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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Pet Sematary (2019)


Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and John Lithgow
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Certificate: 15
Release Date: 12 August 2019

A doctor and his family move from the hustle and bustle of Boston to rural Maine, where they buy a house near a small road, with multiple acres of woods at the rear. There is a pet cemetery in the woods and local kids with animal masks make a solemn ritual of laying their pets to rest. When Church, the Creed family cat, is killed on the road it seems like the obvious choice. However, an old local man tells the doctor about a place in the woods beyond the cemetery, and a man-made barrier where, if buried, the cat will return to life. But it returns feral and spiteful. When their young daughter is hit and killed by a speeding truck on her birthday, the mother takes the little boy to her mother’s house for a break. That night the father digs up her body and takes her to where the cat was buried… but can he handle the consequences, as the family will never be the same again...

This is a remake of the original 1989 film, based on the Stephen King novel. There are differences though, which is part of the reason why it spent so long in the planning and pre-production stages. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer wanted Jason Clarke to play the father from the start, but realised, quite rightly, that the success or failure of the movie depended on how convincing the young daughter was. The bottom line is that Jete Laurence is pretty convincing as Ellie. The quality of John Lithgow shows through though as the old man. The only plot device which doesn’t actually make sense is when Lithgow’s character tells the father he can bring the cat back – even though he knows it is wrong and has had a very bad experience himself in the past.

The main changes from the 1989 film are changing the dead offspring from a boy to a girl, and setting the climatic scene in and around the cemetery rather than the house. The book, certainly from an emotional angle, is one of King’s darkest tales. I don’t think you could lighten this up if you tried. A BBC dramatisation for radio – although well done – was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever listened to. I must say, I don’t like the ending of this film, which I won’t give away. An alternative ending is only slightly better. However, when you have so much suspense and peril in the build-up, the conclusion is invariably a disappointment. Also, the dead student’s ghost is woefully underused. I should also mention there is a throwaway line when someone points out that Cemetery is spelt wrong on the sign!

Technology is so much more advanced these days, but it doesn’t necessarily make this a better adaptation than its predecessor. In fact, personally, I found the special features to be just as interesting as the film, particularly a four chapter documentary which explores different aspects of the behind-the-scenes. The extras amount to 90 minutes, and also include deleted and extended scenes, the haunting visions of three characters, The Tale of Timmy Baterman, and the aforementioned alternate ending. These gain this release an extra point.


Ty Power

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