I can’t remember many details about Stephen King’s book Pet Sematary because one summer I read a whole bunch of Stephen King books all in a row and my brain is a slurry of ’Salem’s Lot, It, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Cujo, and The Talisman, and I know Stephen King did not write The Talisman alone, he wrote it with Peter Straub, settle down.
I also never saw the 1989 original movie made out of Pet Sematary because Fred Gwynne is in the cast, and when I see Fred Gwynne all I can think is that he played Herman Munster in the the old teevee show The Munsters, and to see Fred Gwynn in anything, even My Cousin Vinny, where he was doing a Southern accent, all I could think was that’s Herman Munster, and then I’d hear the music from the show in my head.
I am unencumbered by previous iterations. This new Pet Sematary movie stinks all on its own. Sitting in the auditorium with a preview screening crowd, I ask myself, Why did they make this movie, and I sure don’t know besides typical thoughts about how there are no new ideas and it’s been 30 years since the original, so why not cash in? The gimmick of Pet Sematary is bringing something back to life, so they brought Pet Sematary back to life and it is lifeless and unsatisfying, and only a little bit scary, and even then it’s the cheap way, just cranking up the sound and cutting to something real fast.
What I can remember from the novel is the naturalistic horror that King created, a “deadfall,” a giant pile of dead tree branches piled up in a creepy woods where nothing good happens, but the filmmakers decided to go all Stranger Things and present an uncharted alternate-dimension-looking place instead of staying with the idea of just walking deeper into the perfectly creepy woods that are supposed to be near the house our film family just moved to from the big city.
As for the supernatural horror, a revivified animal, that’s the highlight of this movie, the dead cat, and it quickly turns into a joke that destroys any chance of this being a seriously creepy movie about loss and grief and quiet moments of terror. There’s never a moment when you aren’t fully aware you’re watching a substandard movie’s plot unwind, and there’s nothing special about any of the performances except for the cat and for the child who looks like Drew Barrymore and Julianna Moore got together and had a child, but after her interesting plot development happens, the performance becomes cartoony and predictable and the flick turns into a stabby monster movie, because the directors couldn’t stay quiet and place before us the real emotional horror of a dead child and the finality and despair that brings.
They also screwed up the song that runs in the closing credits. I am putting this, the original version, here at the end as a purge of what I sat through last night.