Movie Review: Pet Sematary (1989 / 2019)

Pet Sematary (dir. Mary Lambert, 1989 / Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, 2019) – In rural Maine, Dr. Louis Creed and his family discover the secrets of an old pet cemetery in the woods near their new home.

Verdict

While Mary Lambert’s adaptation of King’s grotesque terror has long left an indelible mark, the new Pet Sematary cuts commendably deeper into the subject of grief.

4/5

Review

Acceptance never comes easy for the bereaved. When the grieving are loath to let go, they become haunted by their guilt and regrets. Proclaiming that dead is sometimes better, Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Pet Sematary brings these inner demons across the barrier in literal terms.

In rural Maine, Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) learns of a burial ground beyond the pet cemetery. He goes against warning of its dark magic and buries his family cat Church after its passing, only to witness its return. Tragedy soon strikes and takes three-year-old Gage Creed (Miko Hughes). But this time, Louis knows that he no longer has to deal with grief.

Pet Sematary
Odd place for a playground.

Cheating death invites but danger, and Louis never learns. Thirty years later, Pet Sematary gets a new lease of life and revisits his past mistakes with greater depth. They don’t come back the same. Noted differences justify the existence of this remake that unlike many, veers from source material to offer new perspectives.

Where the 1989 film doled out horror in iconic grotesque imagery, the 2019 re-imagining shows its fair share. A striking scene sees an elaborate funeral procession, where masked children carry a dead animal to the pet cemetery, which played more to ominous effect than any significant purpose.

Other changes serve more impact in part due to performances. When Rachel (Amy Seimetz) Creed speaks of guilt over the death of her stricken sister Zelda, we see her acknowledging the irrational fear of her stricken sister’s spinal deformity. Alyssa Brooke Levine presents a far more sympathetic portrayal than Andrew Hubatsek’s reductive spiteful caricature, played off mostly for fright.

Pet Sematary
The Lavoie twins are coming for that Oscar.

More striking is in whom returns. Resurrection is reserved for the older sibling Ellie (Jeté Laurence), whose grim realisation of her death proves much more harrowing than a toddler’s infantile ignorance. Part of the child remains too. She still comfortably steps in tune to the old Nutcracker ballet, even as she possesses an otherworldly violence towards what she has become.

How much of Ellie is left in her? Can Rachel still bring herself to love her ill daughter, the way she never could with Zelda? There are interesting things that the new Pet Sematary says in Ellie’s final moments with her father, before the nuance fades and the killings take over.

11 thoughts on “Movie Review: Pet Sematary (1989 / 2019)”

  1. The film definitely had some cool ideas but I thought it was really poor, bunch of stupid decisions from the characters and they relied on jump scares so much. I never saw the old version but I doubt it could be worse than this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I do get why this film gets flak, but enjoyed this one more than most did. I’m rather forgiving of the characters’ poor decisions, which do drive most of Stephen King’s horror stories. Grief and fear can spur the most inexplicable decisions from the most rational, logical people too.

      The remake actually follows pretty closely to the original, though both had their own merits! 🙂

      Like

  2. I was tempted to go see this, but when you don’t get out to the cinema often and, well, I saved those chips for Endgame! Still, I want to see this… and I’m not put off by the trailer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Endgame’s a superior choice, and I say this as a huge horror fan! 🙂 But I do hope you’ll get to see this soon anyway, it’s a fairly entertaining watch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to see you enjoyed this one! I must admit, I was not a fan and didn’t enjoy this one at all. Maybe one day I will rewatch it and see if my feelings change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed this movie because to me it’s one of the better Stephen King stories, and I am glad they switched it up and made the older sibling the one brought back. Between the awesome job by Laurence, Lithgow, and Clarke, it made a very creepy movie. My issues are 1) The trailer ruined what would have been an awesome plot change surprise, and 2) The pacing was terrible and it dragged out for too long in the beginning and then crammed too much into the last half hour or less. With the girl being brought back at a much older age than the toddler in the original, and being mature enough to know what had happened to her, that could have been elaborated and really added more creepiness to the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it too! The trailer did spoil the plot change for me as well, but I wouldn’t have given this a chance if I hadn’t seen any clips at all. I had been expecting a shot-for-shot remake. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

      It would’ve been great to see more of Ellie. She shone in her scenes, both due to script and acting, and her thoughts would’ve added much more depth to the horror tale. +1 for the creepy factor, too!

      Like

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