101 minutes | Rated R
The new movie Pet Sematary is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It makes several changes from the 1989 movie also based on the novel. Having recently re-watched the 1989 version, I think that I prefer the older film. That is not to say that the remake is worse, just different. I understand why they made some of the changes, it’s just that I prefer the way the original ended. I don’t want to spoil either version for readers who may not have seen them.
Jason Clarke, whom you may recognize from his recent roles in “Winchester”, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” stars as Dr. Louis Creed. The movie begins with Creed and his wife, Rachel, played by Amy Seimetz, along with their children Ellie, and baby Gage arriving at their new country home in Ludlow, Maine. Ellie and her mother witness a procession of children wearing animal masks pulling a wagon containing a deceased dog following a path on their property. Later, Ellie follows the path and discovers a pet cemetery. While exploring, she begins to climb over a large mass of fallen timber at the rear of the cemetery. A mysterious old man warns her to get down. She falls. While tending to her wound, the old man introduces himself as their neighbor Jud Crandall, played by John Lithgow. Just about this time, Rachel shows up looking for her daughter. Jud tells them of his dog Biffer that he buried in the cemetery as a child, and explains that kids in the area have made burying beloved pets here a kind of ritual.
This brings up the topic of death. Rachel was traumatized by the death of her sister, Zelda, who suffered from spinal meningitis, and is uncomfortable discussing the topic with her young daughter. Louis ensures the young girl that they will all be here for a long time, but yes they will all eventually die. Ellie is comforted by her father’s discussion and goes to sleep with her pet cat, Church.
On his first day at work, they bring in a young man who was struck by a truck on the busy road that runs by Louis’s new home. The doctor does all that he can, but the man’s injuries are too severe, and he passes away. That night, Louis has a dream where the young man appears to him. He tells Louis, “You tried to help me. Now, I am here to help you.” He leads the doctor to the pet cemetery and says, “This is the place where the dead speak.” He then warns that, “The barrier is not meant to be broken.”
The next morning, he is shocked to find that his feet are muddy. The next day as Ellie is preparing to go trick-or-treating, Jud says that there is something that he needs to see and motions for him to cross the road. Upon reaching Jud, he discovers that Ellie’s cat Church has been hit while crossing the road and is dead. They decide not to tell Ellie. Jud tells Louis to “come back tonight and we’ll take care of this.”
The new version while quite different from the original is still a very good film. I have not read the book, but as Stephen King appeared as a priest in the original and was credited as a screenwriter, I’m guessing that the 1989 film is closer to his book. The only mention of King in the newer version is that the film is based on his book. Eagle-eyed King fans will notice some references to other works by the author in the new movie. John Lithgow is enjoyable in the role played by Fred Gwynne, perhaps best known as Herman Munster, in the original film. The rest of the cast is also very good. Both films are good, the original still holds up pretty well. The endings are quite different, I think that I prefer the ending of the 1989 version, but each has their merits.
Pet Sematary is rated R for violence, frightening imagery, language, and smoking and alcohol usage. It should be fine for older teens and up. I rate it three-and-a-half out of five undead cats.