The good news about this week’s remake of the 1989 movie Pet Sematary is that it is better than the original. The bad news is, this week’s sting (pun intended) at a Stephen King story barely got over that incredibly low bar.
Pet SemataryAfter all, it remains one of the darkest King properties to emerge from the 1980s booze and Coke era, and while the book burned through the early 1980s sales charts and reviewers, the same couldn’t be said for its garbage 1989 film adaptation. The best I can say about the new movie is that it actually does a few laps in that drunken, drug-filled pool and enjoys its bad movie origins. However, the result is far more comical than any trailer would suggest.
“They spelled it wrong!”
Let’s see: family moves to the woods to ‘get away from it all’. Family is initially excited about the huge backyard in their new home, only to learn through one Google search that it’s linked to some really disturbing stories of murders and animals coming back to life. The property also has a very short gated driveway leading to a 60 mph two lane highway.
And after 30 minutes, we learn that the stay-at-home mom in this family has an unresolved childhood trauma about… being left alone in a scary old house. good thing That problem will not be activated soon!
All this, plus a random procession of silent, mask-wearing children to their property’s pet cemetery (“they spelled it wrong!” the daughter shouts) and a single, painfully creepy neighbor staring through a window at the family as he smokes a cigarette, set the tone Pet Sematary‘s endless, obvious, unpleasant plot shifts into “terrifying” paths.
Meaning: What seemed creepy or exciting in the movie’s trailers falls flat. For example, there is no subtlety to that procession of masked children; no logic for the characters to fall back on to coexist logically in a “hey, this small town is just kinda weird” way. The obvious and freaky just sits in plain sight, like a rotting cat corpse. Instead of yelling “Don’t open that door!” on screen we are left with the viewers wanting the irredeemably stupid characters to hurry up and get themselves killed.
I left Pet Sematary wondering what in my real life I should be shuddering at as a parallel. Making bad real estate decisions? Not quit my job at a hospital and flee the city the moment I saw a vision of a dead patient coming back to life (or worse, my son repeating the same anecdote a few days later)? Have a neighbor who called his dead dog a “helluva sniffer”? Non-standard spelling?
Lithgow for the lulz
The good news: Every actor seems to get the joke. Every bad decision is imagined by Pet Sematary‘s lead wide-eyed wonder, and they exaggerate every stupid or terrified moment with only enough gravitas and effort to count as WWE-caliber responses.
As a bonus to anyone attending the lulz, John Lithgow is an absolute standout in terms of selling the film’s absurdity. Is he a creep? A monster? Finally a savior, ready to save the day? Lithgow’s performance brilliantly crosses the line between these possibilities. His bulging eyes see through a wrinkled, bearded face as if haunted by the fact that the new family in his neighborhood really is that stupid.
Just to be clear, I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of last year’s It adaptation, but at least that movie had its share of quality surprises, gore splosions, and unique twists on the scary clown scene. Don’t comment on Pet Sematary some quality overlap expected. Instead, expect a sentiment similar to this tweet, from the undersigned:
My favorite thing about seeing Pet Sematary this week was the *one* scene where the movie wasn’t laughed at for ironic cheese, where a couple was nice to each other, and a guy in the crowd ripped a room-filling fart. Says everything.
— Sam Machkovech ☂ (@samred) Apr 4, 2019
The introduction to this article has been corrected.