Pet Sematary (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, USA, 2019, 101 mins

Cast:  John Lithgow, Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Hugo Lavoie Jeté Laurence,

Review by Carol Allen

This is a remake of Stephen King’s 1984 horror parable about our fear of death and difficulty in accepting it.  It was previously filmed in 1989 and has now been brought back from the dead by directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.  And despite its contemporary trappings and interestingly a 15 certificate as opposed to the previous one’s 18 (sign of the changing times), it is still the same effectively unnerving tale that King originally created.

In true horror film mode it features a typical, American movies’ style happy family.  Tired of the stress and bustle of the big city, doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie) to a lovely house in the country, near where he has a new job in the local hospital.  They soon make friends with their kindly, somewhat eccentric neighbour Jud Crandall, (John Lithgow, behind rather a lot of whiskers).  Their backyard is acres of what appears to be beautiful forest, but part of it, they soon discover, is the cemetery of the title, labelled and misspelt by the local children, who have a long tradition of conducting somewhat creepy funeral rites there, when their pets pass on.

Ellie is particular is devoted to the family cat Church.  We get broad hints poor pussy is not long for this world from both the proximity of the pets’ graveyard and the fact that a dangerous highway runs very close to the house.  When the inevitable happens and Church meets his end under the wheels of a truck, kindly Jud offers to help Louis bury the cat.  Knowing how upset Ellie will be at the death of her pet though, he persuades Louis to bury Church not in the aforesaid pet sematary but in a more sinister burial ground behind it, which can bring those buried there back to life.

This being a horror movie, that is precisely what happens.  Church has now though become a most evil feline, whose return from the grave involves much scarier goings on than scratching the best furniture. And that is only the beginning.

As horror films go, this one does what it says on the tin.  It delivers plenty of spooky moments, jumps and jolts, including one particularly effective one involving a young man, whose life Louis is trying to save on the operating table.   Cat lovers in particular might find the film rather disturbing, as they look at the family pet with new eyes!

The typical American family get a bit irritating at times, particularly Elle, who is an annoying little show off.   But all credit to Jeté Laurence in the role.  She contributes most effectively to some of the film’s scariest moments.