If you’ve read some of my other stuff, you may already know that horror is one of my least favourite film genres. Whilst I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, more often than not horror films have no plot and an abundance of unnecessary jump-scares. Thankfully, the ‘King of Horror’ , Stephen King seems to be able to bridge this gap. Although I, personally, am not a fan of King’s written work, the rich and detailed story-telling translates brilliantly to the big screen, and the 2019 adaptation of Pet Sematary is no exception.
I think it is important to note that I have neither read the original novel or seen the 1989 adaptation, so therefore I was able to experience the newest adaptation with completely fresh eyes. Fans of the originals may be a little disappointed with some of the changes they have made, but at least you can go into the cinema somewhat prepared.
For those of you who are not already familiar with the story, Pet Sematary follows Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family as they move to the quiet of rural Maine, from the hustle and bustle of Boston. Mum, Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) are soon introduced to the eccentricities of small town life when a super creepy funeral procession passes their house on its way to the local pet cemetery, or ‘Sematary’. When exploring the old burial site, Ellie meets and befriends their lonely neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow).
Note: I realised how unsociable I am when it bugged me that nobody even questioned the fact that all the kids using the pet cemetery are technically trespassing on the Creed’s land!!
The creepiness of the pet cemetery steps up a notch when the Creed’s family cat, Church, is killed by one of the many speeding trucks that pass by the house. Jud takes Louis to an ancient place beyond the barriers of the pet cemetery and tells him to bury Church and build a cairn. In a bid to spare Ellie from the horrors of death at such a young age, Rachel and Louis decide to tell her that Church ran away, however Ellie is confused because Church is sitting in her cupboard, alive(ish) and well. From here, the film takes on a more sinister turn as the family soon learn that sometimes “dead is better”.
For me, Jason Clarke is totally underrated as an actor but his quiet and unimposing stoicism works really well in this film and adds weight to his performance. Amy Seimetz gave a believable performance as Rachel, the mum who had a traumatic experience with death at a young age. John Lithgow was brilliant, as he always is, and relative newcomer, Jeté Laurence handled the duality of her role very impressively.
That being said, the absolute star of the film has to be Church, played by a rotation of five different cat actors. Forget mystical burial grounds, this film perfectly highlights the mood swings that all cat owners experience on a daily basis in their very own living rooms.
Pet Sematary manages to walk the fine line that is horror. The story telling and tension builds slowly, allowing you to properly immerse yourself into the world that is being portrayed. Yes, there are some jump scares but instead of distracting you from what is on screen, they add to viewing experience as they are natural and organically placed.
The changes that have been made, much to the chagrin of many a die-hard fan, are there to both, carve out a new identity and most importantly, to allow a greater depth of dialogue and understanding between *spoiler*…. the undead Ellie and her father. Also, according to Mark, they have kept in but played around with some of the more suspenseful moments so that even if you already know what’s coming, you are no longer quite sure when or how.
Whilst I may not be angry at the changes they have made, I did have a few niggles…
First off, the character of Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) was under used and under developed. I wasn’t really sure if he was important or what his purpose was.
Secondly, the little boy, Gage (played by twins, Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) is like two years old, why is he still sleeping in a crib? Not important at all to the plot but it bugged me every time I saw them put him to bed.
Lastly, if you’ve just bought a house next to a busy road, with massive trucks speeding past, and you have two young children, clearly you would put up some sort of fence or wall. I don’t have children myself but that’s just logical, surely!!
Anyways, rant over.
Overall, I feel that the difference between Mark’s enjoyment of the film and my own, shows that, when it comes to Pet Sematary, pre-conceptions can definitely affect your overall viewing experience. So if you are a newbie like me, then no problem, grab the popcorn and enjoy. If not, then I will keep my fingers crossed that you will enjoy this latest adaptation.
Seen it? Let me know your thoughts.