Remake of horror classic doesn’t live up to the original
By: Travis Noriega- Flare Entertainment Editor
Let us start with an annotated version of today’s review. The 2019 remake of the 1989 horror classic, Pet Sematary, while having some incredibly well executed sequences, well framed shots and a few great performances (namely the ever-impressive John Lithgow) fails to justify its own creation or most of the changes it made to the original film and the original Stephen King novel. I recommend this film for anyone who is a horror fan as the horror segments in the film are well done and also for anyone who can sit through a slow first 20-30 minutes for a decent pay off. I do think the horror segments in this film are better than the 1989 film which may be enough for some people, but the entire experience was worse than the original.
For those of you who want more elaboration on the points made above, let us continue, by separating the goods and bads of the film. Beginning with the bads — The Creed family made up of father, Louis (played by Jason Clarke), mother, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), older sister, Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and younger brother, Gage (Lucas Lavoie), don’t feel like a family. Clarke doesn’t make the audience believe he is a father who loves his family; thus we don’t believe he would take the drastic measures he does later in the film for his family. I feel this way, in spite of a heavy-handed bedroom exposition scene dedicated to telling the audience how much he loves his family. The family and their situation are largely unchanged from the original novel and film. They have moved to Ludlow, Maine, for Louis’ new job as a doctor at a local college; their new home is also close to a road where 18-wheelers frequently speed by. Also located near their property is the titular “Pet Sematary” which holds a dark secret. There are a handful of added caveats, such as the family moving from Boston as opposed to moving from Chicago, however most of these are incredibly arbitrary and have no real impact on the film. One of the new choices that does have an impact are the aforementioned semi-trucks speeding down the road in front of the family’s house — their noise and presence now elevated to the most obnoxious of jump scares.
The mother’s backstory is more present in the remake, however certain changes to it do not make a lot of sense. Her character has also undergone several questionable plot changes, going from a mother who wants to spare her children any knowledge of death due to childhood trauma, into a vaguely spiritual emotional wreck. Her performance is overall decent. The only child performance that matters is Ellie’s. Laurence doesn’t bring much to the table in the first half of the film but once the film begins in earnest, her performance does elevate itself greatly with a few scenes not exactly hitting their mark.
In the remake, the minor character of Victor Pascow (played by (Obssa Ahmed), a student at the college Louis is working at, had his involvement in the story so drastically reduced it begged the question why he was left in at all. And Ahmed’s performance doesn’t make his few scenes worth it.
Some other scenes made their way into this film without serving a purpose. A procession of children in animal masks making their way to pet sematary to bury a dog, meant to introduce us to the titular location but raise more questions in retrospect. A scene of Louis doing an internet search on the town, reinforcing the motif of animal masks without giving a real reason for it. The Native American spirit known as the Wendigo that was in the original novel is also included in 2019 remakes as it was excluded from the 1989 film. Despite giving a name to the evil behind the events in the film it doesn’t do much for the film.
Let’s continue on to the good things about Pet Sematary 2019.
The opening sequence was fantastic and managed to be different from the original film. Lithgow’s performance as Jud the kindly neighbor was good even if his character writing was inconsistent. The dream sequences and flashbacks all look much better visually and are presented in a more interesting way than the original film. When the horror starts the film does a fantastic job of keeping the tone and atmosphere right where they need to be. The pacing of the horror segments was great as well I never felt like anything was dragging on for too long. Finally, the ending of the film manages to be just as bleak as the 1989 film and the original novel, while also making just a little more sense as well. If you are a fan of dark endings than the remake does not disappoint. Overall the remake of Pet Sematary was a mixed bag, with some really effective and enjoyable moments coupled with some incredibly annoying decisions. I imagine it will divide critics and audiences alike, just as it did me.