Pet Sematary provides a fresh take on the source material with mixed results

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Pet Sematary provides a fresh take on the source material with mixed results

photo courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com

photo courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com

photo courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com

photo courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com

Jared Ferguson, contributing writer

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The suspenseful works of Stephen King have seen numerous film adaptations in the past few decades with mixed results, but directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have decided to tackle producing a modern take on the novel “Pet Sematary,” which offers a remake that is interesting but also disappointing.

The plot follows Dr. Louis Creed (played by Jason Clarke), who has moved to an isolated house in Maine with his family, located near a mysterious cemetery for animals. However, soon Louis discovers after burying the family cat in a closed off area of the land, that the graveyard has mysterious powers to reanimate anything that is buried in it. Unfortunately, Louis tragically learns through horrifying circumstances that whatever the graveyard revives only returns as a shadow of their former selves with a lust for violence, leading to an intense but also tragic story.

It should be noted that this film is not the first attempt at adapting King’s original story, with the original being released in 1989. On the surface, both films deal with the exact same premise, but in the second halves, deviate considerably in their climaxes, which will inevitably cause tension between fans of the original and this modern adaptation. Without spoiling the actual deviations themselves, critically, the execution is incredibly mixed.

As a point of acclaim, this film actually improves on the original in terms of capturing the sheer scope of the tragedy and heartbreak of the climax through more adequate development of the story. The film’s cinematography is excellent in capturing the feelings of isolation of the Creed’s home and the eerie atmosphere of the mysterious titular graveyard with excellent visuals and more grotesque, horrifying effects for the violence. Due to technological limitations at the time of the original’s release, its visuals are not comparable to the modern update.

However, as a point of criticism, this modern retelling of “Pet Sematary” suffers considerably from pacing issues in the first half caused by the filmmakers’ prioritization of style over substance. The film’s crux would undoubtedly be the lead character, Louis Creed. While Clarke gives an excellent performance with the material provided, Creed fails at being a sympathetic or deep character to carry the film’s events. Creed’s wife in the film is a far more interesting character due to her tragic backstory of witnessing the grotesque death of a family member shaping her default fear of isolation in her family’s new home, but as she is not the focus of the film, her scenes ultimately can be seen as a way of padding out the film’s runtime.

This bland lead causes a first half that is visually appealing but also less interesting from a written perspective. However, the second half of “Pet Sematary” is incredibly well-executed due to excellent suspense, performances and terrifying visuals. The ending in particular is one of the more chilling endings in recent horror film history and will certainly resonate with many viewers.

“Pet Sematary” is ultimately a mixed bag. While the film has decent atmosphere and performances, at the same time it does not quite capture a consistent level of heart that drives a consistently terrifying horror film. However, the film’s second half alone is worth the price of admission, but audiences should be aware of the bland journey to said second half before the viewing.