Pet Sematary, arguably one of Stephen King’s best works, has been interpreted yet again since its paperback release 36 years ago.
With the exception of some details, the 2019 adaptation kept the backbone of the plot pretty soundly. It still follows the unspeakable horrors the Creed family has encountered because of a hidden burial ground that packs all sorts of evil — with a nasty, undead cat to boot.
The latest remake is challenging the original 1989 version with its painstaking nips and tweaks, but did it actually surpass its predecessor?
Fine-tuned for depth
Needless to say, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s take on the King classic is a leaner presentation than that of Mary Lambert’s somewhat eccentric handling on the original film.
The trailer for the latest movie has already shown us that the biggest change is in the Creed kid swap. Instead of younger son Gage, older daughter Ellie will be coming back from the dead. There exists a ton of obvious reasons for the switch, but it does work better since there is more material to work with an 11-year-old instead of a toddler, especially in terms of connection and relationship with the older Creeds. This makes for a richer buildup and it doesn’t offer a lot of struggle in the overall storyline.
It’s obvious that the screen makers have put a considerable amount of effort into making the audience invest in Ellie’s character, since it is quite a big deviation. Kölsch and Widmyer have taken into account that we should feel the same emotional displacement Ellie’s parents did when she passed away. This same treatment is significantly relevant in the changes they’ve prompted to drive Pet Sematary away from campy and closer to murky.
Gage from Pet Sematary (1989)
Ellie from Pet Sematary (2019)
Missed some swings — yet dreamlike altogether
The new Pet Sematary may have the grips of a quintessential King narrative, but it does lack in some key aspects that made the Lambert film memorable. Maybe it’s because most of us have seen the older film when we were younger (or we’re just longing for things of the past), but the emotional resonance just wasn’t enough to humanize the unsettling, sad kind of dismay that makes us think hours after we’ve left the theaters.
The arc of the harrowing realities of death may not have lingered a lot in this release, but it did well in terms of shifting pieces that have provided us with what could be the darkest ending of all the Pet Sematary adaptations.
Pet Sematary 1989’s Church
Pet Sematary 2019’s Church
Worth digging up
Going in not knowing what to expect, it’s not as bad as reboots go. It might not have hit all the right places, but some points were given improved arrangements to leverage the surreal elements of the movie.
To its merit, the new Pet Sematary has retained the old, eerie feel of the film without compromising value. It’s littered with tasteful old-school things despite having a modern setting, which ultimately adds to the experience.
Suffice it to say that both films have the chops they seem to have — and this remake works if you keep an open mind. There are some factors that remain unrivaled with Lambert’s Pet Sematary, but this one casts a more natural characterization and pacing despite some uncertain red herrings and forgotten plot threads. More importantly, it is a solid effort that will probably find itself ranking higher than its preceding versions. It’s a good take on a classic which won’t disappoint you no further than dead leads on any other King movie. It’s revived for the better and it’s worth unburying.