Stephen King’s stories have always been a popular choice for film adaptations, from classics like The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining and Misery to Pet Sematary, the latest of his books to receive the big screen treatment, for the second time. Pet Sematary is an eerie movie with great acting, some tense horror moments and outstanding atmosphere, but it doesn’t quite work in the story and characters categories. It’s important to check your expectations going in, especially if you’ve read the book, and if you do, you’ll most likely find Pet Sematary a good time overall.
Stay away from the trailers! Especially trailer 2 as it reveals a huge spoiler and a major change from the book, and with that warning aside, the story is pretty simple; a family moves into this house that backs onto a pet cemetery, where people from the town of Ludlow go to bury their dead pets, but there’s something more evil going on as it creeps its way into the lives of the family. Now, there’s a lot more that goes on in the background, which would require a bit of explanation and that could lead to spoilers, and if you’ve read the book you’ll catch on to the smaller details and realize how much of the story was really changed (quite a lot actually). I feel the movie moved quickly past some of the important parts while leaving some critical details out completely. If you haven’t read the book you’ll enjoy the story, and the portrayal of how grief and death can consume a person. It hits the major points of the book and the huge change the filmmakers went with does work, but as much as it works for the movie I feel it still wasn’t as strong as what was done in the book.
The movie is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and I feel they do a good job with the movie. They absolutely nailed the atmosphere, making you feel that there’s this “evil of death” constantly looming at all times as the town of Ludlow is familiar with the pet cemetery and only a few are aware of the power it possesses and how it tries to consume the grieving. The horror elements are well shot, especially the final act and whenever Zelda is used, and she’s used smartly. It’s gruesome and disturbing, but I also feel it could’ve gone darker as the book is a lot more disturbing. There’s a couple really good shots, but most of it is nothing to go crazy about. Church the cat is also very creepy and disgusting and very well done. I feel that the movie is slow in the first half or so, and it’s not until Church comes back (from somewhere) that the movie picks up. This is because they load so much exposition into the beginning when it could easily have been done in a more interesting way.
The performances were excellent across the board; Jason Clarke plays Louis Creed — a doctor and father, and the character we follow throughout the movie. He accurately portrays Louis’s consummation by the oozing evil of the pet cemetery, but some key parts of his character were left out of this adaptation, which results in him being a little dull and makes that fall to evil a little too quick. John Lithgow plays Jud Crandall — the Creed’s lonely neighbor who’s lived in Ludlow his whole life, and who may know a little more than he’s letting on. One of the things I was really disappointed with was the lack of relationship between Louis and Jud as depicted here, especially when it was really good in the book. It makes me feel like the character of Jud is underused in the movie, which is unfortunate because of the great performance John Lithgow gives in this part. Amy Seimetz does a phenomenal job as Rachel Creed — Louis’s wife who’s tormented by her past experience with death. The effect of Zelda on her is really well shown and impressive as she’s not depicted as a constantly screaming or crying girl in trouble. And finally, my personal favourite is Jeté Laurence, the young actress who plays Ellie Creed. Her curiosity of death is super and she sells her innocence so well, and when things start getting intense, she was super creepy and honestly freaked me out a bit.
Pet Sematary is a creepy movie with great performances and a really well-built atmosphere. The story is good for what it is, but if you’ve read the book, the movie may disappoint you. Stephen King’s stories can really make great movies, and although this adaptation will never be one of the best, it’s still a good time. The more I’ve thought about the movie, the more I’ve liked it, so maybe the power of the pet cemetery is a bit stronger than I really gave it credit for.
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Pet Sematary (2019)
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary has been adapted from the popular novel again and boasts great performances, an eerie atmosphere and big changes from the source mater and although it doesn’t quite stick the landing, the third act helps bring it home and makes it an enjoyable movie overall. If you’ve read the book though, you might find yourself a little disappointed.