Review: Pet Sematary

Thirty years after Stephen King scared people with Pet Sematary, the Creed family is back to terrorized, for our own enjoyment, in a Pet Sematary remake of the same name.

Based on the 1983 novel, the story follows Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family after they move from Boston to Ludlow, Maine. During the first day in their new home, Ellie (Jete Laurence) finds a pet semetary on their property where children bury their dead animals. There’s a man-made barrier at the edge of the pet sematary to keep people from going deeper into the woods. Ellie and her mother Rachel (Amy Seimetz) meet their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) who warns them the woods are dangerous.

After Church, the family’s cat, is found dead, Jud convinces Louis to bury the cat deeper in the woods, past the barrier. The next morning when Louis and Rachel are ready to tell Ellie her cat ran away, Ellie says Church was in her room last night. Louis finds a bloodied and dirty Church hissing in Ellie’s closet. Confused, Louis heads to Jud’s house to get answers.

Jud tells Louis about the history of the woods that are past the barrier,  and the ground’s ability to bring things back to life. Despite Church coming back very aggressive, Louis decides to keep the crazy cat around. After a tragic accident with one of their children, Louis does the unthinkable in an effort to spend more time with his deceased child.

Louis’ decision has a horrific ripple effect once the creepy family reunion starts to turn deadly.

Horror fans will appreciate Pet Sematary for a lot of reasons.  First, horror films should be scary, but overall they should be engaging and entertaining – Pet Sematary is all three. Second,  film isn’t inundated with jump scares like some films in the genre. The story builds to an uneasy boiling point where characters make bad decisions that lead to even worse results. The final reason fans will love it is how creepy it is. Before the plot gets to dead things coming back to life, the Creed’s are firmly planted in a nightmare. Louis is having visions of dead people and Rachel is being terrorized by flashbacks of her childhood. Meanwhile, little Gage is drawing dead people for fun. A lot of unsettling things happen before a single thing is buried beyond the woods.

There’s a major plot twist that separates this remake from King’s adaptation in 1989. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer use the twist to craft the third act and make their film feel like it’s own thing.  The twisted change gives the film the legs it needs to stand alone, despite most of the story mirroring the previous film. It’s a bold change and the film is better for it.

Jason Clarke is fantastic as Louis Creed. Louis’ own grief and sadness lead him do some very dumb things and Clarke has the perfect face/demeanor for it. Every time Louis goes to bury something, Clarke’s “I’m immediately going to regret this” face is priceless.  The real star is Jete Laurence as Ellie. She’s fantastic in every scene and delivers a killer performance in the third act.

Pet Sematary simmers for two acts with a few scares but mostly surviving on a constant level of creepiness. Once the things start coming back to live, the third act goes form 0-100. Every scene from the intense sequence at Jud’s  house to the gruesome finale is what horror fans pay to see. This remake takes an iconic horror scene and made it a little bit more disturbing. Hats off to everyone involved in that decision.

Pet Sematary is a welcomed re-imagining of Stephen King’s terrifying tale. It has horror elements fans will love and some interesting changes while keeping the skeleton of King’s story. The Creed’s decent into madness is what makes this story so much fun to watch and that’s the focus of this film. If Pet Sematary and 2017’s IT are the kind of remakes we’re going to get, fans will be excited for a new era of Stephen King adaptations.

Grade: B+

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