The newest re-telling of Stephen King’s novel, “Pet Sematary,” directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer is a bleaker and more modern rendition of the novel, which works in some ways and falls short in many others.
As a huge Stephen King fan, I noticed it was hard to pinpoint the actual tone of this film. The original movie from 1989 was much brighter and took place in a wide open neighborhood, usually while the sun was shining. The 2019 film, however, took a darker visual approach. The setting for the house entailed billowing trees and lush brushes. Cold greens, blues and browns were scattered throughout the film, omitting the previously frigid and lonely feeling. I think this tone for the film was an improvement over the original because the setting’s sense of dread was much more prevalent. But the book’s dread has never been fully realized — not in the original or remake.
The themes for the story has always been focused on death and grieving. With this subject matter, there needs to be a balance of grief between all of the stories being told. The mother, Rachel Creed, played by Amy Seimetz (“Stranger Things,” “Alien: Covenant”), has to face the remorse and dread that has been following her since her ill sister’s death. A similar plot involving the father, Louis Creed, played by Jason Clarke (“Winchester,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), details an encounter with a college student who was hit by a car and dies almost immediately after. Louis seems to be haunted by the departed student, who stirs hysteria into his mind. Both of these plots were improved upon when compared to the original 1989 film because the main themes of death and grief were heightened instead of just being used as plot devices for added scares. There was a necessity for these back stories because they had an impact on the characters’ reactions to the atrocities resulting from the “Pet Sematary.”
The main story, however, seemed too spirratic and thrown together. The original 1989 film’s main plot revolved around an Indian burial ground and a father’s recklessness when tragedy strikes. But this remake had too many holes and unnecessary changes made to it, to such an extent that the film began to feel like a chore to finish. I had the unfortunate luck of seeing a scene in the trailer which spoiled the film’s twist. Even with the twist being known, the impact of the film’s climax was underwhelming and predictable. It appeared to be more of a shot-by-shot remake for fan service rather than the re-telling of a chilling story.
Another film that had a similar problem was “Psycho” (1998) starring Vince Vaughn (“The Internship,” “Fred Claus”), which was filmed as a shot-by-shot remake of the classic film. What remains in a scenario like this is just a watered down horror movie, which can be said of both the remakes. The child actors’ performances were also detrimental to the film. The daughter appeared borish and unconvincing until the film’s finale, which was underwhelming. The younger brother was even worse and couldn’t come close to the child talent found in Miko Hughes performance as Gage Creed in the 1989 film. There needed to be a connection between the audience and the children for this film to succeed, and it was never felt.
I am sad to say this film has fallen under the category of failed horror remakes because although it did improve upon the side plots relating to the understanding of dread and grief from the parents’ perspective, the original themes and plot devices did not live up to the excellence in King’s writing.