Pet Sematary

Year: 2019
Studio: Paramount
Director: Kevin Kölsch/Dennis Widmyer
Writer: Matt Greenberg/Jeff Buhler
Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow

Coming in the new flurry of Stephen King adaptations thanks to the success of The It redux from Fede Alvarez (expect a whole new raft of King adaptations around the 2050s when we're celebrating the author's 100th birthday – these things are very cyclical), this remake of Mary Lambert's 1989 chiller is as middle of the road as they come. It's interesting but not fascinating, moody but not scary, and competent while not outstanding in any department.

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their cute kids Gage and Ellie move to a remote Maine property to get away form the rat race of Boston, ready for an idyllic new life.

They meet their kindly new neighbour, old timer Judd (John Lithgow), are wary of the danger lurking nearby as logging trucks hurtle past on the highway too close to the house for comfort and learn about the spooky history of their land, especially when a line of local kids walks by with creepy animal masks to bury a dead pet in the duly appointed pet cemetery in the woods.

But they'll learn there's something even creepier further out, past a massive pile of old, fallen logs and vegetation where the Native American tribe that once lived in the area tended a tract of ground with horrific powers. I won't spoil what it can do in this review, although if you're the least interested in watching this movie you've probably read the book and seen the original film (if yo're over 35) and know where this is all going.

When tragedy strikes the Creed family, Judd – against his better judgement – tells Louis about the potential to be found out beyond the wall of tree litter, but warns him that he may not like the result he gets when he tries to put things right.

Co-directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer don't have a real lot to do but stage the action and point the camera at it. More talented in this mix is DP Laurie Rose, who manages to captures some effective scary movie sequences of nights (or creepy shade during the day) in the woods with swirling mists and far-off lightning.

Credit also needs to go to screenwriters Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler. They stay very much within the guidelines of King's story but I found the liberties they took were what made the story more interesting than the bland go-around it all could have been. As Gage runs towards the highway with a rig ominously speeding over the hill towards the house, the driver fixated on his phone instead of watching the road, Greenberg and Buhler pull the rug out from under you about what happens next.

It also descends into a far more nihilistic denouement, the death and carnage that's visited on the Creed family far more devastating than King (or Lambert) imagined and the movie ending on an effectively damning note the likes of which we haven't really seen since the end of The Mist.

Those few surprises make it worth your time if there's not much else on, but it'll go down in history as one of the lesser King adaptations in the current crop.

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