Pet Semetary (2019)
Pet Semetary (2019) movie review
Pet Semetary is a remake of the 1989 film of the same name, which in turn was based on the classic Stephen King novel of the same name. The film sees a family move to a house in New England far from any cities. Things begin to change for them when they discover that there is a burial ground far back in the woods behind their house that possesses the supernatural ability to bring animals back from the dead if they are buried there. The remake sees directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer helm directing, and Matt Greenberg as the head writer, while the original film had Mary Lambert and Stephen King directing and writing respectively.
So how does Greenberg’s version hold up to the ‘Master of Modern Horror’ himself? About as poorly as the original if you ask me! King’s involvement in the project is certainly no guarantee of quality, see Maximum Overdrive (1986) for example, so hearing he wrote the original screenplay is about as exciting as hearing J.K. Rowling wrote the new Fantastic Beasts (2018). That said, I’ve only seen the original once, and not recently. So instead of a two-in-one review, I’m just going to talk about the remake of this cult classic, which manages to improve very little, if anything.
In one ironic word, I would call the new Pet Semetary ‘lifeless.’ This is in part due to the performances. While John Lithgow is certainly the best one in the film, he is the only one who gets a chance to shine. Amy Sheimetz and Jason Clarke, who play the father and mother of the family, were just simply no good. Jason Clarke especially, who I really like in plenty of films, feels especially dull and unmotivated in this film, not giving much of any emotion that could inspire or drive sympathy from the audience. Now this is likely from the direction of the film, which seems to push the film’s tone towards a flat, grey conclusion that offers no reprieve from how mundane the rest of the film is. The performances in the original aren’t great either, but at least Dale Midkiff is campy, and therefor more emotional than Clarke. I will say the girl who played Ellie, the daughter, was rather good considering the direction she was given.
Since I feel like I’ve already covered the unmoving tone, score, cinematography, and color palate, I can talk about something I really don’t like: the story. Yes Stephen King, master of horror novels, managed what I would consider a good idea in a decent story that can only be adapted badly. Why you ask? Well I haven’t read the story, so I can’t vouch for the book, but if the film is anything like the book, it doesn’t make any sense. Sure the plot does present a compelling character arc, but between Jud’s inconsistent good nature that leads to horrifying results, or the psychic zombie that only Louis can see for some reason, the writing just adds elements that don’t seem to matter, or exclusively matter to make the film happen without thought to how it could and would happen. Sure, movies have to movie, but you can present a natural story progression that leads to a rather compelling result, not characters blindly ignoring or even encouraging red flags only to stop and say “Ah crap, we should have known” in the end.
The original Pet Semetary is no masterpiece. The story is as unfocused and random, but the performances are cheesy instead of boring. Honestly, neither film is really worth watching, and I think King’s writing is the problem. Again, I haven’t read it, but it doesn’t seem to translate well to film. The direction in the remake is noteworthy, as the directors try to push it in a darker direction truer to the feel of the story. While that is absolutely worth a point or two, it doesn’t keep the film from going true of its own catchphrase that ‘sonetimes dead is better,’ and in this case, bringing this film back to life is as ironically hollow as it could be. Anyway, I honestly don’t think either is worth seeing, but if you have to pick, watch the original. This version of Pet Semetary is just too slow and forgettable to bother with. 5/10.
-review by Ryan Prince
So Pet Semetary? Did you see it? What did you think? And which did you like better? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!