WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Dr. Louis Creed relocates from Boston to rural Maine with his wife, Rachel, and their two young children. There, they discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbour, Jud Crandall, which sets off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
If a movie’s got the words ‘story created by Stephen King’ attached to it, you will find me front and centre in the ticket queue, and I was ready for the much-needed second-take of one of the author’s darkest stories - Pet Sematary.
Marketing was lauding it as the scariest movie of the year, and trailers looked promising. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to not only its own hype but the high bar that has been set by horror movies these days. Instead of a deep-dive into the intricacies of death and the doctor’s beliefs in a life hereafter, it becomes an overcomplicated but still superficial jump-scare extravaganza that had the potential to terrify you in your soul.
The Creed family leaves the hustle of city life behind for a quiet small town in a house on the edge of some creepy woods. Their friendly neighbour Judd shows the doctor a terrible secret cemetery, and after a horrible tragedy, it seduces a grieving father to do the unspeakable.
Pet Sematary just had so much potential - its dark subject matter would have made great fuel for subtle horror, but instead, it became a kill-fest that comes straight out of a C-grade horror film. There is some merit in swapping out the boy for the girl to become the villain, but as many have mentioned giving the undead more agency in their actions and communication dulls the effect it could have had from one that looks innocent but doesn’t speak, like in the first film adaptation. Explaining all her plans and expositioning as she goes about killing people takes away that terror of the unknown. The first half of the film was the better part before it turned into a cliche, building the anticipation of when everything goes wrong.
But even in the ‘better’ part, two elements just fell completely flat. Firstly it was the ghostly apparition of a dead patient that haunts the doctor - but for someone that doesn’t believe in the afterlife, he’s far too quick to accept the ghost and the subsequent revival of his cat. He never grapples with his beliefs properly, and this is the key that could have clicked everything else in place.
Secondly, it felt like there was another movie happening within Pet Sematary, completely separate to the main story - the flashbacks of the wife’s dead sister. While I can see it was meant to cement her own issues around death, its link to the main story was tenuous at best. It just kept popping in and out, and completely took the audience out of the actual movie.
At least the cat was amazingly wicked.
For a horror fan, Pet Sematary was a complete letdown and another example of a studio making a horror just for the money instead of for the art. I wouldn’t have changed anything in terms of the cast, but its flaws lie within the directing style and the script. They opted to go for the generic instead of diving into the core of the story’s horror for something new and fresh, and instead its tagline - "sometimes dead is better" - takes on a whole new meaning.