Video Vices

Pet Sematary Franchise Reviewed

Pet Sematary (2019)

Tag Line: Sometimes Dead Is Better.
Release Date: 2019.
Directors: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
Written By: Novel by: Stephen King. Screen Story by: Matt Greenberg. Screenplay By: Jeff Buhler.
Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo and Lucas Lavoie.
Running Time:
1 hour and 41 minutes.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Tag Line: Sometimes Dead Is Better.
Release Date: 1989.
Director: Mary Lambert.
Written By: Novel by: Stephen King. Screenplay By: Stephen King.
Cast: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes and Blaze Berdahl.
Running Time:
1 hour and 43 minutes.

Pet Sematary 2

Tag Line: Raise Some Hell.
Release Date: 1992.
Director: David F. Sandberg.
Written By: Richard Outten.
Cast: Edward Furlong, Anthony Edwards, Clancy Brown, Jared Rushton and Darlanne Fluegel.
Running Time:
1 hour and 40 minutes.

There some things the world can do without. Recycling eighties and nineties horror movies joins asparagus, episodes of The Bold Type, Justin Bieber albums and pop-up ads as one of those things.

Except in rare instances like 2011’s The Thing or 2002’s The Ring, most of this recycled nonsense such as 2009’s Friday the 13th or 2010’s Nightmare on Elm Street are produced without any passion, flair, style and worst of all…any scares. The filmmakers are just going through the motions hoping to squeeze a few bucks out of a film’s legacy.

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Like trying to herd cats, Pet Sematary (2019) is another colossal waste of time.

Except for Jeté Laurence as Ellie and Leo, Tonic, Jager and JD as Church the cat, everyone else is just sleepwalking through the film, especially Jason Clarke as Louis who appears to have just rolled out of bed before every scene. Why directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer didn’t dose the crew’s tasty beverages with caffeine pills on a daily basis is a mystery. They could have desperately used some. Scream: The TV Series is the highpoint of both Kölsch’s and Widmyer’s short Hollywood careers which probably explains just about everything that is wrong with this remake.

In order to discuss how this remake walked headlong into oncoming  traffic, one must dig into the plot so if you haven’t seen any of the Pet Sematary films and don’t wish for anything to be spoiled for you, please read the book, watch the films first before reading any further.

You have been warned.

Let there be spoilers…

For anyone who has seen the original film by Mary Lambert or read the classic book by Stephen King which was inspired by The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs, Pet Sematary (2019) takes a bewildering and absurd detour after that “big shock moment”. That moment too has been fiddled with for no discernible reason.

The Creed family moves from Chicago to Maine when doctor dad, Louis, gets a fancy new job at the University of Maine. They make friends with an elderly neighbour (Jud Crandall) who introduces them to the Pet Sematary located on their property, a short trek through the bush from their home. From generation to generation the town’s children, who apparently slept through English class, have buried their deceased pets in the Pet Sematary. Beyond that cemetery though is an ancient burial ground that once belonged to the Mi’kmaq Tribe.

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When the family’s beloved cat Church dies, Jud has Louis bury the kitty there. Church is resurrected but he is twisted and vicious. Jud explains to Louis that this happens sometimes when animals are brought back by the burial ground.

Gee, thanks, Jud.

The turning point for Louis’ character is when his son, a toddler named Gage, is killed in a horrific accident. Consumed by guilt and sorrow, Louis unwisely buries Gage in the Mi’kmaq cemetary hoping against all hope that Gage will come back better than Church did.

The death of Gage in King’s original book is shocking and heart-breaking. In Lambert’s film, the shot of Gage’s bloody running shoe flipping end over end before laying still on the roadway is an unforgettable scene especially for any parent. Not only is it taboo for young children to die in American entertainment but to have Gage return later as a demonic fiend is even more ghastly.

As Jud tells Louis, “Sometimes dead is better.”

In Pet Sematary (2019) it is not Gage who is killed, it is Ellie instead. While her death is horrifying as well, it doesn’t have the same stake-through-the-heart, devastating impact that Gage’s did. The murderous rampage that follows is not as upsetting or as disturbing either. It is just the first of many pointless changes the filmmakers made to the story proving they don’t really understand it to begin with and had no faith in King’s masterwork either.

Following Ellie’s death the story spontaneously combusts. In short, Ellie kills her mom, resurrected mom kills dad, dad is buried and reanimated too, the Family of the Walking Dead returns home to turn a defenseless Gage.

In the book, mom comes back to life, rests her rotted hand on her husband’s shoulder croaking one chilling word: “Darling.” In the 1989 film, the screenplay also written by Stephen King, resurrected mom hugs dad, mom reaches for a knife, fade to black as dad screams.

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The Pet Sematary (2019) ending comes off as a bad punchline to a bad joke rather than the haymaker to the throat that it should be. Just like swapping Ellie’s death for Gage’s, the closing scene just doesn’t have the same emotional impact.

Lambert’s 1989 film is superior. Dale Midkiff’s Louis Creed is far more sympathetic. He seems like a real human being unlike Jason Clarke’s impression of Ro-Man from Robot Monster. Denise Crosby’s Rachel comes with more punch. That’s probably because she is best known for playing security Chief Lieutenant Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation. While John Lithgow does a decent job as Jud in the remake he cannot compare to the incomparable Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster of The Munsters, in the original.

Lambert’s version is far more chilling too mainly because the killer is a toddler. While the idea might sound ridiculous, Lambert expertly pulls it off. Gage is as sinister and creepy as Chucky.

Returning to film Pet Sematary 2 years later, you would have thought the talented Lambert had moved to Stepford and been replaced by an android. It doesn’t resemble  the work she did at all on the original. The endlessly sulky Edward Furlong (John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day) brings his pout and scowl to his deceased mother’s hometown which just happens to be the same town as the first film, cursed cemetery and all. Anthony Edwards, who gained fame on TV’s ER, is his pushover of a dad who just so happens to be a doctor like Louis was.

The Mi’kmaq Restoration Spa is once again open for business as another pet and more humans receive Lazarus treatments. The undead Sheriff Gus Gilbert (Clancy Brown) takes center stage becoming Bub the Zombie of Pet Sematary 2. Cackling, mumbling and gurgling, Gus shambles around snapping necks, making fart jokes, belching and bleeding from wounds that will not heal. So, he is like a regular teenager except for the wounds and the undead parts, that is.

Mary Lambert made her mark producing music videos for Madonna, The Go-Go’s, Sting, The Eurythmics and others before directing feature films. That background in music doesn’t serve her well in Pet Sematary 2 as the soundtrack is not only as irritating as having a Xenomorph rent out space in your chest but is often used at the most inappropriate times and thus creating inappropriate tones.

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Traci Lords’ Love Never Dies, a transparent and brutal rip-off of Metallica’s One, will have even a true metal head searching desperately for ear plugs. The seventies movie-of-the-week music that makes up the rest of the soundtrack is distracting and doesn’t belong in a serious horror film. It makes Pet Sematary 2 even more cheesier than it already is.

From directing a horror masterpiece to schlepping schlock, it took Lambert only three years to bury the franchise. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer should have taken the advice of good old Jud because when it comes to the Pet Sematary franchise, sometimes dead is indeed better.

Gravestones

Pet Sematary (2019)

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Three people die in accidents.
A cat croaks.
An implied death off-screen.
Two people are stabbed to death.
Death by weather vane.

Pet Sematary (1989)

grave_smallgrave_smallgrave_smallgrave_smallgrave_smallgrave_smallgrave_smallgrave_small

Two people die in accidents.
Kitty goes splat.
Death by scalpel and a bite to the throat.
Another death by scalpel.
Two morphine overdoses.
An implied death off-screen.

Pet Sematary 2

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Death by electric shock.
Two dogs are shot.
One person is mauled by an animal.
Kittens are killed off-screen.
Neck broken by a motorcycle.
Two die in a crash with a potato truck and are buried alive by the potatoes.
Bullet to the head.
Stabbed to death.
Burnt to a crisp.

Naughty Bits

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Simulated sex.

Memorable Dialogue

Pet Sematary (2019)

Jud Crandall: Sometimes, dead is better.
Jud Crandall: She won’t come back the same.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Jud Crandall: Sometimes, dead is better.
Victor Pascow: The soil…in a man’s heart…is stonier.
Gage: No Fair! No Fair! No Fair!
Gage: Hi, daddy. Now I want you play with you.
Gage: I brought you something, mommy.

Pet Sematary 2

Gus Gilbert: No Brain, no pain. Think about it.
Drew Gilbert: He’s gonna kick my ass!
Gus Gilbert: Drew buddy, you have the right to remain silent. I’ll bash your head in. You have the right to an attorney. You won’t need one because you’ll be dead. Do you understand these rights Drew, buddy, or are you just too fucking stupid?

Pints of Blood

Pet Sematary (2019)

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Pet Sematary (1989)

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Pet Sematary 2

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Rating

Pet Sematary (2019)

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Pet Sematary (1989)

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Pet Sematary 2

shit

 

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