Although the clown monster hit “It” of the same year may have ended up grossing more box office dollars, “Pet Sematary” is a much better horror movie written by Stephen King, in my opinion. The creepiness permeates and paves the way for a quaint yet terrifying tale of one family and a mystic pet cemetery just behind their house.
I have observed modern horror includes both remakes of past hits as well as re imaginings. These span from “Friday the 13th” to “The Fly” and beyond. Here we have a remake with a slight re imagining element. Pet Sematary revitalizes the beloved 80’s film by Stephen King and respectively repackages it into a film that is more artful, more creepy, and more thought provoking than the original. This isn’t just a jump-scare film either, though it has some of that. It is a horror film through and through creepiness and dark, misty atmosphere included.
Quaint may not be the best adjective for this tale in that it has elements of horror and gore interspersed with a simple story about a quaint family in an all-American home. I think it’s important to note however that getting a story across should have simple pillars. I think the clown film “It” gets way into the complicated zone and for me this detracts from the power of the story. This film indeed has a quaint, or simple, story that is tastefully told using horror elements that accentuate instead of blot it out.
Another benefit of this simplicity is that entry level horror fans can have better access to it. Walking into a haunted house, the riff raff gets sorted out pretty quickly. By that I mean: they do not continue. If it’s a more mild form of scare, they may come through and enjoy the whole attraction. That happened with my youngest daughter, age 11. She’s not into horror yet but she really wanted to see this movie. She ended up loving it. She’s still not claiming to be a horror fan but I would say this film has that “entry level horror” quality to it.
The trailer is not “entry level” sounding, let’s listen to it now …
At the get go I want to address the direction “team.” Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. This film plays like a film that people cared for over a long time. There are no accidents. It all works perfectly too. These directors are behind “Starry Eyes.” This goes to show you they had a value for graphic horror in this film. “Starry Eyes” is one of those films where you relate because it looks like it could be happening in your own home or apartment. In fact, as the body count rises, you start thinking about how you will need to hide the evidence. These two can make the film personal and bring the creepiness home to the horror fan. Since “Pet Sematary” takes place with a family in a home and builds its horror moments between family members, Kolsch was a perfect choice. You feel that creepy atmosphere and personal discomfort. I think I’ve discovered a new favorite director team. You can bet I’ll be watching everything they do. I also applaud the producers here for supporting these two on this project. I can only dream of what they COULD have done with “It.” As it is, I am not a huge fan.
A shout out must go to Matt Greenburg for crafting the screenplay. He did Reign of Fire which I really enjoyed. He has some other films under his belt he’s done that are quite impressive: “Seventh Son” and “Halloween H20.” Clearly this project required a talented writer. I loved some of the carefully made changes. They are actually more nods to the original film rather than just detail changes. Here at the beginning, let’s take a look at this cast and see how it stacks up to horror. Jason Clark plays the father/husband in this. He does a pretty good job overall. How do I say this respectfully and delicately? Clark lacks the range in my opinion to play what this role requires. When he is tender with his wife and family his face looks exactly the same as when he is obsessing. There are a couple scenes where it’s hard to know if he is a secretive killer (even though most people know the character he playing well from the book from the prior film). I saw an interview with Clark where he spoke about (in his thick Australian accent) how his personal focus in the role was to show people his fatherly, loving relationship with his daughter, wife and son, and then let them react to what happens bad in the movie. I think he said the right things but his facial expressions and demeanor never really changed it seems and it did seem out of place when he did the things he did before and then later in the film as well.
An actor with a somewhat more calming and happy countenance might have improved the role I think. It’s important we really identify and like the protagonist in this story. I feel Clark is miscast in this role.
Amy Seimetz is a better casting choice. She plays the cuddling wife that truly relies on her husband. She is recovering from the trauma of the death of her sister and this weighs heavy on her moods and most importantly, prevents her from finding peace in her life. I think her character shows the largest moral in this story. When we lose a pet or a loved one, the natural course of grieving should eventually allow them to “rest in peace.” The inability to let them go interrupts that process and people get, well “strange.” They can, in fact, go mad. This is where Stephen King’s phrase “Sometimes dead is better.” fits in nicely to the main idea of the movie: Let the dead go! BUt Seimetz is a fresh place of relief in this movie. She represents more innocence than anyone, even though she feels so guilty for Zelda’s death.
Jeté Laurence is a ray of sunshine in this. She already has a lot of acting work on her resume The Snowman (2017), The Americans (2013) and Jessica Jones (2015). This young one has been listening to the grownups! She has some acting chops that are devastatingly sharp. Not only is she very cute but she knows how to play ugly too. She plays a much deeper and wider role in this than the actor plays in the original.