Not that we were screaming for a remake to 1989’s Pet Sematary, but Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of Steven King, remakes, reboots, sequels or prequels. Ready or not, here comes the latest in a line of ill-fated remakes. The original was nothing special but has garnered somewhat of cult-classis status, so I guess I understand the “want” to, but just because it is there does not mean you should. Despite my misgivings, the trailer to this latest concoction had my interest, so I was more than willing to give it a chance.
This Pet Sematary opens as Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) move their family to the countryside, away from the “horrors” of Boston life. Their precious children include Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage (played by real-life twins Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie). Louis is a doctor who longs for a safer and quieter life in the country. But, all of that changes when their new neighbor, Jud (John Lithgow) tells him of a place out in the marshland where “things come back and sometimes dead is better.” When tragedy befalls the family, Louis does the unthinkable and all hell breaks loose.
Up until the first thirty minutes Pet Sematary settles into a creepy groove that worked. The mood and tension are built effectively and the film was working. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz are excellent has husband and wife, father and mother as well as a fine performance by Jete Laurence. Then the bottom falls out. Characters do stupid things, unbelievable things and react in ways that are…..well, just stupid. Jump scares abound and after a while I started looking at my watch. At one hundred minutes, this Pet Sematary becomes laborious, after a while.
The main problem with this Pet Sematary is that there is no spark to this material. King adaptations to the big screen are hit and miss but it can be done well. The Shining and Misery are two film that come to mind. This Pet Sematary just lays there like a dying fish that is gasping for air. Director’s Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, who are no strangers to horror, seem to have a flair for the visual side of horror but they should have insisted on a rewrite for the script. Script writers Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler opt for shallow character development and cheap “thrills” instead of giving this film some depth.
One thing I found particularly unsettling was the use of the young actors playing Gage. They are extremely young and there scenes where the poor children truly seemed to be scarred half to death. I know, it is a horror film and they are supposed to act that way, but there was something about how it came across to me, on screen. It seemed they were too young to really grasp that this was all fake and for a film. There were scenes that they really seemed to be terrified and I was not sure they understood why. At least, that is how it came across to me. I could be wrong.
This Pet Sematary tries to deliver the goods, but it falls way short of setting itself apart from its predecessor, which was nothing to write home about, either. Despite a good start, some fine performances this is the kind of film that should have listened to the tag line. Yes, sometimes dead is better.
Pet Sematary – ** out of 5
Pet Sematary – Rated R for graphic violence, language and scenes of terror
Pet Sematary – Run time is 100 minutes
Pet Sematary is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services. Check your local listings for pricing and availability.