Pet Sematary


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Pet Sematary
"The directors, Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, avoid horror comic clichés. In fact, they avoid clichés altogether." | Photo: © Kerry Hayes/2018 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Stephen King doesn’t touch base with soft hands. Something as charming as a graveyard in the woods for your beloved pet is too sweet for the man who wrote Carrie and The Shining. There has to be a hook, barbed, and there is. The graveyard lies on “sour ground” which means that the dead return, only not as they were, changed in resurrection, evil.

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) is a doctor from Boston who buys a house in Maine close to the cemetery without knowing anything about its mystical secrets. His wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) lost her sister recently to an illness that infected her brain. It was a horrible ending for a young woman and Rachel suffers nightmares and daydreams about it. Louis hopes that a move to the country will calm the contractions in her memory.

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Also with them are their children. Gage, the youngest, and Ellie (Jeté Laurence), an imaginative, sensitive girl who picks up the otherworldly vibes from Church, their cat. Nearest neighbour in the forest is Jud (John Lithgow) who lives alone since his wife passed into the cemetery a year earlier. He has stories that would ice your veins if you allowed yourself the discomfort of listening too close.

Louis works in the hospital. Rachel is a haunted soul. Big trucks roar down the narrow lanes. The children explore. Church disappears. Jud watches and waits. The atmosphere is as heavy as death. “The land belongs to something else,” Jud muses. The country is no longer a safety net, hardly even human.

The directors, Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, avoid horror comic clichés. In fact, they avoid clichés altogether. You wouldn’t know this was a King production, which it isn’t except he wrote the book. This cinematic version is the best of the bunch. It respects the individuals and never exaggerates the power of the dark forces.

The family is well conceived, smart but never arrogant, confused but not lost in a haze. Aussie actor Clarke plays the lead with feeling but not as a victim of other people’s prejudice. Louis is the strength that the family needs and when that slips what’s left to grieve but grief itself. Rachel and Ellie are actively flawed, not as actors but as personalities, allowing the paranormal to shape their misunderstanding.

The story hangs on a wire above the raging torrent of make believe and does not drop. It carries its confection like a five-course meal.

Dinner awaits. Don’t be late

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2019
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When a family discover an old Native burial ground near their new home, sinister things begin to happen.
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Director: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer

Writer: David Kajganich, based on the book by Stephen King

Starring: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie

Year: 2019

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


SXSW 2019

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