“Pet Sematary:” Sometimes Dead Really Is Better

​“Pet Sematary” is back from the dead and, ironically, maybe not for the better.

For the most part, directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer keep the core of the original story untouched.

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his young family to a secluded farmhouse in rural Maine. He soon discovers a makeshift pet cemetery in the woods behind his house. A cemetery that, according to his neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) has the power to return life to the dead things buried in it.

When a sudden tragedy strikes, Louis finds himself tempted by the cemeteries power, setting off a horrifying and murderous chain of events.
​This film has a strange hurdle to jump over. “Pet Sematary” is one of Stephen King’s more popular novels. The original 1989 film adaptation has a solid cult following in its own right (despite being an awful movie, but that’s neither here nor there).

This new version’s target audience is most likely familiar with what the Creed family goes through and with how horrifically it all ends.
​Oddly, the movie expects and almost seems to want its audience to know what’s going to happen. It attempts to play with expectations, amping up suspense as it leads us towards some of the story’s more iconic and grotesque moments whether we like it or not.
​But then, instead of doing something different, we just see the thing happen that we already knew was coming.

This ends up being the film’s downfall. It just doesn’t do enough new things to justify existing. Even the few changes this new version does make to the original story are purely cosmetic.
​The film isn’t a total wash however. It’s shot very well and when it wants to be creepy, it definitely is.

The Creed family’s undead cat, Church, is particularly good at making the skin crawl. The acting in the film is also well done. Everyone gives quiet, understated, believable performances. Jete Laurence as Louis’s daughter Ellie is a notable standout. Her character changes dramatically halfway through the story and the total 180 Laurence portrays is chilling.
​But none of this stops the film from feeling totally unnecessary.

Like the 1989 original, this version fails to understand what makes King’s book so scary. It’s not that people come back from the dead as murderous zombies, it’s that a father’s grief could push him to making that happen. Leaning so hard into the overt horror elements turns a dark, emotional story into something onenote and little basic.
​“Pet Sematary” isn’t a necessarily bad movie, but maybe my being a fan of the book causes me to have a bias. The thrills and chills are there, and you should check it out if your into that sort of thing, but that’s all you’re going to get out of it. That’s my biggest issue with the film. What could have been a new horror classic just ends up being an okay movie with a spooky cat.
⅖ stars
mason.robert.dredge@mail.umkc.edu

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