Firstly, let’s make it known that I’ve not read the source material this is based on, nor have I seen the original film so there will be no comparison between any of them. I am a fan of Stephen King though and genuinely try and follow and his film and TV adaptions. Pet Sematary had somehow slipped by me so I went into the screening knowing very little about it, except that something had changed from the original source (Obviously I didn’t know what that was at the time!).
So for those of you that don’t know the story behind Pet Sematary, let’s give you a brief summary of it. Dr. Louis (Played by Jason Clarke) and his family have moved to a new home out in the woodlands. The movie slowly sets the story with the mum, Rachel (Played by Amy Seimetz) and her 8-year-old daughter, Ellie (Played by Jeté Laurence) going into the woods after hearing some ‘drums’. They then see some children go past in animal masks carrying a dead dog as part of a procession. Sometime later we follow Ellie go into the woods to explore it, before stumbling across the Pet Sematary.
It is what it says – a graveyard full of pets. She then tries climbing up this tree barrier (or some kind of barrier?) before part of it broke and she fell. An old man called Jud (Played by John Lithgow) befriends her and the family. Time moves pretty quickly, with the film telling you about Rachel’s childhood and how she blames herself for her sister’s death. It then jumps to Halloween (it’s a horror, Halloween had to be somewhere right?) before Jud shows Louis the body of the family cat, Church, who had been run over.
You can see where this is going right? Yes! That’s right, the same night they go to the Pet Sematary to bury Church. Is it pitch black with torches? You bet ya! It’s not long before creepy old man Jud tells Louis to follow him over the barrier and through the woods and up these funny looking stairs. He tells him to the bury the cat here instead, which he does as told. The next day the cat is alive. Dun Dun DUUUUN! I won’t go into any more details about the film plot as to avoid telling you what happens, but I do have to say the story is very predictable and at no point was I surprised at what happened. Oh, and stay away from the final trailer, because that just shows you everything that is going to happen! (I viewed the trailer after the film, so nothing was spoilt for me!)
So where to start about Pet Sematary? For me, the best part of the film was Jason Clarke. He is a bit of an underrated actor, but in this movie, he was top notch. You could see him throughout the film as a rational thinking doctor, before slowly questioning things throughout the movie, before becoming slightly mad by the end. On top of this, Amy Seimetz played Rachel well, and with her childhood story coming into full force by the end of the movie, you could really feel the terror she had faced come from the actress.
Jeté Laurence’s role was a bit more interesting in the movie. I thought in the first half she was a bog standard child actress with nothing new to show, but in the second half, she really brought something different to the movie. If only she showed her acting range all the way through, then it would have been even better.
As I mentioned as well is the story. Okay, it is based on a Stephen King novel and there is only so much you can do with an adaption. At points, the story pacing felt slow and took a while before anything worthwhile happened, and when it did, it was predictable. It featured the horror movie clichés and the jump scares that you’d expect to find. The setting for the film really helped cement the horror though and at times when they walked through the woods, it was really eerie.
There are parts of the story that seem to be put there for no reason, for example, Jud explains to Louis about the Wendigo and that time long ago, people feared it and built that barrier to keep people away. Do we ever see the Wendigo or a creature in the forest? Ummm, no. Towards the end of the movie as well, the son in the film started seeing the appearance of a ‘ghost’. I’m still not too sure why. Maybe I missed something or it just wasn’t explained clearly enough, I understood why Louis saw it, but no idea why the 2-year-old did.
I also felt the pacing of the movie was slightly off, with the story being quite slow. Okay, you might say it’s building the tension, but there is building the tension and then there is just losing interest. This was borderline losing interest. Another note about the pacing was the time jumps. You could never really tell how long had passed between most scenes, first they moved in, then the procession, then the Sematary, then Jud is having dinner with the family, then the cat is dead and so on and so on. How long would have passed for Jud to be having dinner with the family? Quite a while right, but the film never makes note of that. The second half of the movie follows the same pacing issues also.
Overall Pet Sematary was a pretty standard viewing. There was nothing to set it apart from other films in this genre and it won’t be long before it is forgotten. The story is very predictable and takes you nowhere you haven’t been before. A lot of horror clichés are featured within the film, and it’s not long before you wonder when the next ‘jump scare’ will happen.
On a more positive note, Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and John Lithgow really shine in this movie and make it a lot more enjoyable than it should be. Sometimes horror can be cheesy at times, but due to the incredible acting, it felt far from it. You could really feel the fear coming from Seimetz the majority of the time.
I would recommend giving it a watch though, but with a lot of horrors, just don’t expect too much. It won’t give you any more or any less than what you will expect from it. Just sit back and enjoy the adaption of this Stephen King novel!