Let’s see if dead is better.
Inexplicably, Pet Semetary was remade this year, so of course I went to see it. Those who remember the original do so fondly because that one verges on so completely catastrophic it is kind of awesome. I am sure you have heard the new on is better than original, but is that really something to be proud of? It is slightly better than one of the campiest films ever made? Sure, I guess—but it isn’t nearly as fun.
We follow a family, Louis (Jason Clarke), Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two kids Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie/Lucas Lavoie) as they are moving from New York to a small town in Maine. Louis wants to spend more time with his family, so this new country setting will allow him more flexibility in his scheduling.
Shortly after arriving, the family discovers the pet semetary (Ellie notes the misspelling) on their property and meets Jud (John Lithgow). It seems that those who go beyond the initial cemetery can find a place where the dead come back, but different. Of course, we get to see this in action.
The film isn’t sure if it wants to have some fun with the cheese or be overly serious. We get a lot of “creepy” imagery (like kids in masks), but these images don’t account for anything. Lithgow does well to bring some variety to Jud, but the film frames him almost as an antagonist for large swathes of it. Granted, character relations don’t help as Jason Clarke’s emotional range is a combination of just-woke-up and wants-to-talk-to-the-manager. His slightly sleepy, slightly pissed persona makes every situation tense in a weird (i.e. not scary) way. I don’t know what it takes for him to wake up for a role anymore.
Once the family cat, Church, is killed and reanimated it becomes a pest. Seeming to be more evil than anything good—but anyone who has a cat might not be convinced of the supernatural influence here.
I know the trailers spoiled this, but spoiler warning none the less.
One of the children dies and is buried in the cemetery. The problem here is that we are supposed to think Louis is a smart person—when the child comes back haunted there seems to be some surprise. Well, what the fuck did you think was going to happen? Even Jud who was certain maybe this time it would work with Church is moronic. “Well the last thing we buried there came back evil and could only be calmed by ripping peoples’ faces off, but I’m sure this time it will be fine” seriously??! (Not a real quote from the film, but it may as well be). The premise is kind of stupid. As horror films have become more complex this sort of narrative seems out of place anymore.
We get some nice moments where the reanimated know something is wrong but can’t figure out what. More of this sort of introspection may have saved the film. Instead, we get a couple minutes of this and the rest is lazy jump scares.
The film also wants to make a lot of changes, which is fine, but the reasoning for a lot of these changes is just to set up a jump scare a moment later. The filmmakers knew most people saw the original, so they are trying to pull one over on us—I guess. They also forgot to give us the reason why Rachel’s parents don’t like Louis, apparently that was the responsibility of the previous film?
Maybe they should have just made it a PG-13 movie and gone full jump-scare pop-horror. Right now, it verges on that but is limiting its audience due to saying fuck a few times. Hardcore horror fans will be bored here. This is for cheap thrills from folks who want to see a horror movie for brief adrenaline, but don’t want to probe into anything deeper or mysterious. I don’t think this is worth the time.