I went in to ‘Pet Sematary’ thinking, ‘Why?’ Why does Hollywood insist on the remakes? I enjoyed the original film. Can’t we just leave it alone? I went into the new movie thinking this couldn’t touch it, let alone top it. It was as simple as that. I even defiantly crossed my arms. However, after such feelings of reluctance and misgivings, I’m happy to report that I was fairly impressed. I’m embarrassed about my skepticism. The film’s new directing team of Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer did a remarkable job of creating for their audience a sense of tension and unease which has everyone immediately on edge. You are not sitting back to relax until it’s time to stand up and leave the theatre. What the filmmakers do here is grant you access into the lives of Louis (Clarke) and his family, knowing full well you’ll get to know them, care for them and fall for them… especially their adorable children. You’ll fear for what they’re about to go through. This is used marvelously. If you’re as reluctant as I was, another reason to drop your concerns over ‘Pet Sematary’ is that the script doesn’t exactly follow the original writing or the first film. The application of a few new angles improves it in ways that are tangible.
When the film starts, we see the family car covered with bloody handprints. A sort of whiff of what’s to come for this sweet, unsuspecting family as they settle into their new home after moving from Boston to Maine is in the air. The implication of that handprint is significant in setting up for you that someone is in serious trouble. In all seriousness, this gets spooky! There are plenty of ‘jump scares’ so hide your eyes! Be prepared.
What I also relished in was the comical manner with which they told their narrative, how they made this family more approachable and relatable, especially facing the most hair-raising moments is delicious. You can tell that Kölsch and Widmyer had a lot of fun with making this.
The family cat, Church, gets hit by a car and dies. With the help of their friendly neighbor Jud (Lithgow), Louis is able to resurrect the cat for his beloved daughter Ellie, played expertly by the young Jeté Laurence, who Jud has also grown very fond of. Where they bury the loveable kitty is on the other side of the pet sematary, so spelled because it’s where children in the area bury their pets when they pass on. Jud knows from experience why they shouldn’t be doing this but has confidence this time that it’ll work out fine. Best laid plans and all. By this time, Louis and his wife, Rachel (Seimetz) have started having distressing visions but they increase after this and the film intensifies.
The cinematography gloriously sets the tone that keeps you engaged, and I can’t say enough about the inventive editing. If you didn’t see the original, you won’t miss a big change in the plot which was an essential twist for the directors to make this their own. As you get more familiar with the family, there’s also a storyline involving Rachel’s sister. This is excellent because this is where the movie begins to address death. It’s dealt with harmoniously, even though Louis and Rachel differ on life after death. Where all of this leads is horrific and unsettling… terrifying. If you’re a fan of horror, this was respectably creepy and spine-chilling. If you’re a fan of Stephen King, you won’t be disappointed.