REVIEW: Pet Sematary (2019)
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
As always, we begin first with my warning about spoilers. Reading further than this small paragraph will expose my readers to revealing plot elements from the movie and or any source material it may have been adapted from. Proceed with caution as spoilers and freshman writing await you.
Sometimes, dead is better.
The source material for the movie Pet Sematary is a horrifying novel from the macabre mind of Stephen King, written in 1983. To give a brief synopsis, Louis Creed moves his budding family from Chicago to the small town of Ludlow, Maine to work at the University of Maine’s health services. Over the course of the next few months and into the next year the family grows close to an elderly neighbor and experiences one bad event after another. In the end family, relations and sanity crumble, as Louis Creed and those around him succumb to the haunting, supernatural forces around them. It is a terrifying read that was first adapted for the big screen by Stephen King himself and directed by Mary Lambert. It was a movie that stuck very, very close to its source material.
The new film is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, while being written by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler. We have our young family who move from Boston to Ludlow, Maine, a change from the book and likely a nod to King who has a well-known affinity for the Boston Red Sox. Upon meeting their neighbor Jud, the family soon learn about the community’s history and what goes on in the woods. Plagued by tragedy and horrific past trauma, the family soon experiences the supernatural in their new home and in a way not one of them are truly prepared for. The movie is an alright adaptation of the novel and it plays out much in the vein of IT (2017) where source material has been changed or forgotten to better serve the audience of today.
The changes that occur between the novel and new movie are many but less concerning than what doesn’t take place in the new movie. As the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but feel as if Pet Sematary was all plot and no character development. In the book and even the late eighties movie, the charming and gentle neighbor Jud Crandall forms a beautiful relationship with Louis, leading to Jud divulging the history of the town and the Micmac burial ground. The new movie shows a relationship between Ellie and Jud but even this relationship is never fleshed out. It is strongly built upon during one, quick dinner scene and after that it only serves to move the plot forward when Jud, wanting to protect Ellie’s feelings, shows Louis how to resurrect Ellie’s beloved cat Church. We never get any more than that, as relationships and character development give way to plot and jump scares.
Is this movie scary? It has its moments. What could have been scenes of character development and relationship building, give way to bloated scenes about Rachel’s past with her sister Zelda and this is done for one reason only. Jump scares. If jump scares are what make a movie terrifying then Pet Sematary is scary but only because it sacrifices good character development for a quicker paced plot and scares.
I feel like I am coming down harsh on this film. I don’t want to seem as if I am dragging the editing and camerawork through the mud as well, it was fine and beautiful at times, but a lot of it could have been tightened up to allow for more development and that is my only gripe; lack of development. The acting in the movie is fine. John Lithgow could have had better writing behind his character of the elderly neighbor Jud but again, sacrifices were made. Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and Jeté Laurence do fine as the Creed family and Gage, well Gage is mostly forgotten much like Ellie was in the 1989 Mary Lambert directed film.
Pet Sematary is not a bad movie but it is not a great movie either. It’s not as well done as The Green Mile (1999) but Pet Sematary is okay. It might not be as original as Kubrick’s version of The Shining (1980) but Pet Sematary is okay. The new Pet Sematary will not be a hit, nor a cult classic, and its status will remain below that of its predecessor. The new movie has one thing going for it though and that is its numerous jump scares throughout the film. Plenty of jump scares. This is why I give Pet Sematary 6 out of 10 Blood Drops in the Scare category. One more than 5 because of the dumbwaiter scare. Creep category receives 7 out of 10 Blood Drops, as Pet Sematary keeps up its dark tone from day one of the Creed family move in, until the birth of the undead Creed family. This leaves us with an overall average of 6.5 Blood Drops, giving Pet Sematary (2019) a Pulse on Horror Junket’s Movie Radar.