Horror Club: Pet Sematary (2019)
Anyone who knows me personally has probably heard me talk about the impact that the original Pet Sematary film had on me way back when I was probably eight or nine years old when I saw it for the first time. Everything about the movie scared the living hell out of me, and it's one of a handful of films that left such a crazy mark on my childhood that I continue to tell people about how much it fucked me up as a kid. As my horror movie viewership continued to grow into my teenage years, Pet Sematary always held an incredibly special place in my heart (alongside A Nightmare on Elm Street) that never diminished over the years. So when news of a reboot of the classic Stephen King novel began to spread across the net, I begged the universe to please make sure the film is amazing. Fast forward to this weekend, and Pet Sematary is finally out and I couldn't wait to get my ticket and head to the theater to see what a reboot - twenty years since the original release - of a classic horror as popular as this one would be like. It warms my heart to be able to write that 2019's Pet Sematary is an outstanding and breathtaking take on the King novel, and I'm even willing to go on record to say that this is my all time favorite reboot of any film ever. As such an avid fan of the original, I - of coarse - went into the theater with just a hint of worry, but the trailers that were released up until this point were reassuring that the film couldn't be a total disaster, right?! I walked out of the theater speechless, to be quite honest: this film is the fucking perfect balance of homage to the original and creation of a new story line and it flows beautifully. Fans of the original film will see scenes from the original film redone with such incredible detail - such as Jud smoking his cigarette at the Sematary - as well as a twist to the story that plays out so perfect, it's almost unbelievable that the film turned out this great. This is - hands down - one of my favorite major production horror movies ever released, and you can bet your ass I'll be seeing it again before it leaves theaters! But viewers must keep this bit of information in mind going into Pet Sematary: this is not so much a remake as it is a reboot. The story takes a different path than that of its predecessor, so if you're expecting the story from the 1989 film or even the King novel, you're in for a shock, because this film is based on the novel, not an actual re-telling of the novel, so please keep that in mind going into the movie!
Readers beware: possible spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution!
In this reboot of one of Stephen King's classic novels, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) is a doctor who is relocating his family from Boston to Ludlow, Maine. His wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and children Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (played by twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) all move into their gorgeous dream home with plenty of surrounding woods - woods that are home to a cemetery for pets of the town. All is peaceful and quiet in their neck of the woods; that is, unless there's a passing Mack truck that always seems to be flying down the road that sits in front of the house. Unfortunately for nine year old Ellie, her cat Church gets hit by one of these high speed trucks and dies out in front of the house on Halloween. It is then that the elderly neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) - who has taken a special liking to Ellie - shows Louis the land beyond the Pet Sematary, where the dead that are buried there come back to life later that night; only problem is that they aren't the same as they were before their death. While Church doesn't exactly come back as a zombie cat per se, he definitely comes back changed: angry and vicious as opposed to the sweet heartthrob that he once was. Nevertheless, he still came back to life from death. So when the heartbreaking tragedy occurs that takes Ellie's life, a lost and troubled father makes the decision to dig up his deceased daughter from her grave, and rebury her out beyond the Sematary just like he did with Church; in hopes to resurrect her. And she comes back - oh yeah, does she come back; just as angry, vicious and evil as Church was, only in human form. Louis must either come to terms with the monster he helped create or lay her to rest for a second time in this amazing reboot and retelling of the story.
Literally everything about this film was spot fucking on; the scenery is breathtaking, the acting is phenomenal, they wrote an astounding script and story, and the twists and endings just tie it all together in such an amazing way. The first thing I'd really love to note - besides how great the story telling is - is how the team behind this project managed to capture the very unsettling and uncomfortable tone that the 1989 film had. For the entire 101 minute run time, I was literally on the edge of my seat in both anticipation, suspense, and eagerness - and it's all due to the incredible cinematography and score that helped to recreate the eerie suspense in the air that the original had. They absolutely slayed this aspect of the movie; and that's what helps make a great, uncomfortable horror, in my opinion. As for the cast of the movie, while both Jason Clarke as Louis and Amy Seimetz as Rachel did excellent jobs in their desperate parent roles, the star of the show is - without question - Jeté Laurence as she portrays Ellie in both her contrasting adorable, sweetheart role and her downright disturbing, evil role. Laurence managed to take her character and completely flip the script with her, and everything from her line delivery to facial movements and even body language was stellar - especially considering how young of an actress she is; she did an absolutely outstanding job playing Ellie and she definitely turns up the heat in Pet Sematary. It also goes without saying that the cast of felines responsible for the portrayal of Church - Leo, Tonic, Jager and JD - are just as important to the perfect casting for this film as their human costars are. And who doesn't love little Gage, who looks almost identical to the Gage of the 1989 film - kudos to the casting crew for absolutely nailing it on the head with the call to use the twins for the part. And, of coarse, following up to Fred Gwynne as Jud in the 1989 film is no small task, but after seeing the film, there's no one better to play the part than John Lithgow, who does as good of a job as its going to get playing the humble old man next door.
Nothing at all about Pet Sematary feels cheesy, over the top, or out of place during the film, and I think that also plays a tremendous part in why this production turned out so excellent, in my opinion. The movie stays within these barriers that it kinda knows it has to stay in - I hope anyone reading this knows what I mean by this statement. Even the twists and turns the movie takes knows it has to stay on a particular course that it has to stay in to remain true to the original novel, and it does so remarkably. I honestly cannot believe just how blown away this film has left me; I immediately found myself sharing the news with my friends about how killer it turned out to be. There's just so much to like about it, including the cleverly placed IT easter egg. What really separates this film from its counterparts is the surprising jump scares that I honestly didn't even see coming. I wasn't sure what to expect going into the movie jump scares wise, but this one's got plenty of 'em, and they're all in just the right places. I've never recommend a movie so much in my entire life - so let me sum this up by saying this: if you're willing to come to terms with the fact that you're not seeing a scene-by-scene retelling of the same story, you're in for one hell of a treat. On its own, Pet Sematary is something incredibly special and tells one of the most unsettling and engaging stories in modern horror - even 36 years since the novels release. This film will be a must buy release when it becomes available for purchase, but for now, do yourself a favor and get out to your theater and see this on the big screen; I have a feeling you'll find something to love about this movie. And if there's one thing to take away from all of this, be it this: sometimes, dead is better.