REVIEW: Pet Sematary (2019)

A barely serviceable horror film that greatly misses the mark from the true meaning of the source material. 

Plot: Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. 

Please note this review may contain some spoilers

There are tons of issues with this film, starting right away with the trailers. While you can't generally blame the filmmakers for how the studio cuts the trailers, they've given multiple interviews talking about why they made the "big change" in having Ellie die over Gage, so it seems they're not shy about this "twist" to the original story.

Unfortunately, their reasoning for this change is actually a big part of why the movie is ruined. They wanted to have these "quiet moments" with Ellie and Louis after Ellie comes back, and a 9-year-old can have deep conversations that a younger child couldn't. Great. Except we don't need those quiet moments. In fact, they take away everything scary about the entire concept, and make it

But it's alright, as we don't get much of their "quiet time" anyway - one scene, before we move right into the third act, full of every cliche horror trope you can think of. Basically, the entire ending of the film turns into a generic zombie flick. Cue the house chase, barricading the doors with dressers, and fleeing out of a window. Fine for some films, badly used here.

The story of Pet Sematary is not supposed to be a story about zombies. It's not a story, at its heart, about the dead coming back at all. It's a story about grief, loss, tragedy, and family heartache. The loss of a child and how it ruins the parents and family left behind. It's a story Stephen King has said he first wrote after his young son was nearly killed by getting to close to the road, reportedly only surviving because King was able to grab him and duck out of the way just in time.

While the first adaptation, Mary Lambert's version of Pet Sematary, may seem slightly dated today, it still manages to really pull a family dynamic together quickly. You, the viewer, actually cares about the family, and believe they're a loving unit. They seem like a real, honest-to-goodness family. By the time Gage is killed at 50 minutes into the original adaptation, you're grieving right along with them. Take all of that and throw it out the window here, because what was accomplished by 50 minutes then wasn't even close to being replicated here throughout the entire 100 minutes. This is also true of other character dynamics in the film, as the friendship that develops between Louis and Jud is nearly non-existent in this film, and all of their interactions feel forced.

Call backs to the OG version are evident, but not the right ones. There was a real lack of focus on Zelda, admittedly the only character in film history to ever actually scare me. While we still get the back story, little of Zelda is seen, and in this film when we get to the "climactic" point with Zelda, it's a lame scenario that really takes away almost all the horror. Plus, it's stuck into a random spot where Rachel has already learned her daughter has returned from the dead, is terrified, and instead of leaving the house, she takes her 2-year-old son and HEADS UPSTAIRS TO PUT HIM IN HIS CRIB? Exactly what in the hell is happening in her head - or in the head of the writers?

Overall, the movie is just barely passable. John Lithgow as Jud is a shining moment, but can anyone really and truly replace Fred Gwynne in that role?

I'm struggling to find anything good to say about the movie. Pacing is beyond lousy, and the acting is only okay - everyone seems really dry and bored. The original story is great, but the changes here throw all that away. Even the truck crash was pretty tame, and had absolutely zero impact for the viewer (there's also a really obvious and badly done green screen shot showing the truck barreling down the road, something that instantly took me out of the scene, and something done far better by the first adaptation using clever camera shots and editing.) Then the credits roll and we top off the entire shebang with Starcrawler's atrocious cover of The Ramones Pet Sematary title track, and we thankfully get to walk out of the theatre - Our wallets noticeably lighter but with absolutely no cinematic fulfillment at all.

Hey, at least the posters are bad ass.

Watch the trailer below for Pet Sematary 2019, then go and watch the 1989 version instead.

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