It starts with the serene drive in the car with smiling family members as you expect. A new family, innocent by all accounts, embarking on a new journey in life—moving from the big city to enjoy life in the suburbs. There is some sibling rivalry going on in the back seat between brother and sister, but audiences just think that's cute. When they arrive at the house, the wife is swept off her feet by her husband. And strangely enough, nine-year-old “Ellie” (Jeté Laurence – “The Snowman”, 2017) has no cellphone, nor does she spend time texting. That’s rare these days. But for some reason, movie kids are always 3 years less mature than in real life. I haven't figured out why.
For those poor souls too young to remember, Pet Sematary by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer is a remake of Mary Lambert's 1989 movie Pet Sematary, which shot off from the original Stephen King classic novel. And in this writer's opinion, the new film stands front-and- center right next to its former incarnation.
Things heat up as we gradually learn of Louis' (Jason Clarke) stressful job as a doctor—complete with a near-accident at a traffic light on the way home from work. Ellie's mom, "Rachel" (Amy Seimetz) has her own deep, dark secret from childhood that she's having trouble dealing with.
Through a chance encounter as she is playing, Ellie meets "Judson Crandle" (John Lithgow), the neighbor, and he knows more than he is saying about the local pet graveyard on their property (of course). Adding to all this tension is the token dispute on whether or not the afterlife exists (I saw that coming).
When things transition – and they transition quite fast, as the movie wastes little time keeping the viewer engaged – the gore level goes for the gold with some horribly graphic scenes that may take ER workers by surprise. You never need a reminder of why you are watching what you are watching! The film makes use of expedient scene cuts right when they are needed. What we get by way of dialog is almost the same dialog as the previous version.
The older we get, we tend to notice clichés more. Do people still sleep with the windows open? It's a fairly winked-at point since well-employed hues and an upper-Midwest atmosphere are used and abused along with the clichés mentioned in this article's opening. In a way, maybe we can thank god for creaking stairs and the plots of horror movies conveniently falling on Halloween.
So you can stop asking whether or not the original needed a remake and just relish in the near-excessive gore and atmospheric horror bits, and the well-placed moments of shock we get here. This Pet Sematary is much scarier than the former work.
But by movie's end, we have had enough, though. A small child can only terrorize her still-living parents so much, even in a possessed and reanimated body, although that buys a lot more forgiveness with the likes of knife struggles and trying to stay alive when the demon-possessed host body is only nine years old and trying to carry a 140-lbs woman up a ravine that even an in-shape adult male would have serious trouble with.
This Pet Cemetery feels an improvement over the first both by way of pacing and development, but it tries too hard in its final act. Whether or not this can be forgiven will rest with each particular viewer and their own sense of realism or lack thereof. Cast performances rise to or slightly above expected levels. But I maintain that Church the cat is the BEST actor here! Clarke and Seimetz have a chemistry-ridden complacency that suites not only the movie, but moviegoers who seek and find exactly what they are after.