Pet Sematary is one of King’s more melancholic novels that deals with death and the stages of grief that follow bereavement. It poses the question to the reader – how far would you go to bring back someone you love? Would you even care about the consequences? The book is based on experiences King had when his children were young and a local Pet Cemetery.
Pet Sematary follows the Creed Family as they move to the country for a fresh start. Louis (Jason Clarke), Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their children Ellie and Gage (played by Jeté Laurence and Hugh and Lucas Lavoie) switch life in the big city for the quiet and seemingly peaceful Maine. Upon their arrival they see a procession of children wearing masks, wheeling their dead dog into the woods. Ellie is intrigued by this and later goes wandering into the woods where she finds the Pet Sematary. Here she meets Jud (John Lithgow) – the Creed’s neighbour. Jud tells Louis the history of the pet sematary and the sacred lands that lie behind the landmark. Bury someone or something in this sacred land and they come back, but they don’t come back the same.
Jeff Buhler (screenplay) attempts to breathe new life into Pet Sematary by switching major plot points and modernising the tale. By the time the major plot points are in play, we have what feels like 10 minutes of action followed by multiple deaths and then a very questionable ending. Poor CGI and fog effects make the film feel more gimmicky than scary. Context is lacking and it feels as though vital plot points and elements of the book were missed out, giving the impression this film is either for horror fans wanting cheap jump scares or is a money grab to attract fans of the book and original film. Unless you’ve read the book or seen the 1989 original the lack of context leaves a lot of unanswered questions and gives very little explanation to some of the major events that take place.
The most unsettling character has to be Zelda, but even her scenes are cut down and feel like their inclusion is only to give the audience the expected jump scares. The film builds up to what feels like a pointless finale and the last 20 minutes become comical. The ending leaves more questions than answers and is an incredibly unsatisfying end. Credit is due to main cast who do a stellar job but are ultimately let down by the writing which failed to really flesh out the characters or give the audience any real emotional attachment to them.