*Please note that this review includes spoilers regarding Pet Sematary 1989 & Pet Sematary 2019.*
For the longest time remakes have found themselves under scrutiny by anyone that has anything to say about the film industry; they cannot compare to the original, they won’t make history like the first and there was never any need for them in the first place. In some instances, it’s easy to agree, for example, when Hollywood decides that the audience aren’t intelligent enough to read subtitles and therefore remake films that were released 2 months ago. Even though there was a lot of outcry about the remaking of classic 1989 Pet Sematary, it seems that sometimes remakes are needed and can bring a fresh take on one of horror’s most loved tales.
Dr Louis Creed and his wife Rachael decide that it’s time to slow life down a little by moving from the city to the countryside in Maine where they can focus on their marriage, their two young children and their family pet cat. One evening their beloved cat Church is hit by a truck on the fast road outside their house; neighbour Jud helps Louis bury the cat deep in the woods past the town’s pet cemetery, beyond the misty lakes and further than most should dare to wander. The next morning Louis is surprised to discover Church is alive again, although looking a little worse for wear. He soon realises that there is a power in the woods that can bring the dead back to life… When a harrowing tragedy destroys the family, only one course of action seems logical but that leads to a horrific evil that should never be tampered with.
Stephen King is the mastermind behind this distressing and disturbing story that takes us deep into the realms of loss, grief and the extreme lengths that humans will go to in order to rectify and bring a loved one back. Pet Sematary is a melancholy story that really works on playing with the viewer’s emotions and sense a reality when it comes to some of the situations that happen throughout the story. Although it is essentially a story about bringing the dead back to life and that being an exceptionally stupid decision that only breathes life into evil entities, it’s a psychological story that resonates with the audience on many different levels.
Pet Sematary is a remake of a classic horror film, and there is no denying that notion. However, it brings a fresh perspective to the film, and breathes a new lease of life into it, which the original film was well in need of. This reimagining of horror took some elements and did make some drastic changes to it; Church was originally a chubby British Blue Shorthair and has been replaced with a ferocious looking Maine Coon breed – this decision might seem like a detrimental plot change to many, however, it really isn’t and is actually a cat breed that is far more wild and likely to become a cat to be feared. There were other changes that really had fans of the first movie feeling frustrated and betrayed, one being changing the death of toddler Gage to older daughter Ellie; it is understandable that the loss of a younger child could be more damaging to a family than an older, but in reality any loss of any child regardless of age is going to completely destroy a family.
What really makes the difference in this film is the play on the bond between father Louis and his little girl Ellie. That father and daughter bond is one that is often so strong and so precious that a Dad cannot imagine anything even remotely bad happening to his little girl, which is exactly why Louis’ reaction to her death in the film seems completely acceptable and something that we might all consider if put in that position. Louis is played by Jason Clarke who does an incredible job at portraying a man who is devoted to his family and would do anything to ensure the happiness of them, even if it goes against the morals that he has established for himself. Ellie is portrayed by Jeté Laurence who manages to define the balance between innocent daughter that loves nothing more than dancing, playing with her cat and cuddles with her doting Dad and young girl that has been brought back from the dead, ready to brutally murder anyone that doesn’t accept her new identity. She should be recognised as a rising star, who will come to dominate the horror genre within years to come
The acting throughout the film feels just as it should and aligns well with the characters seen within the book, whilst still keeping a slightly individual identity. Amy Seimetz makes us feel the sheer terror that lies underneath her surface when coming face-to-face with her sister Zelda, who is perhaps not quite as terrifying as in the original but certainly a creature that you wouldn’t want to face in the dark. John Lithgow always pleases with his friendly neighbourhood face that makes him the lovable yet slightly naive old man from next door who only does what he does to try to please those he cares about. With performances that really make you connect, it’s no wonder that during the scene where Ellie is hit by the truck it really took its toll on my emotions and left me with a stone-like lump in my throat that was hard to swallow until the bloody bludgeonings started.
With any remake it’s always going to have a divided audience; those that can’t separate themselves from the original that makes them feel nostalgic, and those that understand sometimes remakes are worth it. Pet Sematary buries the original, and resurrects it with outstanding performances, dark imagery and a killer atmosphere! Fun for the whole family…
Directed by: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
Cast: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz