“Pet Sematary” – Review (A Remake We Needed?)

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“Pet Sematary” (2019) Paramount Pictures

“PET SEMATARY” is coming to theaters this weekend. This remake of the 1989 film based on the classic Stephen King novel centers a family that moves to a rural home in Maine to get away from the hectic routine of city life. Soon after moving in they learn there is a mysterious burial ground deep out on their property that has been the resting place to local pets for years. A pet cemetery that has a sinister past and a dark power. Now it’s been thirty-years since the original. I enjoyed it growing up as a fun horror movie and after watching it recently it still holds some nostalgia. But to be honest it doesn’t hold up so well, particularly with the performances and the third-act.

So, for that aspect I felt this was a story that could benefit from an updating. Now I haven’t read the book. I’m going to break this remake down based on the cinematic entertainment it brought me. As well as how it stacked up against the ’89 original. Which is something this movie fared pretty well with because I had a very good time watching. It grabbed my attention, pulled me into the story, and had my curiosity peaked throughout. I appreciate how this film was able to show a very strong inspiration from the original story. While still being able to infuse it with some new directions and added layers. It felt like an inspired re-imagining of the original film and I found it to be a refreshing take on the central plot-line.

It isn’t often a remake can hold true to the source-material, yet still provide some genuine moments of unpredictability. Yet much to my delight this movie did just that and it was surprisingly intriguing to see the story-line progress. Not only to see what new paths the story would take, but also to see where it would hold true to the original film. It was an enjoyable combination of elements that did a great job of keeping the energy up while watching. Something else I enjoyed was the reliance on practical-effects for the most part. Often horror remakes are laced with an abundance of CGI and it doesn’t always work. Much like the original movie, this one provided some fun genre effects that hit with a nostalgic charm and true intensity during many scenes.

 

PET SEMATARY

“Pet Sematary” (2019) Paramount Pictures

However not everything worked in this new vision on the story. I do think the musical score was a step down from the ’89 film. In the original, the score was able to heighten the mood of the story and build gripping intensity on its own. Something that was at times missing in this one. It felt like a slightly routine score that I felt was much more noticeable because the overall look of the film was on the familiar side as well. This for myself was another slight hindrance to the enjoyment. It was a nicely shot film with a solid use of lighting and backdrops to create a sinister and foreboding atmosphere. But it was also a movie that looked like others I have seen before.

The way shots are framed up, the use of transitions, and editing techniques felt overly recognizable. It also has a noticeable studio polish as well. So, despite some ominous visuals that were well-crafted, it just felt like a place I had been before in these genre films in recent years. It was missing some of the grittiness that I think made the ’89 film feel more dark and eerie despite its shortcomings. In the case of this remake some of the modern film-making aspects worked to update the look into the modern-era. But there were some visible sections where the time-period feel was missing thus was some of the genre charm.

The performances all worked for the needs of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed Jason Clarke in the lead. He was leaps and bounds better than the lead character in the original. The character-type itself is far from unique, but through Clarke’s performance there was more than enough sincerity and emotional layers to grab on to. John Lithgow as Jud was fantastic casting in my opinion. You can never go wrong with the great Fred Gwynn in the ’89 film. But I felt Lithgow brought a lot of heart to the role to make it his own. He was naturally likable, he felt authentic with his portrayal, and he had a strong chemistry with the rest of the cast to make an impression on the film overall. Jeté Laurence was also great in her role. She captured a range of emotions and a variety of intensity levels with a very capable performance that I think delivered exactly what the story needed.

PET SEMATARY

“Pet Sematary” (2019) Paramount Pictures

Like I said the script takes some new turns and added some layers to the story and not all worked. I really enjoyed the guardian angel subplot with Victor Pascow in the original and I don’t think it was developed with enough thought in this remake. It felt mildly tacked on as the film progressed and I don’t think it was woven into the story like it could have been to build a connection with the viewer that I felt was a memorable moment from the ’89 version.

I do think the overall family dynamic between the Creed’s in this one was developed better. They felt more like a normal family with some natural chemistry between them. It could have been stronger, but it certainly worked for the needs of the story. The backdrop of Rachel’s character was also nicely done in sections. But the over-editing of the scenes with Zelda, and a clear CGI reliance did hinder the subplot from hitting with that same level of horrific intensity that I felt the original accomplished.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this remake. It felt both inspired by the source-material but also ambitious in expanding on the layers of the narrative and that’s all you can really ask for in a remake. It was entertaining throughout and had some entertaining moments of horror violence that landed nicely. I haven’t read the book and while I enjoyed the original film, I wouldn’t say I have an emotional connection to this story-line. Therefore, I may have liked it more than some. But as a person going in to this one wanting to see an engaging horror movie and all the fun that comes with it. This one delivers on it and provides a good time at the cinema.


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