06-21-2020, 03:11 PM
Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie
Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
1 hours 41 minutes
I lost a puppy as a boy and some years later, while reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, I remember wishing I too had access to a place where pets came back to life after being buried. That the novel gave me nightmares for a while was another matter. But despite experiencing all the horrors, I still thought -- maybe it could have been different with me. And this little thought, this little craving, is the seed that gave birth to monsters in both the novel and in the film adaptations. We always think it will be different for us, don’t we.
Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), a Boston doctor tired of big city life, shifts with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two kids, eight-year-old Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), to a quiet backwater in Maine. They instantly fall in love with their new house, whose only flaw is that it’s too close to a highway which sees humongous trucks roaring by all day. Their cat, Church, falls prey to an accident one day and that’s when their friendly neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), tells Louis about an ancient burial ground where pets come back alive miraculously. Church does comes back but is more feral and unkempt in appearance. But the family doesn’t mind the few extra scratches for sure. Things get complicated when Ellie gets knocked down by a speeding truck. A distraught Louis buries her too in the ancient resting place, leading to devastating results for everybody.
The horror in the film comes not just from the dead not remaining dead. Memories of her dead sister, who died from spinal meningitis, have haunted Rachel since childhood and the visions increase in their new home. Gage keeps seeing the ghost of Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) a student who died after being struck by a vehicle. The ghost appears in front of Louis as well and warns him not to cross the line between the living and the dead, a warning he unfortunately doesn’t pay heed to. The mood is built up slowly. You groan aloud when Rachel comes back to her husband as she feel traumatised in their old house after the loss of their daughter. The makers have deviated from Stephen King’s novel in the sense that it’s not the innocent Gage, without any real knowledge of the world, of evil, who gets killed first. Instead, it’s the slightly older Ellie, who knows the difference between being dead and being alive, who is the first to die. Hence, her killing spree stems from a fore knowledge. In effect, she returns as an evil twin of her sweet-natured self and builds on that evil. A father’s rage and helplessness at the turn of the events is effectively captured, as is a mother’s rejection of something she believes is no longer her child. It’s the emotional strain which gets to you rather than the slasher antics of Ellie.
The folk mythology contained in the novel is hardly touched upon in this adaptation. The writing falters in some places. John Lithgow’s character has a loaded gun and yet falls prey easily, offering token resistance. Louis could just leave with Gage -- he has a car parked right outside -- but he doesn’t. Since it was an old burial ground, shouldn’t there be hundreds of zombie animals and humans roaming around killing all and sundry? But the locals are unaware of any such threats.
All-in-all, Stephen King fans will probably watch the film to relish another adaptation of the master’s works. Non fans will perhaps like the old-fashioned atmospheric horror that the film offers in spades...