A review of Pet Semetary by Ahmed Zayani
Has there ever been an author, past or present, whose name has been as synonymous with the horror genre as that of Stephen King’s? While wordsmiths like H.P. Lovecraft & Edgar Allan Poe are trailblazers of the industry, King took what they previously established to new heights that were thought as unimaginable at one point. Over the course of four decades, Stephen King has become “THE” name in horror fiction, with his earlier books considered to be modern classics of the genre while every new release is seemingly met with critical and commercial success that toppled the previous. It might not be a stretch to say that King may very well be the most successful author of our time regardless of genre. His foray into films, however, does leave a certain something to be desired. Sure, he did attain a certain amount of success with projects like The Shawshank Redemption and IT, but for every one of those home runs there is a counter argument with cinematic drivel such as Cell, The Langoliers, Gerald’s Game, and Sleepwalkers. The fact of the matter is that while King is, for lack of a better word, King in his own domain, translating his work to another medium has proven to be problematic at times. Some of this, as is the case with projects like Maximum Overdrive and Sleepwalkers, can be attributed to the author himself but in most situations it’s a clash of vision between the source and those attempting to translate his work to another medium, thereby adding truth to the notion that you can have too many cooks in the kitchen.
Directed by Kevin Kölsch & Denis Widmyer, Pet Semetary is the second film based on the titular 1983 Stephen King classic and tells the story of The Creeds, a family that decides to uproot from Boston (greatest city in the world BTW) in favour of a more peaceful, serene life in small town Maine. After befriending a curious neighbour in Judd (played by the always awesome John Lithgow) patriarch Louis (played by Jason Clarke) discovers that his dream house comes with a nefarious amenity; an ancient Indian burial ground in its backyard that seemingly raises whatever is buried in it back from the dead, a notion that comes into play when tragedy strikes. What I liked about this new iteration of Pet Semetary is that it tried to do something different from the original all the while maintained the same sense of familiarity.
Much has been said about the twist of the well known plot point that was sadly spoiled by the film’s trailer, for those who have yet to watch the film I will not spoil the change here but I will say that it was effective for the most part. The change allowed the story to become more fleshed out and thus add an extra emotional punch to the whole affair. However, this came to the detriment of the creepy unnerving atmosphere that the original created. This film also improved on the original in terms of the acting. It was a tall order to outshine the late great Fred Gwynne however John Lithgow was up for the challenge and in my humble opinion gave a more emotional and captivating performance. Lithgow is one of those actors that can seamlessly fit into any role he is given and he does so brilliantly here while adding a dose of class and grandeur to the proceedings. Complementing Lithgow is Jason Clarke as Louis Creed. While Clarke has had some questionable entries into his resume over the years this role will not be one of them. The man brought range to his role that I frankly did not expect of him & he made us feel what it’s like to be a parent going through the emotional turmoil of that situation. Outside of the key two players Jeté Laurence was one hell of a find and did a fantastic job in the demanding role of Ellie Creed while Amy Seimetz shined in her role as Rachel Creed. As a matter of fact, the only weak link in the whole film were the Lavoie twins as Gage Creed and that’s because Miko Hughes set the bar too high with his performance in the original.
While I did enjoy very ferociously enjoy the new version, it is still not without its faults. Personally, the third act came off as incredibly weak and certain aspects of the story were haphazardly rushed. This is odd considering how fleshed out the prior two acts were compared to the third. In contrast, the original film built to the third act much better despite having a shorter runtime. There was also a subplot concerning the mother that I wasn’t sold on. It felt racked on just to add one or two more jump scares and in the greater scheme of things added no value to the film what so ever. Had this been removed in favour of fleshing out the third act then the movie would’ve been much more memorable & impactful in my opinion. Additionally, I did not like the way the film ended. I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is another instance where the original did things much better.
Overall, Pet Semetary was a fun time at the movies but it sadly wasn’t the modern day classic ala IT: Chapter One people thought it would be. Still, I do recommend giving it a watch & making your own decision in the process.
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- Favorite Stephen King Films
- The Shawshank Redemption
- The Mist