‘Sometimes… dead is better’
The original Pet Sematary was quietly one of the most effective horror films of the ’80s, as well as causing little Robbie Johnson to have blood curdling nightmares as he lay on his side, clutching a fluffy gizmo doll. The hideous scenes in the original movie that feature the twisted and broken Zelda are as iconic as they are unforgettable, so the question is, as so often with these films, do we need a remake of Pet Sematary?
**mild spoilers ahead**
Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) Creed are a seemingly normal family who move from Boston to Maine, probably to escape the legacy of their uncle Apollo Creed, a famous boxer. Anyway, nobody is laughing when their young daughter Ellie (Jete Laurence) is hit by a truck, least of all the Creed’s next door neighbour ol’ Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) who had previously confided in Louis about an ancient Indian burial ground that brings the dead back to life.
The worst remakes of course are those that are just a bland retelling of the original. In order to improve on something, a fresh perspective must be applied. Just like how the bacon double cheeseburger is a masterful retelling of the beautiful story that is the plain old double cheeseburger, a film remake must be different enough from the source material to justify its own existence, while still remaining true to the original vision. Pet Sematary just about manages this by choosing to kill off the elder Creed sibling Ellie, rather than the toddler Gage. This is less shocking, but it does make sense in light of what comes later, especially when taking into account the fact that the third act of the original Pet Sematary is definitely the least effective.
In terms of scares, Kevin Kolsch’s remake kind of works but it does too often stray into Mike Flanagan territory. Kolsch does manage to build up an effective crescendo of dread however and this, complimented by some fine work from Jason Clarke and particularly John Lithgow, ensures that Pet Sematary is an enjoyable if unremarkable addition to the Stephen King filmography. Pet Sematary was always one of King’s darker novels, indeed, the master of horror himself claims it is the only book he ever wrote that actually scared him. Neither film adaptation has managed to capture the true visceral horror of King’s novel, but both the original and the remake have had a lot of fun trying, and both are successful in their own way.
For a list of the top ten Stephen King adaptations, click here.
For a list of the top ten Stephen King horror novels, try this one.