Pet Sematary (2019) is the newest adaptation of the successful book by Stephen King and the 1989 movie directed by Mary Lambert. I personally have no connection to either, so when going into this new film directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, my only expectations were based on the cast and the marketing mix, with my minimal knowledge of the source material. With the exception of my general disinterest in anything Jason Clarke is doing, I was hopeful that this film would work for me – but by its end, I was only slightly satisfied by it.
Pet Sematary didn’t manage to resurrect my interest
Dr. Louis Creed (Clarke) moves his family from Boston to rural Maine in an attempt to slow down their lives and spend more time together. His wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) witness a procession of children taking their dead dog to the local Pet Sematary located on the family’s new property. After Ellie’s cat Church is hit by one of the many speeding semi trucks on the adjacent highway, Judd (John Lithgow), their local neighbor who grew up in the area, reveals a secret burial spot with mystical powers.
There is clearly a wealth of content that can be extrapolated from the themes present in Pet Sematary. The fact that the family has moved to “slow down” implies that maybe the relationship between Louis and Rachel had become a bit rocky. He was overworked, and on the graveyard shift at the ER. There are signs of weak communication between the two that leads to one of my biggest complaints with the characters in the film.
Not long after taking the job at the college hospital, Louis has a student named Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) that comes in after being hit by a car. They are too far for an ambulance to take him to an ER, so Louis insists on working to save him. It’s after this scene that Louis starts hallucinating, and we also learn about Rachel’s deceased sister Zelda (Alyssa Brooke Levine) through a series of similar visions. Neither Rachel nor Louis ever divulge any details to the other about these increasingly scary visions they are experiencing. It seems so unrealistic that two people, even if they are struggling, would fail so much to communicate such frightening occurrences happening.
Still, it’s not possible to watch Pet Sematary and not be sucked into the world of the film. The tone established is strong, and it’s difficult to shake much of the creepy imagery. Additionally, it is hard to decide what would be considered a spoiler, as it is a beloved story, and the trailers didn’t hide much. In fact, there is a choice made by the filmmakers that feel like it is supposed to be a surprise when watching the actual movie…however, the marketing revealed this element in the second and third trailer, continuing a disturbing trend with not trusting the movie’s premise to bring in the crowds.
I enjoyed most of the performances, with Lithgow being my favorite and Clarke being the weakest – though I didn’t dislike him here as much as I often do. It is possible that this is the type of horror film that requires too much suspension of disbelief for me to be on board with. I kept questioning so many elements of the character’s choices that it was hard to feel empathy for them. While I do feel that the deeper elements underneath the stories surface are worth exploring, I believe I should have still been able to enjoy the film at face value. Pet Sematary earns the Decent Watch rating.