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REVIEW: Pet Sematary (2019) – Sometimes Dead is Fine

 
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Overview
 

Directed by: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
 
Produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Steven Schneider, Mark Vahradian
 
Written By: Jeff Buhler
 
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow
 
MTRCB Rating: R-16
 
Genre: , , , ,
 
FG RATING
6.0
6/ 10


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Raves


'Pet Sematary' is a fun spooky time at the movies

Rants


This adaptation prioritized stabbing people over emotional depth


Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, ‘Pet Sematary’ follows the Creed family as they discover a mysterious burial ground near their new home. What follows next is a horror and tragedy beyond anything they can comprehend.

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Posted April 2, 2019 by

 
FULL REVIEW
 
 

If there’s something more ubiquitous to horror movies than conservative idiots calling anything remotely scary the work of Satan, it would be the works of horror maestro Stephen King. Adaptations of King’s works are endless, with many cropping up in the decades after he started writing. Given their longevity and how insanely beloved stories like It are, some repetition was bound to happen—especially in today’s nostalgia-obsessed pop culture scene.

And now, Pet Sematary is the latest King novel to join Carrie, The Shining, and the aforementioned movie about a demonic sex pervert clown in the growing glut of King stories that were told more than once on the big screen. But to this remake’s credit and to tone down the bite of my introductory sarcasm, it’s worth noting that this Pet Sematary is no The Dark Tower.

All Aboard the Creepy Cat Train

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‘Pet Sematary’ (2019) [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

The best way to describe the new Pet Sematary is to compare it to the ghost train at your local fair—you can see the scares, twists, and spooky cats coming from a mile away, but you still scream and crap your pants silly when they get in your face. This remake does little to distinguish itself from modern mainstream horror movies, prioritizing thrills over the story in ways more akin to Blumhouse than A24.

And with what it’s given, Pet Sematary does a decent job of doing what it set out to do: scare audiences by using a dead cat and violent walking corpses. This is the kind of movie that’s best enjoyed with a group of people, where you can scream in unison before hypocritically laughing at the idiot beside you who screamed. It’s also worth noting that unlike the new It, this particular King remake knows how to scare people without using obnoxiously loud clanging noises.

Carrying the movie as well is a small but compelling cast of characters, who do a good job of being more than likeable so that you actually care when their lives are threatened. Special mention goes to John Lithgow as the tragic recluse Jud and Jete Laurence as Ellie, who is essentially two different characters played amazingly by a young actress. While the dressing is well made and effectively executed, the story is another matter that lacked the depth its source material is known for.

Shallow Graves

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‘Pet Sematary’ (2019) [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

Despite being mostly known for a murderous zombie baby and a song by The Ramones, Pet Sematary is in truth a supernaturally themed examination of grief and our powerlessness in the face of death. In fact, it may be the only book in existence that King is scared of—and he wrote the damned thing. Unfortunately, the book’s emotional dread is something that this new adaptation has shades of but never develops into a full shadow, robbing it of the chance to be something truly unnerving.

That’s not to say that emotions are absent here. Even if it’s rushed and condensed to a fault, the new Pet Sematary does a decent job of establishing the emotional stakes that drive Louis (Jason Clarke) into despair and horrible decisions. In a way, this remake can be seen as a violent rebuke of the sanctimonious self-importance that movies dedicated to sad dads (i.e. A Quiet Place and half of Pixar’s movies) are known for. Like a true sad dad, Louis is willing to do anything to protect his family, only now his fatherly love is brought to an incredibly dark logical extreme. It’s a pity, then, that these themes only serve as the set-up for a stabbing frenzy of a third act instead of being the movie’s emotional payoff.

Interesting ruminations about guilt, pain, regret, and story elements such as a strangely helpful ghost are overshadowed by the movie’s schlocky sensibilities, and all are rendered moot by the time the finale gets rolling. By putting an emphasis on the shock and awe, Pet Sematary doesn’t give enough time for its character arcs, narrative threads, and thematic depth to develop, missing the opportunity to be truly harrowing and resonant where it should’ve been. What audiences get is an enjoyably lean modern-day B-movie, but is nowhere near as impactful as it should be.

Not a Bad Death

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‘Pet Sematary’ (2019) [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

As far as adaptations of Stephen King’s works go, the new Pet Sematary finds itself in the middle. It’s a tight popcorn horror movie that—like a ghost train in the fairgrounds—is fun in the moment but by the third round, you’ll notice the scares’ cues as you go through the motions.

While I may not be in love with it, this new Pet Sematary should be commended for settings its mind one thing (i.e. scaring people) and successfully doing that. It won’t redefine the genre, but sometimes a fun ride is exactly what you need.


Angelo Delos Trinos

 
Part-time artist and writer, full-time critic/overthinker. He believes that Samuel L.Jackson is the greatest actor on earth and he misses video stores.


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