Movie Review: Pet Sematary
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by Jason Koenigsberg
AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!! I’m not screaming because the new Pet Sematary was scary, I’m screaming because it was horrible. How could they screw up one of Stephen King’s best novels this badly, especially considering it is a remake of an already terrible but loyal film adaptation. This Pet Sematary is loyal until about the halfway point but the changes they make are acceptable until the final act which is when this movie completely jumps off the rails. This is inexcusable as a film with such potential nosedives into the realm of absolute garbage.
The opening shot is a birds-eye view of a forest over ominous music and animal sounds. The first shot reveals too much by showing a house on fire and bloody footprints going into a neighboring house. The audience knows they will come back to this image and it ruins some of the plot points that could have been a surprise. However, it ruins a lot less than the trailers did for this film by showing way too much information that even viewers who have not read the book will know way more than they should going in especially a well-directed scene involving the death of a child. But the trailers also show scenes involving a creepy character with a deformed spine crawling on all fours and coming out of a cabinet that is not in the actual movie. It would have had surprises even to those that read the book had it not been for the trailers. There is a lot to this Pet Sematary that works and then there is a lot, mostly in the latter half of the film that completely destroys whatever goodwill this movie built up early on.
To get to the point. The ending of Pet Sematary is a complete trainwreck and a rushed one at that. It betrays everything the film was building up to and everything that Stephen King’s novel set in place. The movie tries to be bold and go in a different direction but it goes about it so haphazardly that I find it hard to believe that anyone would accept the ending as a cohesive closure. This Pet Sematary had so much potential but turns into just another creepy kid movie. Some of the imagery that should have been haunting but just looks silly like the children wearing animal masks. Instead of that being scary it looks like an outtake from the reprehensible Nicolas Cage remake of The Wicker Man (2006).
There are significant problems throughout. The color red is prominent to the point of being too obvious. That was a red flag early on (pun intended) that this Pet Sematary is going to be problematic. The house is red, the mother is always wearing red until the final act, and there is a lot of red blood and gore early on. The main actors are all talented but with the hack direction from two directors and a shoddy screenplay they never get a chance to become three dimensional. A real shame considering John Lithgow’s talent and the role of Judd in the book is the stuff of Best Supporting Actor material. If the movie had more about him and developed his relationship with the family next door like the book does it may have worked a lot better. The standout performance in this Pet Sematary was Church the cat. Honestly, kudos to the trainers and everyone else involved because the cat was lovable when he was supposed to be and frightening when he needed to be.
The first hour of Pet Sematary is a creepy atmospheric thriller. It never gets truly scary but that is likely because when it should be terrifying it turns into an unintentional and very unfunny joke of itself. This movie has dark visuals and the eerie cinematography sets the tone well. The best scenes are at the actual pet cemetery burial ground up in the mountains. The filmmakers use a lot of fog machines but despite that, it still looks great and provides the best images of the film. One big flaw is that the directors fell in love with their backlighting. There was way too much throughout Pet Sematary. Almost every scene with characters talking to each other was backlit in such an obvious manner is became distracting and lost all of its emphasis to enhance the characters. This Pet Sematary was not scary nor was it clever or intelligent enough to be a fun experience. It squandered whatever positive elements it had with a rushed ending that seemingly came out of nowhere and betrays the audience forcing them to accept something so inept it boggles the mind that intelligent people could have destroyed such a brilliant book.
Skip this Pet Sematary and the original one for that matter. This is better than that movie for at least two-thirds of it. Just read the book and listen to the Ramones song which they had a band called Starcrawler cover over the end credits of this shoddy remake.