, and how the change from sweet girl to deranged killer did her a world of good, but as for the other actors, again, they were fine. Louis’ character was okay, he was a very average person that had to deal with something horrific. Jason Clarke played him well, and I thought that he acted out a normal person, really well. The same can be said for the mother, who like Louis, was going through something hard to comprehend for the average viewer. She had less screen time than Louis, but Rachel’s actor, Amy Seimetz, also played a very standard character well. The biggest talking point was Jud Randall, John Lithgow’s character. Just looking at this movie, without thinking about the previous remakes and the book, Lithgow’s character seemed confused. He very quickly showed Louis the reincarnation secret of the cemetery, despite the fact that he knew its dangers. Why???? I believe that Lithgow played the character brilliantly, probably being the standout performance in my eyes, but I think that the movie confused Jud’s character and he ended up sitting uncomfortably on the fence between mysterious, confused, cautious, and sweet.
The ending of the movie surprised me, which was nice. I thought that the twist where they all end up dying was great. Not something you see every day, so hats off to them—the overall scariness of the movie, also pretty good. There were moments of extreme tension, and a few good ole’ jump scares. I will note, however, that the movie theatre was so bloody loud that I couldn’t tell if I was scared because of the on-screen happenings, or if the music coming through was just so loud that I was genuinely startled and physically shook. When I left the theatre, my ears were literally ringing, and I could hear the classic line “Sometimes, dead, is better” reverberating down my spine on the drive home.
Overall, Pet Sematary was fine. Honestly, a very solid middle-of-the-road movie that I am not going to rush to see again. It was scary, but that isn’t really an adequate cover-up of average acting, character development and plot—Pet Sematary: Aggressively Average.