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4K Ultra HD Review: Pet Sematary

July 9, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Serving as both a new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 novel, and a remake of director Mary Lambert’s 1989 film version, Pet Sematary is a mildly entertaining but also flawed take on the story that doesn’t do as much with the source material as it could have.

The story follows Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), a medical doctor who moves from Boston to the small town of Ludlow, Maine with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two kids Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (played by twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie).

Their new house backs onto a property that includes a mysterious place called the “pet sematary” where local residents bury their beloved pets, during ceremonies marked by processions of kids wearing creepy animal masks. Elderly neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) warns little Ellie not to play around there when he finds her wandering through the woods. You see, behind the pet sematary is an ancient Micmac burial ground that has the power to bring the dead back to life.

When Ellie’s cat, Church, gets killed by a truck speeding down the dirt road behind their house, Louis decides to bury the animal on these grounds. This is mainly due to the fact that Rachel doesn’t want to explain the reality of death to their daughter, as she is still haunted by traumatic memories from her own childhood involving the death of her deformed and badly neglected sister, Zelda (Alyssa Levine). The cat comes back, but he’s not the same, and when a tragedy strikes the family, Louis is not ready to move on and makes another drastic decision, which has dastardly consequences.

The film hues closely to the basic plot elements of the original story, save for one major twist partway through that I’m not going to spoil here, but has already been given away in the marketing. It’s a twist that works well enough, but the film still runs into problems of feeling predictable. The film is lean at about 100 minutes, but the storytelling also feels rushed and the characters are underdeveloped. The family drama elements of the story have been somewhat paired back in order for the scares to come earlier in the film, when a bit more of a slow burn approach might have worked better.

This has always been a psychological tale first and foremost, using its supernatural themes to explore the story of a family’s incapability to confront the reality of death. But the 2019 version of Pet Sematary also doesn’t go as deep into the psychological elements as it could have, settling instead for a pretty standard popcorn horror flick. While elements of the 1989 original are cheesy, at least by current standards, in some ways it was a more unsettling work. There are a few decent jump scares here, but the film is never as scary as it could have been, and doesn’t really get under our skin in the way it should have.

On a visual level, the scenes in the woods do have an attractively moody feel to them, and the film’s production design is generally solid, but the approach of directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer often feels merely adequate rather than particularly inspired. The film is still somewhat elevated by its decent performances. Clarke makes for a fine lead; Laurence is a promising young actress who strikes a good balance between being sweet and creepy; and Lithgow serves as a solid stand-in for Fred Gwynne, whose performance was one of the most iconic elements of the original.

As Stephen King adaptations continue to enjoy a resurgence, I would put Pet Sematary right in the middle of the pack. This isn’t a great Stephen King adaptation like It, but it is an alright one that gets the job done if you want to watch something slightly creepy late at night. While it can be a bit disappointing in terms of the potential that this material had to be turned into a great movie, as opposed to the merely alright one that we have gotten instead, there are elements about this new adaptation that do work, and it’s still a mostly enjoyable watch for genre fans. But a better adaptation might be still to come.

I was sent the 4K Ultra HD set for review, which also comes with a regular Blu-ray disc that includes a solid amount of bonus material, starting with an alternate ending and a selection of seven deleted and extended scenes (Daddy’s Nervous Too; Your Kids Are Lucky; I Wanted Her to Die; She Didn’t Come Back the Same; It’s Not Real; I’m Leaving in the Morning; and Did You Miss Me Judson?). Next up we have Night Terrors, a trio of short, atmospheric sequences featuring three of the characters (Louis, Rachel and Ellie) experiencing nightmares.

This is followed by The Tale of Timmy Baterman, a short bonus scene that features Lithgow’s character telling the story of a Vietnam War veteran who got buried on these grounds. Finally, we have Beyond the Deadfall, an hour-long look at the production that is divided into the four chapters Resurrection, The Final Resting Place, The Road to Sorrow, and Death Comes Home.

Pet Sematary is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 101 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: July 9th, 2019

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 10, 2019 4:34 am

    Adequate is the right word; you nailed it!


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