Pet Sematary - Review

A bound-to-please retread of a difficult to adapt novel.


Pet Sematary doesn’t reach the highs of It, but makes enough of its absurd premise to remain intriguing. Plotlines twist and converge, and small children are threatened: this is a Stephen King adaptation after all, and it’s one of the more solid films inspired by his strangest period of writing.

Even with a plot-change that involves the death of a different lead-character, Pet Sematary is still exceedingly predictable. The strength of King’s stories lies in their otherworldly, yet strangely realistic, depictions of horror: Pet Sematary’s scares are outlined the minute the Creed family step onto the titular plot of land, and John Lithgow’s picture-perfect Jud warns them with a dose of exposition. He’s a classic King character, and compared to the rest of the dime-a-dozen cast, his presence lights up the screen. None of that emotion arrives in development, though (nearly every character is detailed heaviest before they’re killed): Pet Sematary is far more concerned with looking tragic than being it.

With atmosphere, Pet Sematary covers over many faults: the abundance of fog machines aside, there is an excellent sense of place. The forest isn’t nowhere: it’s the Pet Sematary. The town isn’t an American North East cutout: it’s distinctly rural, complete with eccentrics and fatal occurrences that populate the first act. The journey to the climax in Pet Sematary is roughly the entire film, but with deliberate pacing, like the jump-scares involving Rachel’s (Amy Seimetz) deceased sister, it rockets ahead. In a moment likely inspired by the runaway success of 2017’s It, special attention has been given to the film’s script and pacing. Characters are given side-lanes; chances to explore the finale’s frights before their fates arrive. Cutting out the exposition makes for a lean, enjoyable experience despite a lack of innovation, and that clunky-as-hell final shot.

King novels are notorious for being disrespected in visual form. Whether in the atrocious first attempt at Pet Sematary in 1989, or most famously for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, arguably one of King’s finest stories, and least-likely to be seen by a writer/director as a chance to make their own way. But that’s exactly what happened, and we’re all better for it: it was Stanley Kubrick. Pet Sematary doesn’t ruffle any feathers, or King’s rigorous legitimacy test, and consequently, isn’t a very interesting film.

Here’s the cat from the film in a tie!