But is that enough to elevate this beyond its 1989 predecessor?
The original Pet Sematary adaptation in 1989 focused its horror tale on a well-meaning nice guy who makes the wrong choices. At least when it comes to shielding the subject of death from his kids for the sake of his wife. Oh, and there’s the unnatural resurrection plot tied into all this coupled with nice gore effects for both humans and cats.
In this remake, the themes are still the same. The gist of the story is as such: city family led by doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves into a new place in the woods close to the local animal cemetery, the family cat dies due to a road accident, the adults try to avoid talking about death, father fixes the mess via mystical burial site thanks to a tip-off from an elderly neighbour with a hidden past (John Lithgow’s Jud), everything turns sour from there.
Heck, there’s even a ghost of a victim Creed tried to save in the clinic popping up time and again to warn him about the “ground being sour” and not breaking the barrier beyond the pet cemetery. Despite these warnings, made effective since the ghost’s face is disfigured, Louis presses on subconsciously and even by his own sheer will of maintaining the status quo.
Spirits Moaning Among The Tombstones
This time in this 2019 remake, there’s a bigger focus on the eldest child of the Creed family: Ellie. Having her take the spotlight and replace Gage as the subject kid of the film makes sense as It adds more weight to her story arc and eventual plight. In the film’s third act, she ties it all together the lesson the Creed patriarch should have heeded: staying dead is usually better.
There are enough changes to make retro horror fans at least check this revamp out since it attempts to expand upon the aforementioned themes while trimming the fat.
Let’s be frank: we don’t really need a non-sequitur of a local nanny offing herself to add more tension, or additional scenes of a harrowed doctor shoving special-filled syringes into zombie cats. The framework and cinematography of this remake add a ton more dread and tension through visuals and sound alone.
This film also confirms that Jason Clarke has a personality and can act. He just needs the right film to showcase all of that; usually, that’s few and far between. His dad role in Pet Sematary is perfect; he has a likeable persona that spirals downward into a grievous sad and desperate man who wants to make things right and normal at the end.
Too bad everyone else in the film is just playing typecasted roles. Doting and frightful matriarch played by Amy Seimetz? Check. Lithgow’s caring neighbour schtick from start to finish? Check. Kid who’s there just to do the fake-out in the second act for fans of the 1989 film played by Hugo and Lucas Lavoie? Double check. There’s nothing wrong with playing to type, but it doesn’t elevate this film beyond good thrills and jumpscares.
I Don’t Want To Live My Life Again
If you want a decent scarefest that teaches the harsh lesson that comes with supernatural resurrection forces, do give Pet Sematary a shot. Even if you swear by the original 1989 film (which in retrospect is a product of its time), you’ll find something to like in this remake.
It’s not a horror film breakthrough, but it earns the bronze medal for at least providing effective startling moments and great leads.