I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
Published April 12th 2019
Sometimes, a different film is better
Pet Sematary is a new adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel of the same name. The book is one of King's most known stories and has been turned into a movie once before, in 1989.
The movie is directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, neither of whom are experienced film directors. It stars Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys), Amy Seimetz (Stranger Things) and John Lithgow (The Crown, Footloose). The film runs for 101 minutes and is rated MA for violence. The film is a horror film.
Pet Sematary (yes, the spelling is deliberately incorrect), tells the story of a family, lead by Louis (Clarke), who move to a new house in the country, only to discover it has a cemetery on its grounds that can raise things from the dead. When their cat is run over by a passing truck, their neighbour (Lithgow) shows Louis a place in which the cat can be buried, which unknown to Louis, will bring the cat back from the dead. Also unknown to Louis, is that when something is brought back, it doesn't come back the same. It is a simple premise and one that should be able to be turned into an effectively scary movie. Whilst this movie is heavy in creepy atmosphere, it fails to really deliver as a horror.
Like many film adaptations of Stephen King's work, the film sets up a macabre tone from the start, leaving the audience feeling a little uncomfortable. This film mostly achieves that through having very little in the way of musical score, and instead, using lots of low frequency ambient noise that is dissonant and unpleasant. Turning to this so early in the film effects one's ability to connect with the characters. The story could have spent much more time setting up who the family was before leading us down a dark path into creepy territory. The additional focus on a side story involving a tragedy in Rachel's (Seimetz) past, doesn't help the audience invest in what is currently happening.
Whilst the film is quick to get to the darker aspects of the story, it is not quick to get to do a lot with them, and the film plods along in long sequences of slow walking through extremely dark corridors and basements. A reliance on jump scares weakens much of the effect of the story's scary elements. The use of extreme darkness is distracting and felt like a way of cutting costs more than anything. Some of the sets, such as the real pet cemetery, looked very unrealistic and visually uninspired.
The cast is solid, with Clarke likeable as Louis the father and Seimetz showing good control in the more emotionally fragile role as Rachel, the mother. Lithgow of course cruises through his role as the neighbour, shouldering a lot of the exposition, but giving it some weight. Young Jete Laurence is also very good as daughter Ellie, playing a very large role within the story.
The film doesn't manage to build up the character of Louis and present him with enough cause to undertake many of the actions he takes throughout. As with many horror movies, the plot relies on characters being unintelligent in their choices when presented with certain situations. There are a few changes to the original plot, especially how the movie ends. The ending feels somewhat cliché and was based off test audience response, which is rarely the way to go with artistic choices.
The third act doesn't bring the payoff's needed, as the previous two acts haven't successfully created enough real tension through good storytelling, rather using sound and occasional jump scares or gore to work the audience. As we aren't really invested, we're not ready to go along with much of what the film tries to do, and leaving the ending feeling very underwhelming.