Pet Sematary (2019)

"Sometimes, dead is better."

I think I've come to a mixed conclusion for this movie. It's a very well done, scary, suspenseful horror movie. But it's an awful adaptation of Stephen King's work.

This review is spoiler free!

Like all Stephen King novels, our story begins when a family, the Creeds, moves to a small town in Maine. Unfortunately, an evil force lurks in the forest behind their idyllic home, using their grief and fears against them in one of the worst ways possible. I think that everyone who has ever lost someone can understand the true danger of the Pet Sematary. How do you say 'no' to that kind of temptation? You can't.

I think that might honestly be the real selling point of this movie. The underlying impulses and feelings at work here are incredibly relatable and universal. It helps to ground us with these characters. Even if I knew that Louis was making awful decisions, I couldn't help but see where he was coming from.

Jud, in particular, really benefits from this heightened sense of connection. In previous version of this story, I always questioned why on Earth he would do something like introduce Louis to the true nature of the Sematary. But here, he's given a very solid, tangible reason for setting all of these events in motion. It's probably the best change made to the movie.

Beyond that, this was a very tightly made, well put together movie. All of the acting was fantastic, which special shoutouts to both Amy Seimetz and Jete Laurence specifically. Neither of them had easy roles, and they were both fabulous. All of the practical effects were also excellent and appropriately gory. The visual effects, however, were more hit or miss and were sometimes distracting.

The most important question, though, is "Is the movie scary?" Absolutely. There's this feeling of dread that permeates the early parts of the movie where you just wait for things to go horribly, terribly wrong. It gets under your skin, making you pull your feet up at the idea of something bad happening to your ankles. It's very good at what it does.

I get the feeling that this movie is meant more for people who have seen the previous adaptation than for people who are coming to the story fresh and unspoiled. There were multiple scenes whose tension only really came from the knowledge and expectation that a certain thing was about to happen. They would draw out the tension, make you wait for it, only to rip the rug out from under you and do something completely different instead.

Now, part of me recognizes that this is probably the correct storytelling move to make. People sitting two rows behind me in the theater were gasping and whispering "They changed it!" in a shocked voice, so it had its intended effect. I just can't help but feel like the changes weakened the message of the story as a whole.

Pet Sematary is ultimately about grief, about being able to let go of the ones you've lost. The last ten or so minutes seem to forget this entirely, leaving us with an ending that seems almost as far away from the point as it possibly could be. Don't get me wrong. The ending shot left me deeply unsettled and uneasy for the entire car ride home. It's an effective ending. It just didn't feel like a Pet Sematary ending.

But maybe that's on me. I couldn't stop comparing the movie to its source material, where maybe I should have tried to just let it stand on its own. I honestly don't know.

Random Thoughts

As can be inferred by the name, a series of awful things happen to pets in the movie. Be mentally prepared.

What kind of parents let their kids dress up in very creepy masks in order to have a funeral procession?

There was one jump scare involving a bathroom mirror that got me good. I have a love/hate relationship with jump scares involving bathroom mirrors.

Pet Sematary is fairly short at 100 minutes. It felt short too, sitting in the theater.

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An Honest Fangirl loves superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and really bad horror movies.

2 comments:

jo said...

I'm a Stephen King fan and also enjoyed the first adaption of Pet Semetary. For the most part I thought the new film was very good - I liked a lot of the changes and the cast were great all around.Enjoyed seeing more of the creepy Zelda flashbacks. There were some genuinely scary moments.
I agree though - where's the parental supervision in the dead animal burying kiddie procession.
I didn't really like the ending. I understood why it made sense, but it seemed a bit too much like the set up for a sequel that will never get made (I hope).

Billie Doux said...

I read the book, didn't like the first movie. This one sounds like it's too scary for me. Thanks for the review, though -- as always, a good Fangirl review.