[Review] Pet Sematary: Sometimes A Remake Can Stand On Its Own

Another film where I didn't watch a trailer for it, and thankfully I didn't. Because, in the end, had I watched the trailer it probably wouldn't have played well with me. That's not to say I didn't like the new Pet Sematary, I did. But, sometimes, "The original is better." My personal rating: Pet Sematary (1989) - 8 out of 10. Pet Sematary (2019) - 7 out of 10.

In the second attempt at adapting Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary, an intelligent man, whose heart is in the right place, commits one foolish decision after another, leading to the inevitable conclusion of gore and vicissitude.

The first 55-65 minutes have some genuinely spooky and darkly funny moments. However, unlike the original, it's more grisly than scary. Which is fine by me. But it's unfortunate considering the moments that I felt were unquestionably scary in the original were either not used at all or a miss in execution in the new. I recognize I'm selfish for saying that and that it's completely subjective.

Jason Clarke (in damn near everything these days) who plays Louis shows once again that he is an expert at his craft. He brought a certain humility to Louis that I felt lacked a bit in the '89 version. Amy Seimetz was strong as Rachel. And her performance can be added her already impressive resume. John Lithgow (Dr. Lizardo) who plays Jud was as solid as you'd expect. Even if I found his demise very anticlimactic. And even if I was disappointed his portrayal lacked the bellowing cadence of Fred Gwynne from the original. "You'll want to watch out for that road." Gage was played by twins, Hugo and Lucas Lavoie. Church was played by 4 different cats. Count 'em, 4. Victor Pascow was played by Obssa Ahmed. Ahmed did so well that it left me disappointed that he didn't get more screen time. Even after the delivery of "the ground is sour" which left me gritting my teeth in annoyance. I ask you to play the two deliveries of that line ('89/'19) side by side and tell me what resonates with you more. Now, onto the standout star of the film, Jete Laurence. Admittedly, when we deviated from the original film (Ellie getting hit by the semi instead of Gage), I was less than enthused at where it seemed we were headed. Turns out, I was a fool for having such a feeling. Jete Laurence, whom I talked about in a article for Crypt Teaze for her work in The Ranger (see it), was about as unnerving as one could possibly be in the role. What's special is her ability to dance at the end of two spectrums. On one end, a curious, loving daughter. On the other, undead and hyper-aware of her current situation. An angle of the film I thoroughly enjoyed.

Lastly, the direction was what you'd want in a horror film, compliments of directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Holidays, Starry Eyes). They unsettle you early with jump scares and then start to bury you in a pit of dread somewhere towards the end of Act II. And once there, instead of shoveling the dirt on top of you, they bulldoze it. Paying you no mind as you gasp in exhaustion and horror.

It should be noted I gave it a 7 out of 10 for selfish reasons only. The new Pet Sematary is a horror film through and through. It's sad, it's dark, it's uncomfortable. In the end, the 2019 version of Pet Sematary plays much better from a cast and technical aspect even if it didn't generate a reverberating uneasiness in me like the original did.


For more of my thoughts on the film, check out the latest podcast from Ellissinema below.


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