Pet Sematary follows the Creed family, Doctor Louis Creed, his wife Rachel and his two small children Ellie and Gage as they move to a quiet Maine town to escape the hustle and bustle of central Boston. While there they encounter the Pet Sematary, a pet burial ground known for resurrecting the dead into hollow versions of themselves.
This 2019 iteration is a remake of the 1980s classic, with both being adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. This struck me as one of those films that should be bigger and more notable than it is. With the success of 2017s IT and the imminent release of its sequel this year the Stephen King branding seems to be very much back in vogue, which is why I had high hopes for this film. The trailers promised a tense, terrifying trip through rural Maine. What I got instead was a big bowl of nothing.
This film has likely slipped under the radar of most people due in part to the lack of marketing and for good reason. I didn’t hate the film but there is very little praise to be given here. The performances are fine. Nobody really stands out in this film. John Lithgow was there. I remember him being on screen but besides serving as a hobbling exposition machine he didn’t do much else. The family are all fine. Louis Creed as played by Jason Clark is a bit of a bore to watch.
I found most of this film to be quite boring and dull. The film itself isn’t even bad but it could be so much more. This is one of those moments where I would recommend straying slightly from the source material to keep things interesting. The premise if done right could be excellent, but the execution is so down the line and straight laced it lacks both style and substance. Instead of crafting unsettling imagery to create horror the film instead relies heavily on cheap jumpscares which don’t actually have much effect due to the heavily telegraphed lead up.
The only genuinely scary thing in the film is Rachel’s dead sister who had a twisted spine. She looks so grotesque and the way she breathes is so unsettling that it is genuinely uncomfortable to look at. That is until you’ve looked at it for the several hundred times it is used for a cheap jumpscare. The jumpscares also come from the non-supernatural elements of the film. One of the biggest jumpscares they use is as a truck zooms past with its horn blowing. They use it more than once and it just becomes obnoxious at a certain point as does the constant visions Rachel had of her twisted (spine) sister. The fact that the children bury their pets for resurrection could have led to interesting imagery such as some of the pets being mutilated or deformed in accidents before being brought back. The thought of people trying to care for half rotted animals as if they were alive is intriguing to say the least, and substituting that for scenes of needless backstory for Rachel is ridiculous.
My biggest issue is with Judd however, the John Lithgow character. Despite knowing full well the dangers of the Sematary and resurrection he still encourages Louis to resurrect their cat, under some vain claim of him “thinking it would be different”. After living in the town and using the sematary for as long as they have, the townsfolk bringing their pets back still time after time is absurd and nonsensical to say the least. The film also leaves questions unanswered such as how did the dead Pascal know Louis’ name?
VERDICT: Overall, not only did the film fail to impress me it failed to do anything except bore me. The goodwill built up by IT is being used for other King films like this, but when there is no soul to the production it appears quite hollow and ultimately inconsequential. Some franchises are better off dead it seems
I would give Pet Sematary a score of 5/10 for being so aggressively mediocre.