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Movie Review | Pet Sematary (2019)

Church (short for 'Winston Churchill') keeps coming home in Pet Sematary

Movie summary: Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. (IMDb)

To start with, I've neither read the book nor seen the previous movie adaptation of this story, so bear in mind that what I've got to say about this story is solely based on what this particular movie gives us. And what it gives us is not a good movie at all. It's so formulaic and predictable that it never approaches being unsettling, never mind scary.

Honestly, Pet Sematary is made with so little creative originality that it almost defies belief. The overuse of jump scares (which I'd hoped was a fad that had died out) is bad enough, but there's never any surprise about where events are headed. Neither either is there any feeling of dread or unease, because it's so easy to see where the story is going next.

I know a fair few people who are absolutely not horror fans at all and avoid 'scary' films if they can help it, but I think this movie is so predictable about what's coming, that even someone who is easily scared will be able to prepare themselves ahead of time and not actually be scared by it at all. And that's pretty much a disaster for a horror movie that is trying to scare those watching.

The thing that might put more squeamish people off is the amount of blood in the movie, but the sheer amount of red on-screen almost feels like compensation for some poor make-up which goes too far in its attempts to be grotesque and ends up feeling over-exaggerated and cartoonish, rather than disgusting - less would definitely have been more here.

Pet Sematary is a low budget ($21m) movie and it certainly feels like it - the poor pacing and lack of atmosphere could've been helped if everything looked amazing, but it doesn't. It looks almost like it was made for TV, especially some of the locations in the woods which make heavy use of darkness and mist to hide how little they could actually show.

Still, even that kind of budgeting issue could've been covered up by great performances, but those are lacking here too. I will defend the cast here though: I simply don't think they ever had a chance with the script this movie has. The story is set on moving from plot point to plot point that there's never any chance for the characters to shine and give the audience something to remember.

Jason Clarke is decent enough as Louis, but he is starting to become a danger sign for me about a movie's quality whenever I see him. He's a perfectly fine actor, but either he or his agent are terrible at picking projects to work on - at least from what I've seen of him. John Lithgow is also good here, but his character, Jud, simply isn't written as well as the performance deserves.

Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) see something unusual in Pet Sematary

Jeté Laurence gives probably the best performance until around two-thirds of the way into the movie, and then her character plays strictly to type and her charming earlier performance fades swiftly from memory because of just how tedious things become. And that's despite the movie not even trying to hide the supernatural elements for any length of time.

I think that might be part of why this movie didn't really work for me: it's so obviously not our world, with supernatural forces being so prominent from the start that it makes everything feel so artificial. Ghosts, visions and dreams that intertwine with reality all appear before you get to the more mystical parts of the story - again, less would've been so much more here, shaving away some of these elements just to ground things a little in reality.

Instead, this is a movie that doesn't really offer anything new, or even any inventiveness in how it tells its story. There are any number of films made each year that have unoriginal plots, but are executed so well that you simply don't care because you're enjoying yourself so much - this is not one of those movies and is more likely to bore than excite.

The only real credit that I'll give Pet Sematary is that it has made me want to read the book, simply because the premise is so good that I want to experience a better version of this story. It'll certainly help that a book can take more time than a movie to create atmosphere and properly set the scene by making good use of the unlimited budget of imagination.

Pet Sematary is not a good film, and especially not a good horror film. It's predictable to the point of tedium; it doesn't look particularly great either, despite being set in some great surroundings; the effects don't work either; and there's no real standout performance in the cast to act as a bright spot either. One for hardcore King fans, or those who will take their horror where they can get it.


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