Review: Pet Sematary

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Has some decent King hallmarks, but it never quite convinces with its premise or atmosphere.

A family looking to escape the tiring city life move into a country house, but little do they know that a cursed land lies not far away. A land which anything dead buried there will return to life…

With the success of 2017’s IT, and the… less successful Dark Tower adaptation… Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary was fast to get an adaptation during this resurgence. This new film is also a remake, with the first adaptation being released in 1989. This new adaptation has its moments, but for a one-hundred minute long film, it actually felt longer.

Certainly, the film has decent performances; there isn’t one that disappoints or under delivers. Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is an ever reliable presence as the father Louis, while Amy Seimetz (Alien Covenant) is his wife Rachel. Their kids also, are well performed, especially from Jeté Laurence, who has the heavier role to fill in this story. John Lithgow fills out the linchpin of the story as their neighbour Jud, perhaps the one character who requires the most suspension of disbelief. Of course… the cat is probably the best actor out of all of them. That was a creepy cat.
With the high benchmark set by IT, this film does quite well with the production value as well.

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Unfortunately, to dissect the film, we may have to go into spoiler territory.
One of the first scares is perhaps the best. The family’s new house is apparently extremely close to a road frequented by the world’s biggest tanker truck, and without any sidewalk available, this truck tears across the screen like an avalanche. You could say the screenwriter really got the mileage out of that truck.
The premise is ultimately about bringing dead things back to life, and how it is possible, yet the film takes a while to establish it. The story is divided between two unique stories that don’t particularly gel. One of them is the family’s pet cat coming back to life, and the titular Pet Sematary (makes sense) but the other is Rachel’s past involving the hideous death of her older sister. This second plot is compelling in itself, it is perhaps the scariest and most unsettling moments, with a focus on body horror. But it does feel very shoehorned into the main story. It doesn’t mean anything in the end.

There’s some suspension of disbelief required as well, especially as the story progresses. The aforementioned “linchpin”, Jud, played by John Lithgow, has to have the gall to know how terrible an idea it is to bring someone back from the dead, to tell someone else that it is possible, and promote it as a good idea. It is a big pill to swallow.

There isn’t much more to say about it really, not without giving away most of the plot. It seemed to captivate the evening audience watching it, and the final act is positively grisly and subversive like a lot of King’s works tend to be. It does leave a little bit of dread after having watched it, but also a decent amount of indifference too.
Recommended for big Stephen King fans, this is probably a good enough adaptation to warrant a look. That truck though… it is definitely seeing red.

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