Should ‘Pet Sematary’ have been left buried?

I wanted to love the new Pet Sematary movie. I really did. After hearing Stephen King describe it as “as dark as can be”, I was very excited to see this darkness for myself. Having not seen the original and point-blank refused to watch trailers (in order to maximise terror levels) when I walked into that theatre I was ready to get shaken up. But the only thing that had me falling out of my seat were my belly laughs, not scares.

The film opens with a sinister and eerie walk-through of a crime scene, indicating that something very bad had happened at this old, creaky, isolated house in the woods(!). Cut to a jolly family arriving at the scene some days earlier, pre-crime. Having decided it was time to get away from the hectic and unfulfilling life they had been living in the city, this old, creaky, isolated house in the woods seemed to be the perfect option. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite quickly we’re introduced to the film’s namesake, the ‘Pet Semetary’, by Ellie Creed (Jeté Laurence) as she stumbles across it while exploring the woods behind the house that her mother Rachel (Amy Seimetz), and father Louis (Jason Clarke), have moved her and her little brother Gage (Lucas Lavoie) into. Like clockwork, their seemingly creepy neighbour Jud (John Lithgow) appears through the fog to warn Ellie and her mother of the dangers of playing in the woods. But, alas, no-one listens to old man Jud and we soon discover that the cute and innocent Pet Sematary is not so cute and innocent after all.

The first half of the movie weaves a number of strange and ultimately irrelevant storylines together, introducing characters that seemingly contribute nothing but shock value to the film’s overall narrative. It speeds through a plethora of twists and turns before any of the key characters have had an opportunity to develop, and the frivolous/stupid choices made by Louis seem inconsistent with his cynical “I’m a facts man” persona – making it hard to believe that any of this would have happened in the first place.

Having not read the book or seen the original, the only review I can give is one of this particular version of the film. As an avid modern horror fanatic, my main concern is that Pet Sematary was created without any acknowledgement of how far horror audiences have come since the original and how difficultly-earned our fear is attained. Fast, furious and predictable scares have become cliche: we now want creepy, crawl-y, brain-meltingly clever storylines that take us to the edge of our seat and keep us shaking for nights to come. Sadly, the only part of this film that got me shaking was the laugh-out-loud comic timing of the family’s furry friend, Church.

Perhaps I’m just not the right audience for an old classic remade, or perhaps the remake sucked? Make up your own mind as it’s out in NZ cinemas from 4 April.

Reviewed by Ashleigh Davis.

2 stars