Sometimes dead’s better. If you’re like me you heard that when you were growing up. It’s ingrained in your psyche due to one or all three of these reasons: You watched South Park, read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, or like me, you watched the cinematic retelling of King’s novel of the same name. Many dismiss it as a campy poorly made horror that Denise Crosby hoped would rocket her into stardom after leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation (this is the genuine reason). I remember and have fond memories of Pet Sematary because of its disturbing imagery and that iconic line, “Sometimes dead’s better”. Now 20 years on directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer raise this story back from the dead with Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and John Lithgow.
The question is raised once again like with most remakes should this film have stayed dead?
Louis Creed (Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Seimetz) have become disillusioned with the fast pace of city life so they move their small family to rural Maine to slow down. They move into an incredible house with 50 acres of land available to them. One day Ellie (Jeté Laurence) their eldest child heads off to check out her new “back garden” and comes across a cemetery filled to the brim with dead pets. She meets their neighbour Jud (Lithgow) there when she tries to climb over an unusual wall built on fallen tree’s. He explains she shouldn’t try to climb that as it’s dangerous and as the story unfolds you begin to understand that statements meaning is twofold.
Pet Sematary is a great horror. It’s simple as that. It’s got an incredible story built on some fascinating lore that I personally wish they went further into but that’s really a personal preference. The characters within this film are also brilliant. Clarke and Seimetz have great chemistry that wraps around their whole family unit. You believe that Louis adores his family and would do anything for them and that’s what this film needs to work. Scaring people can be quite rudimentary and forgettable.
However, if you make the audience care about the characters then you will first become worried about them when events start to go awry within the story and when shit really hits the fan (which it does in the film) that feeling will evolve. Combine this sense of empathy that you have for the Creed family and bring in some genuine horrific elements and you will be terrified when it all goes down.
On the horror element, I found Pet Sematary to be quite disturbing especially in the final act. Not only that the film peppers in a horrific backstory for Rachel that at times was better than the central story. This is down to the performances from the cast. Seimetz is brilliant as Rachel. She’s fun and charming but there is a serious chip on her shoulder and she sells it.
The MVP of the film though is Jeté Laurence. She is brilliant, has a charming presence and she works with every other member of the cast. Jeté has a bright future ahead of her and this film is the start of a great career. Another character/actor that brought something fantastic to Pet Sematary is Church the cat. Church the cat was played by four separate cats and they should be applauded. The performances these cats give are amazing because Church is a fascinating being in this film and in my opinion, completely outshines the other cat being lauded around cinema right now.
In the end, Pet Sematary is not a place you should go but it is definitely a film you need to see especially if you’re a horror fan and a Stephen King fan.