Despite having never seen the original “Pet Semetary” or having read Stephen King’s novel, I do have an interesting history with this story. My mother swears that the scariest movie-going experience of her life was seeing the 1989 “Pet Semetary” when she was pregnant with me. She swears to having nightmares for weeks after watching this desperate man do everything he can to give his children a fair chance at life like every other kid, only for it to end horrifically. In some way, I think it scared her so much because she could see herself in the father’s position, understanding the lengths that he goes to for his children. Much like “The Exorcist,” I feel both the 1989 film and this movie become frequent but deeply personal nightmares when seen from a parent’s perspective.
And while the newest “Pet Semetary” does a fine job of conveying this fear and showing the cogs turning in the head of Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), the impact and weight of his decision doesn’t carry as well as it should. The film instead gets lost in a lot of horror clichés and tropes, especially jump scares and fake outs, especially in the third act. By the end of the movie, it all feels so distant from its cautionary tale and instead feels like a zombie movie gone wrong. The acting from Clarke and Amy Seimetz, who plays Louis’ wife Rachel, often feel lost or uninterested in all the death that surrounds them. The only actor who turns in a worthwhile performance is John Lithgow as the old but experienced Jud Crandall, as Lithgow conveys just how conflicted and torn-up his character is.
Overall, there are some things “Pet Semetary” does nail, especially the unsettling atmosphere and Louis’ character progression. The slow pace works in the first half of the movie, as Louis comes to grip with the world he now finds himself in, but that same pace doesn’t work as it builds towards a climax. I don’t think this film hits nearly as hard as it could have, and instead goes for quick shock value far too often, which it didn’t need to.
Final Grade: C