PET SEMATARY. (2019) BASED ON THE 1983 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY KEVIN KOLSCH AND DAVID WIDMYER. STARRING JOHN LITHGOW, JASON CLARKE AND AMY SEIMETZ. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © ‘Sometimes, dead is better…’ I didn’t much care for this re-make of the 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name. This book is probably one of the most beloved of all of the horror maestro’s weighty tomes, along with CARRIE, THE SHINING, SALEM’S LOT and MISERY. Although, in fairness, Stephen King wrote a lot of books and they all have their fans. The ones I mentioned are some of my own favourites, lol, along with CUJO, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, CHRISTINE, THE TOMMY-KNOCKERS and a fantastic book of short stories entitled NIGHT SHIFT. Again though, he’s penned a load of brilliant short stories and novellas as well as full-length books, and so many of them have already been made into films. He’s an amazing writer, with a glittering back catalogue. So jealous…! Long live the King. Anyway, why didn’t I like this particular adaptation of the famous book? Well, I love the book and the 1989 film, both of which had heart, soul and good, authentic scares. Also, the 1989 film had the adorable Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster, as a staunchly believable Jud Crandall. In the re-make, though respected actor John Lithgow undoubtedly does his very best, it’s just not the same. They’ve tweaked the plot a bit too, which I wasn’t happy about as I loved the book and the original film so much. We still have the Creeds, though, a doctor’s family, moving from Boston to a town in Maine and discovering that they have, of all things, a burial ground for pets somewhere towards the back of their property. They don’t seem to have researched their own property too much this time around! Dad of the family, Louis Creed, gets to explore a bit of the Pet Sematary by night courtesy of the spirit of Victor Pascow, a student at the university hospital where Louis works. Victor dies horribly near the start of the film, and his spirit seems to have a message it wants to pass on to Dr. Creed . What’s that you say, Victor? The ground out by the Pet Sematary is sour? No shit, Sherlock, lol. I wouldn’t bury any moggy of mine there, I’ll tell you that for nothing… Anyway, when little Ellie Creed’s beloved pet cat Churchill gets run over on the dangerous road beside their house and dies, kindly old next-door neighbour Jud Crandall lets Louis in on a devastating secret about the Pet Sematary. To cut a long story short, Church comes back from the dead. But he’s not himself. And that’s not all. Did you know that you can bury more than just pets in the Pet Sematary…? You shouldn’t, but you still can… They’ve changed the Zelda scenes in this film a little bit, but I think it’s still safe to say that good old Zelda will give you nightmares once more. Rachel, the mom, is severely traumatised from her childhood experiences with her sick sister, and she’ll never be able to cope and move on unless she gets some serious therapy. That bit is really highlighted in this re-make. Mrs. Creed is super, super-screwed up, more than we even knew. One part where they got it absolutely spot-on is the bit where Ellie ‘comes back’ but she’s ‘not quite right.’ I got genuine shivers at the scene where the dad is bathing the little girl and her hair is tangly and he sees the Frankenstein-like stitches in the back of her head that were put in by the funeral home… Then, when the child just turns plain evil and starts trashing the place, they lose me again. Ah well. It was good while it lasted…! There was an opportunity for some good folk horror with the kids wearing the animal masks walking in a solemn procession to the Pet Sematary; maybe they could have done a bit more with that and had the whole town in on the gruesome secret of the pet graveyard or something like that, but maybe they felt they had enough on their hands with the Creed family, I don’t know. The film also raises the issue of how to talk to children about the delicate topic of death. I don’t mean How to Break the News of a Death; the Christmas episode of FATHER TED has that covered. Priest Number One: Your husband’s gone, and he’s not coming back, get used to it! Priest Number Two: Remember how your husband used to love a good laugh…? No, I mean the whole thing of where do you tell the kids their deceased loved ones or pets have gone to when they’ve died? The mum and dad in the film have differing views on the subject, so it might have been useful if they’d had a chat about the whole thing and gotten their metaphysical ducks in a row before their young ‘uns experienced the demise of a pet for the first time. It’s just a thought…! I’d never advise a Stephen King fan not to watch a certain film or adaptation. This isn’t a bad film per se; I just didn’t dig it personally, and I found it rather lacking in good spooky atmosphere, which the original film had in spades. Maybe it looked good on the big screen and felt a bit more atmospheric then than just me watching it on Netflix did. Make up your own minds, anyway. A Stephen King adaptation is a Stephen King adaptation, after all, and better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick any day, as we say here in Ireland. Enjoy it, and, listen, before I forget, don’t bother trying to use the dumbwaiter for the moment, will you? I think it’s broken…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: