Review: ‘Pet Sematary,’ Sometimes Dead is Better, But Are Remakes?

Pet Sematary, the hit Stephen King novel that has already been made into a movie (with a sequel), is back – which means we get treated to another adaptation of the Creed family and their disastrous move to the town of LudLow. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) decides to leave the busy ER and take a job as the head doctor at a university hoping to spend more time with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), and cat Church (short for Winston Churchill). The family moves from the city life to a big house in a rural town in search of peace and quiet, which may have been the case, if not for the road in front of their house being a popular route for tanker trucks.

Almost immediately the shit hits the fan when Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed), a student at Louis’ university, is hit by a car and dies right in front of Louis. However after he dies, Louis sees a vision of Pascow warning Louis that ‘the barrier is not supposed to be broken.’ While Louis is dealing with warnings from the afterlife, Ellie notices a group of kids wearing animal masks taking a dead dog into the woods. She goes after them and discovers the pet sematary itself as well as Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), the Creed’s elderly neighbor from across the street. 

Everything goes smoothly for a couple of months, until Church ends up getting hit and killed by a car when crossing the road. Louis knows Ellie will be devastated, and Jud takes pity on him – taking him to a secret burial ground past the pet sematary. A burial ground where things that get buried, don’t stay buried. Church returns that night, but he is a different cat, one that is much more aggressive. Tragedy strikes the family shortly after and Ellie is hit by a truck and killed. Louis does the unthinkable and buries her at the burial ground, and soon the Creed family will find out how different a human that comes back is.
I am a huge Stephen King fan and I have read Pet Sematary as well as seen the original movie. Watching the remake, I tried my best to not let that influence me or this review, but that is virtually impossible. The original film adaptation was penned by Stephen King himself, so it clearly stuck to the novel fairly well. This adaptation took much more creative liberty. Some of these changes I could get behind, and Matt Greenberg who wrote the screen story and Jeff Buhler who penned the screenplay got rid of characters and events that didn’t add to the story. Others I questioned, with a few dumbing down the film while one or two really altered fundamental aspects of the novel. This, of course, would only bother someone with this background knowledge though, if you don’t have that – I could see the 
merit in them.

Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer did succeed in capturing a feeling of dread throughout the film with Jason Clarke’s performance as a tortured father facing an unbearable situation and unthinkable decision really being the driving force behind some of the memorable scenes. Kölsch and Widmyer employ the typical horror movie techniques – using reflections and shadows to draw the viewers eyes, having the Creed’s house equipped with the loudest floorboards on the east coast, and of course, music that makes your skin crawl. Having been 30 years since the first film, this version has a whole new look and feel, providing the audience with some solid scares and unsettling imagery they’ll remember for quite some time. Recreating a wildly popular novel that already has a film adaptation is a very difficult thing to do, and Kölsch, Widmyer, and the writing team do a serviceable job. Those that have read the book and seen the original will most likely have issues that take away from this new look Pet Sematary, but anyone who is coming in fresh and is just here for a new ride should have an enjoyable time. No matter which side of the spectrum you’re on, there are some scenes and images that will be stuck in your mind long after seeing the film and of course an ending that keeps you thinking.

Rating: 3 out of 5