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‘Pet Sematary’ Review

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Sometimes…dead is better. Sometimes…remade is better. “Pet Sematary” follows the Creed family. After living in the big city, the family moves to Maine, hoping to spend more time together. After tragedy befalls the family, Louis and Jud (a next door neighbor) perform an unwise task, setting off a merciless chain reaction that unleashes a supernatural force. Kevin Kölsch’s and Dennis Widmyer’s (the duo behind “Starry Eyes”) film is a success. Quite frankly, it is one of the finest cinematic Stephen King adaptations.

The performances are phenomenal. Jason Clarke plays Louis Creed, the father. Louis is at peace with his secular beliefs, and comes off as a rough and rugged male, capable of holding his own. Eventually, Louis’ secular beliefs are thrown in his face. Luckily, Clarke, an experienced actor, wonderfully brings this ideological shift to cinematic life. Amy Seimetz plays Rachel Creed, the mother. Seimetz successfully portrays a loving figure, struggling to keep her past demons at bay. Seimetz’s warmth is evident right away, and as a result, her character becomes likable before we even see her dark past. As the sinister flashbacks come into play, Seimetz becomes a character of immense internal torture. Her past is the stuff of nightmares.

Clarke’s and Seimetz’s chemistry is top notch. The film doesn’t romanticize their cinematic relationship. After all, every real-life relationship has its problems. In this case, we get a healthy relationship, filled with love, laughter and communication. But underneath everything, each partner has differing worldviews, which means that they are going to clash from time to time. Kölsch and Widmyer understand that King’s creative power comes from his fully developed protagonists, equally likable but flawed nonetheless.

While the characters continually shine, Kölsch and Widmyer build a haunting atmosphere that points to inevitable suffering. There is the messy cemetery, indicating that innocence will be lost. There are immovable semi-trucks that look like mechanical beasts. There is the horrific state of a young student, pointing to the facets of unexpected tragedy. Lastly, there are haunting flashbacks that seem to be activated by the supernatural Maine location. In one scene, a past experience is set in the Maine household, a place connected to unprecedented evil. It is evident that the force instigates trouble.

John Lithgow plays Jud, a Maine resident. Lithgow is an actor with phenomenal range, and here, he plays a character filled with emotional instability. With his feeble external nature and unparalleled warmth, Lithgow creates a character of immense relatability. We love Jud, because he has an exceptional heart, but his internal torment is heartbreaking. Jud is proof that at times, suffering reduces logic. Suffering makes people desperate and in turn, unchecked desperation can snowball, resulting in horrific consequences.

Make no mistake about it…this film is not a rehash of the novel or 1989 film adaptation. The directing duo knows that Mary Lambert already made a great version of King’s novel. Thus, they do not want to retell the same story, beat by beat. As a matter of fact, they want to craft a fresh story, full of surprises and alterations. Even with the narrative changes, Kölsch and Widmyer manage to stay true to King’s dark themes and aesthetic. King aficionados will be pleased.

Like King’s novel, this film deals with the taboo nature of death. In the film, the characters fail to accept death. As a result, they bring torment upon themselves. It’s a reminder that death should be accepted. The term is an inevitable/natural part of life. By understanding our own mortality, every day becomes precious. Yes, death is a sad concept, but life is wonderful. We should set our sights toward a full life, an experience that influences others long after death. Like King’s novel, this film reminds us that our inability to accept loss/death can destroy us. Mourning over a loved one is natural, but the consumption of darkness makes us shells of our former selves.

By accepting the dark themes of King’s work, we get a tale of unrelenting tragedy, hinting at the notion that sometimes redemption is unattainable. Sometimes, darkness endures. Yes, this narrative is dire, but as a whole, the dark elements perfectly parallel the therapeutic nature of horror, a genre that allows us to be entertained, while also going through situations that subtly connect to our fears. The film is not perfect. At times, it delves into unnecessary instances of exposition, a cinematic aspect that becomes very repetitive. Occasionally, it feels like we are part of a classroom, listening to an obvious and untimely lesson. At a certain point, the film stalls, but luckily, the third act gets the narrative back on track. Check out this film, but leave your pets at home!

My Grade: A

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected].

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