Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family to rural Maine, to a house adjacent to a pet cemetery. When his daughter’s cat dies, Louis discovers the ancient burial ground beyond the cemetery can bring the dead back to life.
Pet Sematary is one of acclaimed horror writer Stephen King’s most feted books and, having already been made into a movie in 1989, there was some concern about what the 2019 version would bring.
Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's take on King's book elevates the themes of grief and the loss of a child, as the movie opens with former emergency doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) relocating from Boston to the country in Ludlow, Maine, in a bid to prioritise family life with their kids, Ellie (Jete Laurence) and baby Gage (Lucas Lavoie).
It starts promisingly as the family settle into a large but warm looking home set in acres of land.
They soon meet neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), who strikes up a cute friendship with Ellie after helping her with a bee sting.
The first sign of unease is when a truck goes hurtling past, very close to their new idyll, and then a weird procession of masked children taking a dead animal to the pet cemetery Ellie has stumbled across, forewarning the dark turn the movie is set to take.
Both adults in the film are haunted by their own past dealings with grief; Rachel’s sister suffered spinal meningitis and met a horrific end, while Louis - who doesn’t share his wife’s belief in God - is haunted by the death of a young student who he couldn't save when he was rushed to his clinic following a car accident.
When he begins having visions of the dead student, his lack of belief begins to waver, and Clarke manages to sell the shift in consciousness with his wounded performance.
When Ellie’s cat is found dead on the road (was it the truck?), Jud reveals the secret of the pet cemetery to Louis, and they bury the cat. But, when he returns, there’s something not quite right about him…
Newcomer Laurence steals the show as Ellie, and her interactions with her resurrected cat Church, who has a sinister, unyielding stare, lead to some unintentionally funny moments in the movie - you won’t look at your cat in quite the same way again!
With plenty of jump scares, bloody violence and a tense brooding atmosphere, Pet Sematary certainly delivers on King’s source material.
Clarke, in his first horror movie, makes his slow descent into grief-stricken madness more than believable, as he takes his love for his family to extreme lengths, while Lithgow puts in a solid performance and Laurence carries the scenes just as much as her adult co-stars.
It's hard to talk about how this version of Pet Sematary improves on the 80s version without giving away any spoilers, but the changes made mean the final scenes have a much stronger impact and will, I’m sure, be more than satisfying to fans of the book.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching from behind your hands; there's plenty of gore and "bloody violence" in keeping with its R-rating, so be prepared.
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