Friday, 31 May 2019

Pet Sematary 2019 ★★★☆☆


We live in fruitful and exciting times for Stephen King fans, but there is a risk of too much of a good thing. We’ve had countless remakes, reboots and fresh adaptations of his work over the past few years including new takes on It, The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, 1922, Cell, Carrie…The list goes on. We’ve also had TV adaptations of 11.22.63, Mr. Mercedes and The Mist, and of course the stunning Castle Rock series. 2019 promises 3 more big-screen King outings in the form of It: Chapter 2, In The Tall Grass and the long-awaited Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. Are we beginning to suffer from King fatigue?


2019 has also given us a new adaptation of King’s iconic novel Pet Sematary, previously adapted for the big screen 30 years ago back in 1989. Despite the earlier incarnation being a little dated now and certainly not without flaws, it hold a special place in many people’s hearts and so the news of a remake/reboot/re-adaptation/whatever was met with a little concern from film fans – especially as the trailer didn’t inspire a huge amount of confidence, marketing itself as merely a jump-scare riot with little substance and certainly not much of that slow-burning Stephen King dread. Thankfully, the final product is actually a pretty good piece of horror entertainment and an interesting adaptation of the book, doing enough to distance itself from the previous adaptation and stand on its own two rotting feet. 

For those who don’t know, the story of Pet Sematary follows Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife (Amy Seimetz), as they relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground – the Pet Sematary - hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When the family cat dies, it is buried in this spooky location which inexplicably revives the cat and returns it to the family, but it returns aggressive and different. When tragedy strikes the family again, a perilous chain reaction unleashes an unspeakable evil with horrific consequences – despite warnings that “sometimes dead is better”.

It’s a fascinating and unique tale, well told and presented with a suitably dark and often harrowing atmosphere. The film is often uncomfortable viewing and it does deal with some very complex themes of loss, grief and family tragedy. But unfortunately, there is – unsurprisingly, it being a recent horror after all – an over-reliance on jump scares that cheapens proceedings considerably. The terrifying plot of this film could’ve easily worked a slow-burner of dread and horror – as indeed, brief portions of the film do. But no, Hollywood had to stuff it with cliché and remove the power from King’s original novel. And incidentally, some questionable changes are made to the source material here that will have die-hard fans scratching their heads and furiously tweeting their disgust.


Now, big-screen book adaptations are never better than the book. That’s a given. But is this 2019 incarnation of Pet Sematary at least better than the 1989 adaptation? Of course, it is – but it’s not really a fair comparison when you consider the larger budget, bigger names and generally better technology available to filmmakers today. Pet Sematary doesn’t hit the highs of the recent It adaptation and certainly will never stand in the same league as the early King adaptations – Christine, The Shining, Misery, etc. – but it’s a decent little horror and worth a look for fans of the genre.

★★★☆☆
Sam Love



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