Pet Sematary opens strong out the gates but ultimately finishes sour; it resembles other typical modern-day horror movies more than I had liked but is benefitted by some stronger performances than we’re used to seeing in this kind of movie.
The Creeds, seeking a change in pace from Boston, move to a house in the middle of nowhere. There’s a misspelled pet cemetery in their backyard, and what lies beyond the cemetery isn’t meant to be trifled with. However, when their cat dies, their neighbor Jud Crandall exposes the power that lies deep in the woods.
Stephen King adaptations always seemed to be a mixed bag; some are great, some are trash. Pet Sematary falls somewhere in between. I did enjoy it for the most part and believe horror fans will get a kick out of this one. However, most of the “scares” are built on jump scares, a very basic trope which often gets overused to break tension. The best horror movies are able to leave a lasting impression on the watcher, and that is difficult to do when most of your scares are spurts of loud noises and things popping out. Pet Sematary fails to engrain any images of terror or haunting feelings; it’s fun while you watch it and then you move on when it’s over.
Horror movies, especially ones that feature a large amount of jump scares, are infamous for questionable acting. However, Pet Sematary does have a couple names in its cast list which do a good job. Jason Clarke is always solid, and as the head of the family, Dr. Louis Creed, he is once again. Amy Seimetz who plays his wife, Rachel Creed, also is compelling as she is haunted by her traumatic past. And then of course there’s John Lithgow as the quirky neighbor, and he was my favorite part of the movie. His character has a familiarity with the Ludlow woods, and has his own darker past the film could’ve spent more time developing.
Pet Sematary begins with an overhead shot of the woods, and right from the beginning sets up the eerie tone which it will ride for the first two acts. The film does a neat job at establishing the characters, the setting and its darker history, and tension. However, it doesn’t go much further than establishing its characters, and tension is too often broken up by a loud truck on the road. By the time the film decides to really get moving and become dangerous, the tension that had been built up and the hook it had planted is lost. Pet Sematary had me engaged up until the climax, where it becomes a predictable and rushed mess. And, if you have seen the original, the ending Is changed and not for the better. The new ending undermines the development of Dr. Creed and the film’s theme of dealing with grief and loss; it loses the emotional impact the original ending had with Dr. Creed accepting his son is dead and putting him down once and for all.
Pet Sematary has the source material to produce a dark and ominous adaptation, however, the 2019 film is handled by a pair of inexperienced directors/writers realizing their first big break. I just wish there were more animal mask wearing, drum banging, kid processions. 6.5/10