“Sometimes dead is better”
RELEASED: April 4th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
WRITTEN BY: Matt Greenberg & Jeff Buhler
PRODUCED BY: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Steven Schneider & Mark Vahradian
MUSIC BY: Christopher Young
STARRING: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, Hugo and Lucas Lavoie & John Lithgow
I’m not a huge follower of Stephen King’s works. I’ve read the first few chapters of The Dark Tower (need to get back to it) and seen 2017’s It (overrated), 2017’s Gerald’s Game (excellent) and of course 1980’s The Shining (iconic). With those in mind, I found Pet Sematary to be better than It, but not quite as good as Gerald’s Game or The Shining.
Pet Sematary follows the Creed family as they move from hectic city life in Boston to the Maine countryside (because where else would they go? It’s a Stephen King story). Once there, they are greeted by a beautiful house sheltered by a vast forest, which contains the mysterious ‘Pet Sematary’ – a place that, according to their new neighbour, Jud, has the power to bring things back from the afterlife…
Having seen all three trailers, I expected there to be a lot going on in this film. Obviously, someone or something would die, they would come back, and horror would ensue. And while that does happen, it doesn’t happen nearly as quickly as you would expect, and instead, the film focuses on a slow build-up of instability between the family members, before reaching the horror-filled finale in the third act. Of course, there are horror aspects to this film sprinkled throughout the runtime, but the real meat of the story – the things shown in the trailers – take a while to get to. Instead, the film focuses on the strange occurrences that come from the family’s proximity to the ‘Pet Sematary’, as opposed to the horror of the Pet Sematary itself.
To be honest, the trailers are quite misleading, as they present this as a more full-on horror fest, as opposed to the creepy character study that it really is. The film is presented as your conventional horror flick, but in truth is quite unconventional, both in pacing and story beats.
This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, but it seems to resist the urge to fall into the tropes of a lot of contemporary Hollywood movies, refusing to hit the beats you expect it to hit. Paradoxically though, it’s also not all that surprising in any way other than the fact that what you witness in the trailers takes longer to get to than you’d expect.
Still, it is a well-made film, with the score, in particular, delivering an eerie quality to proceedings that really helps set the tone. It’s both beautiful and unnerving, and something you’ll notice from the get-go. Similarly, the set, production and costume design are all excellently done, making the film a real horror spectacle, both in terms of the gore and the general atmosphere.
Furthermore, both the acting and directing are top-notch, with stars Clarke, Seimetz and Lithgow all giving amazing performances, full of pain and terror. Jeté Laurence shines in spite of her young age, delivering both heartwarming innocence as well as a real threatening presence once things take a turn for the worse (I’d say spoilers, but that’s in the trailer).
All-in-all, Pet Sematary probably isn’t a film that I’ll watch again and again, and it isn’t a film that will necessarily please every general audience member (although really, what film can do that?), but for fans of horror, Stephen King and well-crafted cinema, it’s probably worth a watch.
As such, I give it: