While a Stephen King film can be immediately identified, they have usually been more miss than hit; his works aren’t always easy to translate to film. But with the surprising success of It two years ago, the possibility of injecting new life into King’s work could be seen. 2017, for a few months, belonged to King with the release of Netflix’s 1922 and Gerald’s Game shortly after It’s run, and rumours were flying round that a remake of Cujo was in the works (however there has been no more development news at the time of writing). While the previous two were released for the small screen, another adaptation was very gradually crawling its way to the big screen…
Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (2014’s Starry Eyes), Pet Sematary is an adaptation of the King novel of the same name. When a family move into a new house in the middle of the woods, Louis (Jason Clarke) discovers a cemetery in his back yard… but this is no ordinary cemetery. After burying his recently deceased cat there, Louis learns the hard way that, sometimes, dead is better.
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Despite there being a couple of changes to the story, this was an enjoyable and tense adaptation. The isolated setting was haunting, thanks to the fantastic cinematography and score. The score, for the most part, really emphasised the dread of the events that were about to unfold for the unfortunate family. The film does include a few jumpscares, but it thrives more on the tension; it’s constantly reminding moviegoers that something bad will happen. Unfortunately, once things do go wrong, the score decides to take the cheesy horror film route, which doesn’t suit the creepy visuals at all.
Jason Clarke and John Lithgow (who plays Louis’ neighbour Judd) always give fantastic performances, and this is no exception. The two actors worked together beautifully, and their interactions with each other were believable. However, the stand out was Jeté Laurence as eldest daughter Ellie; she was able to switch from being a kind-hearted and sweet young daughter to a creepy and evil being seamlessly, and her performance, along with Clarke and Lithgow’s, made this strange tale believable. Louis’ wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) did well despite unfortunately not being given too much to work with.
Overall Pet Sematary was a tense and creepy adaptation of the beloved Stephen King novel. And, while a couple of changes have been made from the book, this won’t affect moviegoers who haven’t read the source material.
Sometimes dead is better… but this reawakening is an exception.