- A “Pet Sematary” remake is in theatres Friday.
- Stephen King’s story about a burial site that will bring the dead back to life is creepier and scarier than the book of the same name.
- The one-hour-and-40-minute movie breezes through much of King’s book to get to the good stuff.
- Jeté Laurence’s performance as Ellie Creed and a demon child brought back to life is what really makes this horror movie work. Some omissions and a rushed first act may leave book fans wanting more.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more great stories.
“Pet Sematary” is Stephen King’s latest story to get adapted into a movie.
The remake of the 1989 movie follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) as he moves his family from Boston up to, what he expects to be, quiet Ludlow, Maine.
What he doesn’t know is that there’s an ancient Indian burial ground on his property, which has the ability to bring the dead back to life. When tragedy strikes his family, Creed seeks solace in the Micmac burial ground, although he’s warned against it. He and his family quickly discover that, as the book suggests, sometimes dead is better.
What you should know: It’s a remake that’s different than the book and original movie, and may give you nightmares
The screenplay of the 1989 movie was written by Stephen King himself and he even had an appearance in the movie. This time around, King’s nowhere to be found. The new film is is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, who have worked together on other projects, including “Scream: The TV Series.”
In addition to Clarke in the lead, it also stars Amy Seimetz (“The Killing”) as Creed’s wife, Rachel, and John Lithgow as their neighbour, Jud. Jeté Laurence, who plays the Creeds’ daughter, Ellie, is the real star of the film in dual roles. The trailers have shown she plays both a lively, happy little girl and a spirit who will come back to life. Yes, this is a major switch from the book, which sees her younger 2-year-old brother killed.
The movie, while definitely creepier than the book, somehow managed to be both better and worse than the novel. If you’re a big fan of the books, a lot of changes have been made to speed up the story and ground it more in horror. If you’re squeamish about blood or gore, there are some grotesque moments here that may make you unsettled. The film definitely doesn’t hold back on the macabre. This is, after all, a story about death.
What’s hot: This movie is scarier than the book, the unexpected ending, and Jeté Laurence’s performance in dual roles
Have you read “Pet Sematary”? The book, albeit really good, moves painstakingly slow. King gives you enough detail to play a five-hour movie in your head; however, the main event of the book – the burying of a child past the Pet Sematary to bring them back to life – doesn’t occur until the final 40 pages of the nearly 400-page novel.
That’s where the movie excels.
The one-hour-and-40-minute movie breezes through much of King’s book to get to the good stuff. And when Ellie Creed comes back to life, Laurence commands all of your attention on screen as she transforms from a cheery and happy 9 year old to an inquisitive, possessed demon child.
One stand-out moment is when she asks her father where she has returned from and he’s paralysed and uncertain how to respond. The entire scene when she first returns home is one that had our theatre – filled with both press and fans – on edge.
For reference, the majority of King’s book is tame and an easy, compelling read. There are some grotesque images of an exposed brain early on and others of Rachel’s ill sister, but other than that, it’s a pretty easy-going book until the very end. The movie, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from moving up some of the book’s more unsettling reveals so that they’re earlier in the film. This includes showing twisted images of Rachel’s sister Zelda, which have been teased in trailers, early on in the film.
Without any spoilers, the entire third act of the movie differs substantially from the novel and this is where the movie is at its best. For full transparency, I read the majority of the book ahead of seeing the new film, except for the ending. I was really glad I waited because the movie’s end came as a surprise. If you’ve never read the book, which I highly recommend, the ending is completely different and will catch you off guard. If you think you know what’s going to happen, you don’t.
What’s not: The rushed pacing of the movie’s start, how the cat is dealt with, and some omissions from the book.
Unfortunately, the breezy length of the movie makes it a bit too fast-paced. The result is that a majority of the characters, except for Ellie who is the most developed, are hollow versions of themselves from the source material.
In the book, you’re very much in the mindset of Louis Creed. You can empathise with him here, but you don’t really get what makes him tick. In the book, he doesn’t come across as the nicest man at times. He has ugly thoughts about others and sometimes his wife. Their neighbour Jud ( a very good John Lithgow) comes across as more of a questionable, shady character with something to hide as opposed to the fatherly figure he instantly became to Louis in the novel.
Because of the rushed first half of the film, other things suffered, the greatest of which was the reincarnation of the family cat, Church. This becomes a big nightmare and nuisance to Louis. But during our screening, the cat was received as nothing more than a gag. The mangy fur ball received big laughs every time it appeared on screen and I can’t imagine that’s the reaction the filmmakers were going for.
Other things left out of the movie include Jud’s wife Norma, for the most part, and Louis’ very sour relationship with Rachel’s father. (Maybe that last one is for the best.)
Maybe I’m being too much of a stickler because I really enjoyed the book. At the day’s end, we’ve already seen that movie on screen. The original 1989 stayed extremely faithful to the novel. Fans looking for something fresh, unexpected, and new will find that in this remake.
Overall: “Pet Sematary” reinvents King’s worst “what if” nightmare in scary fashion.
If you’re looking for something to give you the creepy crawlies, “Pet Sematary” is definitely going to leave some unsettling images lingering in your mind long after the film ends. The book itself was written as a “what if” scenario when his own little boy was almost killed at a young age.
If possible, I actually recommend not reading the book at all before seeing the film. If you are reading the book, put it down before the last 40 pages. I think it will deliver a more rewarding experience. Though you may nitpick over some changes in the first half of the film, you’ll probably be left surprised by a fresh and unexpected second half that makes up for the first.
“Pet Sematary” is in theatres Friday. You can watch a trailer for it below.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.