Remakes of classic horror movies are a bit hit and miss, I think we’d all agree. Hollywood has tried to march out remakes and reboots of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Evil Dead in the last decade or so, and all have fallen far from the mark. Occasionally something like Halloween (2018) will come along and actually be good, even less frequently a remake like Dawn of the Dead (2004) will come along and be great. This remake of Pet Semetary falls somewhere in between.
“Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.”
It’s a dark tale, in which a parents grief and refusal to let go, is explored to great lengths. The loss of a child is something no parent should have to go through, and if you could undo that loss, would you do it, and what are the consequences…
As you can see from the synopsis, Pet Semetary follows the same premise as the original classic from 1989, and its source material – The Stephen King novel from 1983. And while King goes through a career renaissance thanks to excellent adaptations like IT and Gerald’s Game, we are going to suffer through plenty of adaptations that are mediocre to outright terrible – see The Dark Tower (2017).
Pet Semetary falls somewhere between good and mediocre. It’s not outright bad. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, from a script by Jeff Buhler, it comes to life on the screen with the eerie and creepy vibes turned up to eleven. There are changes made, but those changes have been made to add suspense in place of expectation.
The cinematography is excellent, with the “Semetary” scenes really standing out, and the casting is pretty great. John Lithgow as Jud is inspired casting, Jason Clarke does a fine job as grieving father Louis, but the standout performance has to go to Jeté Laurence as Ellie, particularly in the scenes after she comes back. For such a young actress to pull of creepy and sinister as well as she does, is truly remarkable.
While the filmmakers make certain changes, they still manage to pay homage to certain memorable scenes from the original (remember the straight razor scene?) in a definite show of fan service. As far as remakes go, this is about as unnecessary as it gets, but still manages to be worth a viewing.
Review by Rick Trewin