Pet Sematary: A King Adaptation In Need of a Remake

This will likely be an unpopular opinion. I’m not a fan of the 1990 It mini-series. Aside from Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise, I thought It was a miscast and watered down version of Stephen King’s novel. Last fall, I wrote a piece about Stephen King film adaptations that would benefit from a remake. Without a doubt, the It remake was huge improvement. Another King adaptation that will likely benefit from its remake – Pet Sematary. I was underwhelmed when I saw the adaptation on its release, and not much changed when I recently re-watched it.

Synopsis

Young doctor Louis Creed moves his wife and children from Chicago to small-town Maine for a new job. New neighbour and friend, the elderly Jud Crandall, shows the Creed’s the local ‘Pet Sematary’. When the Creed’s family cat dies, Jud takes Louis beyond this ‘Pet Sematary’ to an ancient burial ground. The Creed’s cat, Church, comes back, but not the same. After a horrific accident shatters the Creeds’ lives, Louis goes beyond the ‘Pet Sematary’ again in a desperate bid to reunite his family. But sometimes dead is better.

Pet Sematary Boasts Haunting Images, But Lacks Tension

Pet Sematary is a bit of a mixed bag. Director Mary Lambert certainly crafts some haunting images. On one hand, it’s not difficult to see why many horror fans hold this movie in high regard. In particular, Rachel Creed’s nighmares of sister Zelda feature disturbing imagery. Those scenes in conjunction with the decaying Pascow and resurrected Gage Creed give Pet Sematary some idiosyncratic horror ticks. But those are just moments spread out across a nearly two-hour movie.

To be fair, adapting a novel to the screen poses challenges. Things will inevitably be lost in translation. But Pet Sematary feels disjointed.

By and large, Pet Sematary just isn’t a scary movie. In between all those unnerving images, Pet Sematary has a ‘small’ feel to it. In fact, much of the movie can’t shake that ‘made-for-television’ feel. Aside from this lack of a cinematic feel, Pet Sematary suffers from a lack of atmosphere. Some of these issues can be chalked up to the piecemeal nature of the story. To be fair, adapting a novel to the screen poses challenges. Things will inevitably be lost in translation. But Pet Sematary feels disjointed. What’s kept and what’s not from the novel almost feels random.

Miscasting Contributes to Movie’s ‘Small Feel’

Pet Sematary suffers from some poor casting decisions. As the elderly Jud Crandall, Fred Gwynne is probably the best part of the movie. Gwynne fully inhabits has character, balancing small-town charm with a little gravitas. However, Gwynne’s in a supporting role. There’s only so much he can do for the movie. It’s the film’s two leads who aren’t quite up to the task.

As the elderly Jud Crandall, Fred Gwynne is probably the best part of the movie.

As Louis Creed, Dale Midkiff just doesn’t bring that same level of gravitas to his role as Gwynne. In fact, Midkiff seems pretty wooden for most of the movie. Even in those moments that should be emotionally powerful – including Gage’s tragic accident – Midkiff comes across as flat. And sorry The Next Generation fans, but Denise Crosby doesn’t fare much better than Midkiff. Regardless of what the scene requires, Crosby under-sells the role. These problems are compounded by the lack of chemistry between both leads.

Pet Sematary Is Remake Worthy

Look, Pet Sematary isn’t a bad movie. I prefer to use the word, ‘underwhelming’. Adapting one of King’s best novels was bound to prove challenging. Storywise the movie feels like a haphazard interpretation of the novel. Undoubtedly, the movie has a few classic bits that will get under your skin. But these parts don’t add up to a compelling whole. Dead may be better, but sometimes remakes are necessary.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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