I’m not going to go into any detail about how this movie differs from the original movie or the book. If anyone is interested, I wrote an article last month discussing the novel and the 1989 film at great length. The thing is, we’re all walking into this movie knowing already that there are major changes to King’s story, so before I went to see Pet Sematary, I decided to put all expectations aside, not waste time with comparisons, and just enjoy the movie for what it is.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD… don’t read on if you haven’t seen the movie already.
I just have to say right off the bat that I loved this movie. And I don’t just love it because it’s an adaptation of one of my favorite author’s books, it is a damn good horror movie all on its own. I will say, though, that the first third or so of the movie feels like it underwent some heavy cutting in the editing room. I guess I felt like the story was being rushed in some places, racing ahead to when everything kicks into high gear, but it was just something I noticed briefly and it didn’t take me out of the movie that much. I’m looking forward to a Director’s Cut when it comes out on Blu-Ray.
The special effects were expertly done, especially the scene where Victor Pascow is brought into the clinic. It was realistically gory, enough to make my iron stomach take a couple of barrel rolls. There is a lot of attention paid here to mood and atmosphere; it’s a dark movie, in both terms of tone and cinematography. The film is shot in a shadowy, ethereal way, and some of the best parts are scenes in the woods with the ominous rumbling sounds beyond the tall trees, the fog creeping along the ground to cover everything, investing these sequences with the qualities of a bad dream. It’s an homage to the gothic, which is very fitting; what can be more gothic than a story about disinterred corpses being replanted in a spoiled burial ground for the purposes of resurrection? My only complaint in this area is that some of the pet cemetery/burial ground scenes were too dark. I get what they going for, the darkness makes everything shrouded and induces a feeling of claustrophobia in the viewers, but this is a minor pet peeve of mine in many newer horror flicks and TV shows. They verge in being too dark and I’m left to struggle to figure out just what it is I’m looking at.
The actors were all terrific, even John Lithgow who had Herman Munster-sized shoes to fill. That’s part of what was so good about this movie: I was able to watch it and find myself engrossed and not keep thinking about the original. From the jump it establishes that this is a different kind of movie altogether, so comparisons don’t really matter.
Ellie (played by Jeté Laurence), as we all know by now, is the Creed child who gets run down in the road by a tanker truck instead of Gage. This change is going to be a bone of contention for a lot of people, but I found it refreshing. Gage as a killer toddler in the original was creepy as all hell, but there’s something so much more menacing about an older child coming back from the dead. She’s old enough to understand what has happened to her, which is terrifying to think about. One of the creepiest and most effective scenes in the movie is right after she returns and she recounts her last moments alive and her death to her father. The evil spirit that inhabits Ellie’s body is a brutal force and it is more believable that a girl that size could inflict some serious damage than it is to think a two year old could, resurrected or not. In the original, Gage is sly, but still rather bumbling and clumsy; it wouldn’t be all that difficult to kill something that small (one would think anyway), and in fact Louis dispatches him quite easily. My favorite kill in the remake is Jud’s. His murder scene plays with those of us who remember the 1989 film, but twists our expectations on their ear and then it turns into a bloodbath.
I’m not going to ruin the ending, because I’m not a complete dick and there is a bit of surprise there for those who haven’t seen it. I’ve been reading some of the reviews already and it looks like so far this movie is getting panned, but I think it will be a success. It’s great horror, it has everything we love about the genre, I just don’t know that people will be able to hold it up as its own film and not keep referring back to the original, which was also a great horror movie. And still is. They can both be kickass flicks and the remake doesn’t do any damage to the original. I’m just glad the filmmakers came up with something different to offer us; it’s creative and I found this to be a very suspenseful and unsettling movie. I’ll most likely go see it again before it’s out of theaters.
I give Pet Sematary a 9 out of 10 score. I always say if I’m being scared that means I’m having fun and I had a lot of fun with this one.