A dark and violent reboot of the 1989 thriller based on one of Stephen King’s most sinister novels, “Pet Sematary” has a new twist and is jam-packed with jolting scares.
Co-created by directing duo Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (“Starry Eyes,” “Absence”), “Pet Sematary” is proof the two have mastered unpredictability in a plot. Similar to most of King’s stories, an everyday American family is met with a unique kind of terror.
“Pet Sematary” opens with Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) moving from Boston to rural Maine — a common setting for Maine-native King — with their two kids Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Lucas Lavoie). With the Creeds new house directly off a highway, a semi-truck loudly zooms past in the eerily quiet town to unsettle audiences right off the bat.
Shortly after the film begins, Rachel and her daughter, Ellie, walk through a thick forest and run into marching children wearing animal masks. Following the masked children — who would likely give anyone the heebie jeebies — Ellie stumbles upon the pet cemetery that triggers her innocent inquiry of death.
After Ellie was assured by her parents that death is nothing to worry about, her father, Louis, finds their cat, Church, tangled up on the side of the road after being hit by a car. Jim (John Lithgow), the Creed’s overly friendly neighbor, makes the reckless decision to bring Louis to a special burial ground past the pet sematary.
Unbeknownst to Louis, the ghostly twilight burial ground will bring the dead cat crawling back into the window of young, mourning Ellie.
Louis works at his new job as a college campus doctor and witnesses a particularly gory death of a young man after being hit by a car. He soon realizes burying the cat in the strange grounds was a deadly mistake when he’s haunted by the unidentified character he tried to rescue. “The ground is sour” the bloody ghost warns and induces many squeamish scares.
The evil energy also affects Rachel, causing her to dig into her childhood when she took care of her sick, deformed sister who died in the most gruesome, eye-covering way.
Gage plays an irrelevant role in the film, despite his big role in the 1989 version. But his mesmerizing, big blue eyes are enough reason for his presence.
While there are some supernatural scares in the beginning, it’s the chilling flashbacks of Rachel’s traumatic childhood that’ll have viewers springing out of their seats. The film focuses on psychological torture more than gore. It depicts past traumas so horrific they make the heart-wrenching family tragedy even more shocking.
Watching the characters go through their own personal, psychological hells shows off the actors’ abilities, specifically from Seimetz and 11-year-old Laurence.
Seimetz’s character crumbles when confronted with death and slowly loses her sanity as she screams at her horrifying hallucinations of past trauma. Understandably distraught throughout the whole film, her character is someone viewers might want to fight for as they watch her truly pitiful breakdowns.
Laurence plays an innocent and curious little girl who loves her cat. She brings way more to the table than your average child actor in a horror film by playing the biggest part and becoming a fully developed character. She searches for the meaning of death and sinisterly finds the answer. It’s Laurence that makes “Pet Sematary” bring the dark theme of inevitable death in full circle
“Pet Sematary” flowed smoothly despite many moving parts and successfully developed characters as relatable personalities while keeping each scene thrilling.
A few humorous lines brought laughs, but the film overall failed to include comic relief that eased the tension, growing banal over time. Early on, it was apparent no scenes were safe because of the constant jump scares that began with the foreshadowing semi-truck.
There’s little to no exposition but it quickly delivers the jump scares promised in trailers. Each jolting scare carefully works with the plot, proving exceptional writing.
“Pet Sematary” proves King’s presence in horror film is still strong. Though exhausting to watch at times, the scarefest is worth the ticket, as it’s guaranteed to creep out any audience.
“Pet Sematary,” rated R, is now playing in theaters nationwide.