I love Stephen King and I adore his novel Pet Sematary. Personally, I find that it’s a novel that’s often overlooked whenever his other hits are brought up like The Shining, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, or It. But I think Pet Sematary is, in fact, King’s greatest career achievement. It’s a story that not only is arguably his scariest, but his most psychologically heartbreaking. I perceive the novel as more of a drama rather than a thriller and I think that’s what solidifies Pet Sematary as something recklessly different from King’s other “horror labeled” tales.
So, when I go into a Stephen King movie adaptation I expect a lot, especially a remake at that. The 2019 Pet Sematary remake neither hit my expectations nor severely dodge them. It’s a passable horror movie that features a hellishly chaotic first half, but a cajoling second half that scuffs off with an unnerving finale. But that narratively noxious first half man, really, really killed this movie for me.
This movie tries to cram and rush nearly every story element from Stephen King’s book into its initial 50 minutes, making its narrative feel gravely discombobulated. It’s likely to leave audiences who are not familiar with King’s source material perplexed and troubled by the excessive boatloads of exposition thrown at them. What’s worse is that the few aspects that the movie leaves out from the novel are the ones that are most crucial to making the film’s dramatic elements function—like the strong bond that’s heavily explored between Louis and Jud in the novel. This can cause the final product to seem emotionally void of character despite the traumatic situation presented at hand. The film should’ve just selected a few topics from the novel and explored those few topics in depth instead of shoving as much explication into its mythology as possible.
Luckily, the movie is filled with superb acting, even from the child actress who plays the daughter. Also, the fear factor and the nerve-racking atmosphere is undeniably alive and productive. And once that second half kicks in, oh boy, it does transfigure into a consuming ride.
Pet Sematary, all things considered, is a decent horror remake and a decent adaption of Stephen King’s legendary novel. In fact, the film is arguably a lot better than most of the horror schlock that we’re constantly treated with these days. But let’s be real here, Hereditary executed this story way better.
“Pet Sematary” is now playing in theaters.