Pet Sematary

by Hans A. Carpenter

Release Date: April 5

MPAA: R

Directors: Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow

Mister Marquee Says: Not quite dead, not quite alive

Number: 3/5

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family to a home in a small town. The woods behind the family’s new home hold a terrible power, with a burial ground that holds the power to bring the dead back to life. When they come back, though, they aren’t the same.

The 1989 Marry Lambert directed Pet Sematary is considered a classic. Why, I never understood. The bones of King’s story are solid, but I never cared for the Lambert version. It’s a perfect example of the coming storm of early 90s cheese. The advent of slasher movies in the 80s ruined an entire generation of horror the same way Paranormal Activity led to low caliber “found footage” and jump scare movies. It’s a relic of the times, and not one worth resurrecting. Still, the core story is a strong one that properly mined has a ton of remake potential. This stab at Pet Sematary succeeds in some ways, but overall is flawed as well.

This movie was behind the eight ball from the start. You have fans of the original (for some reason) with certain expectations. You have very little surprise potential, which was further neutered by the trailer spoiling the one real shock in the movie. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer succeed in atmosphere. Pet Sematary is creepy, that I’ll concede. What they utterly fail at is pace. The plot zooms by at break-neck pace and doesn’t leave enough time to make you feel anything. In a story about the power of grief and the horrible spell it can put over people, you can’t just skip the grief. That’s where the horror comes from. That’s the power that a masterpiece like Hereditary embraced. Perhaps no other horror movie needed to lean on grief horror more than Pet Sematary, but sadly that isn’t the case.

Kolsch and Widmyer seem to want to hit creepy set pieces and story beats as quickly as possible. If we don’t wallow in the grief, it’s impossible to feel anything in this movie, including fear. The central relationship between Jud and the Creed family is equally as half-baked, and that’s a real shame because John Lithgow is fantastic. Ultimately, Pet Sematary looks good, it has a decent ending, and it hits all the right beats, but it’s just not quite there. Like those buried in the titular cemetery, this movie looks right, but lacks a soul.

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