Pet Sematary (**) R    

I always get annoyed when the term ‘unnecessary’ is used in conjunction with cinematic remakes. Of course remakes of popular films aren’t necessary, that goes without saying. However, I’m of the opinion that a remake should bring something new to the table that wasn’t there in the previous version if it’s being attempted at all. In the case of adaptations of novels, for instance, there are always opportunities to find material left out of a previous version that might enhance a new take on the same material.

This preamble brings me to the subject of the remake of the 1989 film Pet Sematary, which is being released exactly thirty years to the month of its predecessor. The original film, scripted by the book’s author Stephen King, did a pretty good job streamlining the essential elements of the novel into an easily digestible one hundred-minute running time. At least in my estimation.

The new and supposedly improved version gets the job effectively done I suppose but it also brings nothing new to the plate. In fact, the first hour is almost a note for note and beat for beat rehash of the original film, which is likely to send those familiar with the earlier incarnation into fits of boredom. That is until it takes a bit of a detour during the last half hour which leads to a finale that makes less sense and isn’t nearly as effective as the original film’s ending.   

As previously stated the basic story templates remain the same. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), a doctor relocating his practice to a small rural community, is looking forward to a new and less hurried way of life with his wife, Ellie (Amy Seimetz) and kids, daughter Ellie (Jete Laurence) and toddler son, Gage (twins Hugo or Lucas Lavoie). When the family cat is killed, next door neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), alerts Louis to the existence of a cemetery that will resurrect the dead.

Later a family tragedy occurs which leads to Louis using the cemetery for his own selfish purposes and setting off a horrific chain of events in the process.  

The film mostly fails not in grand ways but in the smaller moments. For instance, there’s a scene where Jud relates a tale of his dead dog being resurrected as a boy. This was effectively dramatized in the original but here it’s just presented as a story being told by the old timer next door and we see nothing of which he speaks.

Lithgow’s performance also feels strangely muted which is a surprise considering how effective he normally is in his onscreen performances.

As for the leads, they’re perfectly fine with Clarke actually besting Dale Midkiff’s performance in the original. At least that’s something positive.  

This film is playing all around the area.

John Lithgow & Jete Laurence in Pet Sematary
Scary cat in Pet Sematary

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].