Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo & Lucas Lavoie
The SXSW fan boys have done it again, blown a mediocre movie out of proportion, due to whatever substance or natural high they take before watching movies at the party movie festival. Fact is, Pet Sematary was never a very good story. Most Stephen King works have proved quite difficult to adapt into movie form through the years. The original terrified audiences back in 1989, and compared to the latest release, it’s still the more disturbing and frightening of the pair. The acting might be slightly better in duel directors Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer (apparently it takes two men to fill in for the originals female director Mary Lambert), but it’s a dumbed down version that makes little to no improvements on the work. I’ll say this for Jason Clarke (The Aftermath, Serenity), he is everywhere these days despite what you think of him.
Louis (Clarke) and his family have left the busy city of Boston behind, along with his demanding graveyard shift in the ER. Wanting to spend more time with his family, they have purchased large acres of land and a rustic home in Ludlow, Maine to slow things down. Not only does a busy highway run by their charming property, but a pet sematary and Indian burial ground. Rachel (Seimetz) is a bit of a pathetic wimp of a person, continually haunted by the tragedy of her past, starts to feel they have made the wrong decision. Eldest child Ellie (Laurence) is rambunctious at age 9, and brings with her a cat she adores. The newest Gage (Lavoie) is only three. Their neighbor Jud (Lithgow) is a kind old man, offering advice that there are section of their property out in the woods, they would be better off not visiting.
Pet Sematary doesn’t even register comparing scares to Us, or last years Hereditary.
In 1989 the horror genre didn’t run ramped with disturbing and creepy little girls like every other scary flick today. While the updated Pet Sematary alters the story a bit here and there, nothing fixes much of what’s wrong with the overall plot and lack of information. Looking back, the burial ground and how it’s presented was far more disturbing, the deaths and gore were more intense in the original, cheesy as it was. While I always enjoy Lithgow, Fred Gwynne was more memorable in his version of Jed. Pet Sematary feels like a movie plagued by studio and producer interference. Neither of the directors have any substantive credit to their filmographies. While modern technology certain brings the story up to date, there is a real lack of cinematic artistry to the entire project. Everything looks as bland as Jason Clarke’s acting style.
The original film had a weird sex appeal thanks to Dale Midkiff and no doubt the director. It’s probably a good thing they cut those elements out with Clarke in the lead (remember when they tried to make him sexy in All I See Is You… eeeekk). The Indian burial ground is an after-thought, as are the creepy children wearing rubber animals masks. The story is in such a rush to be a typical home invasion movie, we only see Louis at work once just to establish what kind of doctor he is. The big emotional mid movie climax is far more subdued here, truly disappointing when you read stuff out of SXSW about how terrifying it’s supposed to be. Pet Sematary doesn’t even register comparing scares to Us, or last years Hereditary. Even indie western horror flick The Wind is more terrifying. The marketing is selling the audience hype and there is little substance in the final product.
The most shocking thing about the new Pet Sematary, is how much better it makes the mediocre original seem.