Release Date: March 16th, 2019 (SXSW)
Directed by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmayer
Written by: Jeff Buhler, Matt Greenberg
Based on: Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo & Lucas Lavoie
Di Bonaventura Pictures, Room 101 Inc., Paramount Pictures, 101 Minutes
“Hug your daughter.” – Louis Creed
I should preface this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the original Pet Sematary movie. It’s mostly okay and I do enjoy it but I don’t consider it a classic, as many people do.
This film made me appreciate the original and its sequel more, however. But that doesn’t mean I disliked this. It just felt mostly hollow and the things it changed didn’t feel necessary and actually made it less shocking and emotional than the original adaptation.
Now this could actually be closer to the book but I never read it. If that’s the case, I’ll give it a pass on its alterations. But that still doesn’t make it a better film than the two that preceded it.
The thing that is better in this movie is the acting. Top to bottom, the cast here is damn talented. And yes, John Lithgow is a more talented actor than the late, great Fred Gwynne but I still prefer Gwynne’s Jud. Still, Lithgow was solid.
The real scene stealer though was Jeté Laurence, the young daughter who dies and comes back from the dead. She was absolutely dynamite! And frankly, she carries scenes even when sharing them with actors that have been at this for decades longer.
On a side note, I liked the casting of twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie, as the young Gage. Mainly, because the kids looked a lot like a toddler aged Miko Hughes, who played Gage in the original.
The film has pretty good atmosphere and it does a decent job of building towards actual feelings of despair and dread. I think that also has a lot to do with a very capable cast pulling you into the proceedings.
But in the end, this doesn’t feel special, it doesn’t feel necessary and it doesn’t really stand on its own two feet. I feel like it was rushed out to capitalize off of the recent success of the It remake. While that’s okay, I would’ve rather seen a new Stephen King adaptation than another remake for the sake of cashing in on an already established property.
Even with all its moody, dark tones throughout nearly every scene, this couldn’t generate enough real darkness to really stand next to its visually lighter predecessor. The acting saves the film from being a disaster but it still isn’t enough to carry it on its own.
Maybe it lacks heart or maybe it just tried too hard. Either way, it’s a carbon copy with the contrast boosted too high and a much weaker resolution when looking at the details.
Pairs well with: the other Pet Sematary films and other modern Stephen King adaptations.