Saturday 13 April 2019

Film Review: Pet Sematary

If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. Stephen King's Pet Sematary is adapted for the silver screen for the second time, with mixed results.

Often referred to as Stephen King's darkest work, Pet Sematary has been adapted to film before in 1989. I haven't read the book or seen the previous film, so I wasn't sure what to expect going in – was this going to be on par with something like It or fall short like Sleepwalkers?

Like umpteen horror films before it, Pet Sematary opens with a seemingly normal family moving into a seemingly normal house.

Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) are relocating from bustling Boston to rural Maine with their two children Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) in tow. Looking for a change of pace, the family learn their new abode neighbours a creepy cemetery for beloved family pets – which, you know, should have been mentioned in the online listing at the very least.

Spooky stuff starts to encroach on the family's lives, but it's not until Ellie's beloved cat Church is squashed by a speeding truck that things start to fall apart for real. The cemetery may hold the secret to bringing Church back – but as Louis is about to find out, some things are better off dead.

2019's Pet Sematary is proof that sometimes a good concept can only stretch so far. A mystical cemetery that brings things back to life, only twisted and vengeful, should work no problem. However, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer sort of skirt around some the more interesting angles and instead revert to familiar horror movie territory. Something strange and spooky happens, Louis creeps through the house to see what's going on, all noise drains from the score until BANG, something lurches from the darkness and races through the frame.

A subplot concerning Rachel's traumatic childhood feels pulled from a different film, and while it adds to her character, it ultimately leads nowhere. Clarke gets to share a lot of scenes with John Lithgow's neighbour character Jud, and while this dynamic had the potential to be something special, it also feels undercooked.

The Verdict: 5/10

Undeniably chilling, but Pet Sematary kinda left me cold. Granted, not many horror films are designed to leave you feeling warm and rosy – but this one doesn't do enough to make you care for its central characters before all hell lets loose. Once it does, you're kinda rooting for them to suffer.

Pet Sematary is in cinemas across Australia now.

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