Don’t go back to the ‘Sematary’

Miko Hughes played Gage Creed in the original “Pet Sematary.” (image copyright Paramount Pictures)

Before seeing the new Pet Sematary, I thought I’d catch up on the old ones. Not a good idea. Time has not been kind to what were already bad films. Mary Lambert directed both the 1989 original and the unnecessary 1992 sequel (from which Stephen King had his name removed). Hey, I’m all for giving female directors an equal chance to f*#! up a good horror story. The original: 1 star (on 0-5 scale). The sequel: ¾ star.

By the way, the only really good things about either film are the super-creepy, undead toddler and spinal-meningitis sister from the original. Let’s hope the new version can capture the creepiness of those two elements while improving on all the horrible decisions Lambert and her production crew made 30 years ago.

Update (July 2019): Yes, it’s taken me more than three months to see the remake, and as I suspected, it too falls short of the source material.

The new film (1 star), directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, succeeds in ways the original failed. For instance, it contains better cinematography and some sharper renditions of the characters of Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and Ellie (Jeté Laurence), though the casting of Jason Clarke as the lead is mostly a wash. John Lithgow (as Jud Crandall) is decent too but lacks the Downeast charm of the original’s Fred Gwynne. (Did he not even want to attempt a regional dialect?)

The movie falters in its tone and story, introducing some choppy editing and odd plot changes in an attempt to make the film relevant and fresh. It’s neither. For a hot second, it toys nicely with existentialism, but that flirtation with maturity gives way, predictably, to bland and not-very-scary horror. And without the genuinely frightening young boy (Miko Hughes) from the 1989 version, the ending left me as cold as Zelda’s diseased corpse.


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