‘Pet Sematary’ should have taken its own advice, “sometimes dead is better”
From book to film to remade film, Pet Sematary has had an extensive life. Extensive, though, does not always mean good. The 2019 adaptation of Pet Sematary had some high points and fresh ideas, but for the most part, it was purely jump scares and blood spatter.
Pet Sematary is about a family of four moving to a small town in order to get a fresh start on life, Louis Creed (the father) repeats many times that they moved so he would have more time to spend with his family, although little background is given. Rachel, Louis, and their children, Ellie and Gage, moved out to the country with their cat, Church. The Creed family buy a large plot of land containing a mysterious area that local children frequently visit known as the “Pet Sematary.” Their friendly neighbor, Jud Crandall, appears there and explains the history and meaning behind the cemetery and the other quirks of the town.
The movie begins with a very corny scene. There is a bloody handprint on the open car door, following a trail of blood and footprints to the front door of the Creed home while stereotypical ominous music plays in the background. Telling a story but beginning at the end and circling back to how the end came to be was an original idea at one point, but at this point, it has been overdone, over-seen, and is just plain boring. The next scene is of the family arriving in the new town and climbing out of the car only to have a semi driving at a recklessly high-speed on the road in front of their home. This was obvious foreshadowing that was actually done semi-tastefully, aside from it being the first of many jump-scares.
It’s safe to say that the beginning of the film did not have me convinced that I would enjoy the rest, and I was right.
In the original film rendition of Pet Sematary, Gage, the son of the Creed family, is hit by a semi going far too fast on a small-town back road. In the 2019 version, Gage is saved from the truck and Ellie, the 9-year-old daughter is hit and killed. This did make for an interesting change because while the death of a child in any circumstance is horrifying, the thought of a zombified 9-year-old is scarier than a zombified toddler. At 9, Ellie could hold a conversation, had more motor skills, and had more of an opportunity to be scary than a toddler did.
As far as the actual horror aspect of the film goes, it was all jump scares. It felt like every few minutes, something had the potential to be genuinely scary, but that tension is ruined by a jump scare. Jump scares are the cheapest and most overused kind of scare, and they are truly are just a way to pass a movie off as horror. An occasional jump scare is a totally fine way to give thrills and chills in a film, as long as you mix them in with different horror aspects like suspense, music, blood, and death. While there is plenty of blood and death in the film, they rarely happen without jump scares, so they don’t even have a chance to scare you because the cheesiness of the jump scare makes the scenes nearly laughable.
Many aspects of the film remained the same, which was enjoyable and nostalgic, especially as someone who first saw Pet Sematary as a child. While the original 1989 film was cheesy in the way that most 80s horror films were, this film is cheesy in the worst of ways. When a movie is remade, the expectation is that the film itself will improve with better visuals and content, like the remake of the IT movie. Now, both Stephen King classics are remade, one a huge success and the other… not so much. IT brought new ideas, thoughts, and terrors to the franchise, while the new Pet Sematary brought sadness and cheap scares.
The general plot felt muddled in the sense that everyone (aside from the children) has a deep backstory that is almost never spoken of or explained. Jud and his wife, Nora, seem to have a history with the rotten ground behind the cemetery that isn’t ever unraveled. We never find out the horrors that Louis saw as a doctor that led him to make the decision to move away, and while the story of Rachel and her sick sister is told, it is never fully explained. This is prevalent because when the rotten ground brings people back, it brings them back as a demonic form in their bodies, and the demons tend to have some sort of relationship to the backstory of the character they’re interacting with. Like the rest of the movie, it all just feels rushed and slapped together by an act of half-hearted necromancy.
Featured Image: IMDb
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