Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Stephen King adaptations tend to be incredibly divisive when they come out. Either they are universally as some of the best horror adaptations of the decade or they turn audiences off either due to poor filmmaking or making drastic changes to the source material. In Pet Sematary, there’s definitely some division over the way it was adapted from the book, but honestly it works very for what it sets out to accomplish. Hardcore King fans may have an issue with the directorial or writing choices, but as a standalone movie, Pet Sematary is gory, frightening, and the type of movie that will stay with you for quite some time.
The film follows The Creed family led by the father Louis (Clarke) and mother Rachel (Seimetz) as they move from Boston to Maine for Louis’ job. When they arrive in Maine, their neighbor Jud (Lithgow) tells them about the property they’ve bought and some of the quirks about it. The main one being the pet cemetery (spelled sematary), a place where the children of the town bury their pets who have recently died. What the Creed family doesn’t know is that the cemetery has supernatural powers far beyond anything they could ever imagine. As with many other Stephen King adaptations, the real power of this movie comes from the fear it instills right from the beginning. It tends to be a bit of a slower burn towards the beginning, and I’ll admit I was turned off by how slow the movie was coming along. However, once the second half hits the horror doesn’t stop for the rest of the movie. One scene in particular had me audibly gasping while I watched as I imagined myself as the victim of the situation and started wincing. King adaptations traditionally are very visually shocking and disturbing and the second half of Pet Sematary lives up to these expectations. The thing that I think most people who have seen this movie will talk about is the ending and how it deviates from the source material. Personally, I liked the way this movie handled the end because the world was established where the ending would make sense. King novels are known for instilling a feel of dread and despair to the audience and this adaptation absolutely accomplishes it. I left the theater feeling absolutely horrible and this a testament to how well the movie conveyed those ideas. Once again if you loved the original story and ending you’re probably going to end up angrier than a more casual viewer, but with every adaptation you have to take some sort of creative liberties as not everything translates well from the page to the screen. Ideas need to be taken into context and in the context of this film the ideas work out just fine. As for the acting, Clarke continues to show us how he is Hollywood’s best, “good but not great,” actor. He holds down his role pretty well, but doesn’t do anything really exceptional in the role. I’m curious how he develops after this movie as he tends to pick smaller roles in critically acclaimed movies. I don’t see him breaking out and getting that award-calabre role, but we’ll just have to wait and see how his career develops after this.
Overall, Pet Sematary is yet another solid addition to the catalog of Stephen King adaptations. While not as good as classic ones like The Shining or modern hits like It, Pet Sematary successfully tells its story from an angle we haven’t seen before. While it may not even be the best King adaptation this year with It Chapter Two and Doctor Sleep coming out later this year, Pet Sematary still shows us that if you put a good King book in front of talented people, you’ll end up with a final project that lives up to the hype.
Overall Score: 7.5/10