Pet Sematary is Far from Purrfect (2019 Movie Review)

Stephen King's works have been a part of our world for 45 years. His iconic novels and the cinematic adaptations that followed helped pave the way for the horror genre we love today. But what happens when one of his book-to-film works gets released to a saturated modern day horror market? Following 2017's IT being a critical and financial juggernaut, Pet Sematary falters to live up to the high expectations set for an adaptation of a work by such a highly respected author.

Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family move into their new suburban home in the small, (definitely not) creepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Things seem normal for around five seconds before the family spot a group of children donning nightmare-fuel animal masks, as they wheel a deceased dog into the forest behind the Creed's new home.
Their walking exposition device of a neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), explains that what they've just witnessed is part of a town tradition: kids bury their dead critters in the irritatingly misspelled Pet Sematary. Soon after, Jud befriends the Creed daughter, Ellie, feeling great pity for her following the death of the family's beloved cat. Jud tells Louis of a burial ground beyond the regular Pet Sematary. A burial ground that brings back those that are buried in it.

If you're the type who watches horror films constantly wondering when the next scary thing is going to jump out at you, all whilst wondering where the plot is headed, you're going to be entertained. The story is disturbing all of the way through - not like the recent horrors you've seen in the last few years that incorporate elements of comedy into their scripts - the writing and tone is built on the same blocks of despair and misery that you grew up associating the genre with. The film's presentation matches well with this: being dipped in a delightful mixture of menacing, dirty, horror aesthetic.
Following Church the cat's resurrection, a creepy story that leads to an eerie climax follows. This is where Pet Sematary's biggest flaw comes to light: the majority of this creepy story is basically just build-up. The main plot is brought forward by a series of jump scares, including a few startling claw scratches from a permanently angry and wet looking cat. For the film's second act, the only element keeping you engaged is easily predicting when the next one is going to hit you, making for a lessened impact if you decide to watch it again.
Rachel, the Creed mother, has her own explored little backstory which may as well just be a horror film in itself. A series of childhood flashbacks take you to her childhood where her sister suffered with spinal meningitis, treating you to a small segments of beautifully terrifying gore, making it a shame when you realise it isn't even the main plot.

Despite being merely the obligatory old man in a horror, John Lithgow as Jud is without a doubt the best part of the film. He brings forward the same menacing charisma that made him give great performances as Churchill in The Crown and the best villain in Dexter. It's a shame looking at the lead, Jason Clarke, by comparison. He's a solid B- for every role he does, being a bit of an every-man without anything interesting going for him. Clarke does step up in moments where the emotional intensity really does reach boiling point, but it feels clear that many other actors could've pulled off a better job.

Pet Sematary is the standard horror film package you'll look for when you're in the mood for the eerie and scary, but not if you're looking for a grade-A selection. As you wonder what jump scare shenanigans the zombie cat is going to get up to next, Pet Sematary's already fired its only shot, that is if you haven't already got the big twist spoilt by the trailer. If you ever give it another go when it inevitably gets added to Netflix within the next year, it most likely will be something to keep you going in the background whilst you're scrolling for memes. 


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