Stephen King film adaptations haven’t been very consistent. There have been plenty of misfires as well as classics, such as The Shining and The Shawshank Redemption. With the success of It, a new wave of King adaptations are being produced. The most recent King novel to get a makeover is Pet Sematary. By taking a creepy tale and adding an emotional core to it, Pet Sematary unsettles its audience, even if parts of the story get lost along the way.
Pet Sematary introduces us to the Creed family, who move to a rural area in Maine. They live life at a slower pace and spend more time together as a family. Within the acreage they now own, lies a cemetery dedicated to the pets of local children. Beyond the gravestones, there is and ancient burial ground which resurrects the dead. The problem is, as the tagline warns us, ‘sometimes dead is better.’
What I truly loved about the film is the themes it explores. It sets up a scenario in which, we the audience place ourselves in the character’s shoes. If you lost a loved one and were presented the opportunity to bring them back, even if it came at a cost, would you? Pet Sematary explores the darker side of that choice and the consequences it entails. What do these decisions mean morally or spiritually? The film really makes you think.
Tension is something horror filmmakers wish to master. It is essential to crafting a great horror film and Pet Sematary has it in abundance. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer create an atmosphere that makes you uncomfortable from the start. Even in the setup moments where we are learning about the characters and building a bond, you always get a feeling that something lurks around the corner. That unsettling discourse is what horror fans are going to revel in. Paired with that, you also have a terrific cast. Jason Clarke, stars as the father and our central protagonist. He is slowly falling down a spiral on insanity and making decisions without considering the consequences. John Lithgow, plays Jud, the next-door neighbor and brings earnestness to the role, even if his decisions are questionable. Finally, Amy Seimetz who plays the mother is fantastic. There is no weak link in the entire cast.
While the scares are there, and the themes are thought-provoking, the story has issues. There are a multitude of plot points that have no payoff. It is frustrating because they do have something special but squander the opportunity to reach its full potential. Some things are never explained while other revelations come out of nowhere. The tension and horror help to mask these issues but upon re-examination, some things do fall apart.
While not the best Stephen King adaptation, Pet Sematary, while a little scattered is still a thrilling film. Horror fans will love Pet Sematary. Maybe reboots do serve a purpose.
The Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars