Author Stephen King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary received a modern-day adaption in Paramount Pictures same-titled film. Co-directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer made the remake stand on its own with the assistance of a decent screenplay from Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg. Pet Sematary opens with Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) leaving the hustle and bustle of Boston to move to Maine.
With a new job as the head doctor at local university and a chance to spend more time with his family, Louis feels the move is a great idea, and initially, his family appears to be on board. When the family arrives at their new home, there are startled by big trucks which speed past their house daily. One day while exploring, Ellie meets town local Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), who becomes somewhat of a surrogate father to the Creed family.
Months pass and Louis appears in the groove at his new job, but everything changes when he fails to save the life of local student Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed). Soon strange occurrences start to happen. Louis is having disturbing nightmares. The family cat, Church, gets hit by a truck. Not wanting to expose his daughter Ellie to the reality of death and on Jud’s advice, Louis buries the cat in an ancient burial ground. When Church returns the next day, Louis wonders what he’s gotten himself into. When a personal tragedy occurs, Louis makes a drastic decision that will forever change the Creed family.
While I haven’t read the novel, I do have fond memories of the 1989 version of Pet Sematary. The night before seeing the remake, I gave the original version a look for the first time in almost fifteen years. For the most part, the 2019 version is a shot for shot remake of the original version with some fundamental changes, some of which work, while others don’t. One of the significant changes you may already know if you’ve seen the trailers, however the route that Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg screenplay handle the switch works.
I also found the direction by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Wildmyer quite impressive, as they create a tense atmosphere. Pet Sematary does start out a bit slow, but it’s all a build up to an effective climax, which will appease horror fans. The principal cast is all good in their roles, with the standout being Jason Clarke. As Louis, Jason Clarke shows us a working-class family man who has a slow descent into madness. John Lithgow is excellent, as always. Amy Seimetz and Jeté Laurence, whose work I wasn’t familiar with, both impressed me.
Similar to the original, the relationship between Creed offspring who starts to see visions of Pascow is still underdeveloped. Granted I came to my own conclusions, but I wish the screenplay would’ve fleshed out the details a bit more. I also was a bit upset that the remake omits a few details involving Judd’s backstory with the cemetery.
Pet Sematary may not impress diehard fans of the source material or the 1989 movie, but I generally liked it. I feel that the new generation will as well. At its core, Pet Sematary for me was always about coming to terms with death and the consequences of one attempting to play God. In both regards, the remake succeeds.