Even with all the warnings, I threw caution to the wind and went to see the Pet Sematary remake. I went in with remarkably lowered expectations after having seen the spoiler-filled trailer, and I told myself to be fair with the movie. Well, it turns out that somehow they were able to make a movie that destroys the point of the original novel and original film. I’m going to be talking spoilers here Reliable Readers, so you’ve been warned!
We can easily split the new Pet Sematary’s story down the middle. The first half of the film is a close representation of what we have seen before, with a few slight changes. The Creeds move to Maine to get away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. Jud, the lovable old neighbour (John Lithgow who sadly doesn’t channel Fred Gwynne’s accent) meets Ellie for the first time at the pet sematary, and after saving her from a hornet attack, they form a close relationship. Also, for some odd reason the script changes Jud’s dog’s name from Spot to Biffer (why? just why?). On Halloween, Church is run over by a truck, and Jud would hate to see Ellie hurt, even though Louis and Rachel agree to tell her Church ran away. Instead, Jud takes Louis to the ancient burial ground to bury Church. The cat comes back the very next day and is looking a bit worse for wear. All of this sounds pretty familiar so far, but we are about to head into “originality” territory now.
The second half is where the creators decided to go for the throat and switch it up. This time Ellie is hit by a truck, although much like the first adaptation, the damage is unnaturally minimal. Louis, played by Jason Clarke, hikes the dead daughter up to the Indian burial ground, and the daughter comes back all chatty and dead-like. Rachel does end up going to her parent’s place with Gage, but after Gage has a nightmare about Victor Pascow, they decide to head back home. As for Gage seeing Pascow, it makes no sense, as he has no connection to the cemetery. Whereas in the original Ellie has a link through Church, and is hinted at having powers to foretell the future. When Rachel and Gage arrive back home, Louis reunites a reluctant Rachel with her undead daughter. From there the film dissolves into an unwanted slasher, with an ending that lands flat. The point of the original story is Louis’ struggle against the powers of the burial ground versus his love for his family. In this remake, there isn’t much of a battle going against the stony sour ground and Louis’ stonier heart.
Is there anything good to be had from the Pet Sematary remake? Sure, there are some areas that I enjoyed. I liked the walk from the pet sematary to the Indian burial ground, which borrowed heavily from Stephen King’s book. However, the hike is spoiled once we get to the burial ground, which turns out to be a 10′ x 10′ obvious set piece.
There are also little nods to other King works such as Lithgow being overheard talking about a rabid Saint Bernard or the Derry road sign. Of course, all this does is make you want to watch or read those better stories.
It turns out Pet Sematary was an unnecessary remake, and I’m thinking we all knew that was coming. The original, even if slightly dated nowadays, is excellent, and the book is even better. Pet Sematary is one remake that needs to have a traditional burial, lest we risk the chance of it coming back!