Pet Sematary (2019) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror, graphic violence & offensive language
Jason Clarke as Dr. Louis Creed
Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed
John Lithgow as Jud Crandall
Jeté Laurence as Ellie Creed
Hugo and Lucas Lavoie as Gage Creed
Director: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer

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. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unspeakable evil with horrific consequences.

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Pet Sematary was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. It was an adaptation of a famous Stephen King book, I liked the actors involved that I recognised, and the trailers actually made this look pretty good and effectively creepy. Prior to watching this, I had started reading the book (and finished it later on after watching the movie), and I haven’t seen the previous adaptation from the 90s. Sadly I heard that the 2019 movie wasn’t so great, and aside from The Dark Tower was among the only recent Stephen King adaptations that wasn’t generally positively received. Still, I wanted to see it for myself. While I’m not sure that I’d say that it’s terrible, it’s certainly uninspired and underwhelming.

The story for the movie was a very mixed bag. Having read the book in its entirety, I can confirm that there are a number of changes to the story, even if the essence of the story is the same. However even early on, there was some odd changes. While it definitely doesn’t need to follow the story beat by beat, it almost feels a little rushed, for example with the way they introduce the Pet Sematary into the plot. A lot of the changes seemed to have been made to make it the most simplistic version of the story possible. There are also changes later in the story as well which are vastly different from both the book and the 1989 movie. In fact while there are some similarities, the third act is mostly different from the book. Now as for the third act changes, I guess they were fine and I didn’t have too much of a problem with them. However at the same time they really served no purpose outside of just being different from the book, or potentially making it easier to put in a conventional horror movie. I mentioned earlier about how it seemed like the movie was trying to rush through the plot. At the same time, the pacing can be really slow, even with a runtime of an hour and 40 minutes. It picks up in the second half in the story and pacing however. I liked the dark tone and a lot of the ideas, but the ideas are straight from the book, which did them a lot better. It feels so by the numbers and generic here. Much of the harshest of the events happens right at the end of the story, but in the second half there is a real sense of dread. In the movie however, you don’t feel anything like that. You feel empty, and unfortunately it’s not the good, unsettling and most of all intentional feeling of emptiness.

The cast do fine enough with Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and others as the family, and they definitely try their hardest with what they have, but these characters are just not given enough things to do. They are barely characterised, and you just don’t care about them at all beyond the fact that they are our main characters. The standout of the whole movie was John Lithgow, who was great as Jud Crandall, an older man who knows a lot about the Pet Sematary. It was perfect casting, and he plays the role very well.

The direction is a bit of a mixed bag. On a technical level it’s fine, but they weren’t exactly utilised the best. The scares didn’t work at all and didn’t produce a reaction anywhere close to genuine terror. Weirdest of all, there were some fake truck jumpscares that would randomly happen, and although I know why they were in there, it just made it harder to take the movie seriously. Think of all the bad clichés that most average to bad modern horror movies have, Pet Sematary 2019 does many of those things. From the building tension music that eventually stops and then a scare happens, or when a character looks around, concluding that everything is safe, before turning around and something scary is right in their face. There are some technical parts that work alright. Church the cat was handled well, from cat actors, to the makeup used on them, basically what you’d imagine him being based off the book. Without spoiling anything, the whole thing involving the character of Zelda was effectively creepy.

There was a lot of potential with Pet Sematary, and the source material seemed like there’d be a lot to use (especially with the recent solid Stephen King movies with the likes of It, Doctor Sleep and others getting some good adaptations). But it’s just so generically done. Not to mention it’s ironically devoid of life. There are some aspects of the direction that are decent, I like some of the acting, and some ideas from the book which still work. However it’s not enough to save this movie from just being average. If you really want to watch it and you’ve got 100 minutes to kill, then maybe check it out for yourself.

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