Rated R for general brutality. But I really want it to be rated R for a very specific brutality. It's the second grossest places to get stabbed. The trailer teases it, but the Achilles tendon is a pretty gross place to get stabbed. I don't know why it sets off such a visceral reaction for me, but man alive I get all squirmy when I see that cut. Also, Pet Sematary is all about the gore. It's not on the level of an Eli Roth or James Gunn film, but be ready to see some overall disturbing things. I'm sure there's language, but whatever. R.
DIRECTORS: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
Listen, I read Pet Sematary just to get ready for this movie. I also watched the original Pet Sematary and its sequel to get ready for this movie. You'd think I'd be there on opening day to go see the remake that looked super awesome. Well, I didn't. It's really hard to go see really gross horror movies. I don't ever want to be associated with being a horror movie guy. I like horror movies, but I also like a lot of other stuff too. I tend to put them up on a pedestal as an adult mainly because it is difficult to convince my wife to go see them. She's really waist-deep into Hallmark Channel right now, so that's the climate I'm working with right now. I mean, I know my wife wouldn't like this movie one bit. There's nothing in it that really appeals to her. She had her tiny horror kick for about three months, but a lot of that was due to Ryan Murphy. Pet Sematary appeals to a very specific crowd and that's probably what will make it ultimately forgettable.
There seems to be a trend in modern movies. I don't want to simply shelve Pet Sematary as remake. Remakes seem to be a very different beast. I do kind of love that this is a remake of a movie that is less than impressive. I know that there are classic Pet Sematary fans out there. I don't want to detract from people's tastes or anything like that. I have to say that I'm torn. I know that the new version kind of plays up that element of iconic imagery. When I saw that trailer with the kids walking through the forest sporting homemade animal masks, I knew that there was something really disturbing about that. Those masks are particularly effective. The weird thing about the masks is that the entire marketing was built around these masks. I thought back to the book and tried to figure out what was going on with these kids and the masks. I thought that somehow the filmmakers decided to add a cult element or something to the entire story. I am glad that it didn't happen. Don't get me wrong. But it is extremely effective. What this all leads to is that much of Pet Sematary plays up imagery more than substance. I really want to stress that this is not a binary thing. If I had to give Pet Sematary a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would be more complimentary than detracting of it. It's pretty creepy. It's pretty scary. But where this movie separates itself from its predecessors is the idea that visually, the entire thing is intense, if not sitting on the shoulders of its compatriots. Everything in the world of this King story is very bleak. New England seems like a sad, brutal fog. That washed out feeling gives the entire world a sense of gravitas and foreboding, but that also kind of leads to a complete lack of humor and joy. It's why I probably won't be watching the movie again. It just lacks any sense of fun. I like when horror is fun. I need that back and forth coming from my films. If I'm scared, I need that cathartic laugh afterwards. It makes the next scare all that much more scary.
The big twist is the thing I want to write about the most. I don't know why I buried it in this paragraph. I think I wanted to clear off some cobwebs before I decided to write about this exact thing. One of the drawing points to the story is the fact that Gage is the one who dies in the original story. Pet Sematary isn't that amazing of a story. If The Shining is all about Jack Nicholson with an axe, Pet Sematary is a story about a toddler murdering folks. It's so visually a thing. I remember seeing the trailer back in the day with Gage shambling all over the house in a onesie and it terrified me. The most successful thing in the original film is Gage. But switching the victim of the Orinco truck to Ellie is actually a cool choice, but probably only for people who are tired of the same narrative. The remake covers all the same beats of the book and the original film. In fact, it probably covers these moments a little better. I will swear to the grave (pun intended) that the original totally needed to have Gage as the killer kid. But Ellie's resurrection plays very differently than Gage. Ellie is rational. As a parent, I can see trying to resurrect Gage more. But then again, I also love all my children and, if I was in Louis's situation, would return any one of them. But the toddler is the most tragic. I thought that the new filmmakers originally choice to swap Ellie for Gage because the death of a toddler seems so unbelievably tragic. But what actually happens is that Louis gets something different than he does with Gage with Ellie. If I have a nine-year-old, I have certain expectations of behavior. The death of Ellie and the return of Ellie means an understanding that you can probably fix her. I know if I was looking at my kids, behavior probably means something temporary. I have a personal relationship with that kid that I would be desperate to get back. Ellie is a different kind of scary than Gage was in the original story. Gage was almost an imp crawling through the house. But Ellie is a corrupt version of something that was originally loved and respected. That's kind of an interesting exploration that I hadn't thought of before.
King originally stuck a lot of side stuff into his movie that the previous film really didn't touch on. The first film never really felt all that crafted. It felt very commercial and somewhat rushed. But this film really takes some deep dives into the more challenging elements of King's novel. I never really felt comfortable with the Zelda story, mainly because it is a fear of the invalid. I guess I'm walking into some weird territory. We are terrified of the infirm. I know that I am. I am extremely empathetic, but I can't deny the twinge that comes from knowing someone is reminding me of my own mortality. The Zelda stuff is exploitative, but is that the worst thing in the world? This is something I'm figuring out right now. I mean, denying that people experience senses of trepidation when dealing with the infirm probably seems like it is the world's great lie. But then also, only compounding that fear in a movie like Pet Sematary also seems pretty irresponsible. I want to address the fear that people have of the infirm, but Pet Sematary only takes it to a place that is more troubling than previously thought. Rather than counteract that fear at all, the movie tells us that we have a reason to be afraid of the ill beyond the thing that our reptile brain really tells us. King isn't exactly a moral crusader, giving a positive spin to the fear. The movie isn't Home Alone, dealing with the scary neighbor while providing a positive message to take away from the whole story. No, it's scary and it is meant to be scary. I appreciate that, but I want something more than I can give as a good answer. The Zelda story is weird. There's an element of that story that blames the parents for leaving Rachel at home with Zelda. I love that element of the book. In fact, I was kind of shocked that my favorite part of the story, the confrontation between Louis and Rachel's parents, isn't in the film. But what does it really say? We have Rachel's almost unstoppable feare of death. I'm a little bummed out that the film decided to make this movie reflect Louis's hard atheist perspective on the whole thing. I know that's what King is beating around the bush with, but this movie drives a nail hard into that fight and embraces the fact that any degree of faith is silly. But what the Zelda storyline leaves us, besides some admittedly effective scares, especially when the dumbwaiter is concerned, is a fear of those who are sick. That's probably not too healthy.
I would like to point out how much I like John Lithgow as Jud. There's a moment that's almost too meta for words. I'm sure it just worked out because the stars aligned, but the conversation about knowing who Winston Churchill was capped the film off nicely for me. That little tie to The Crown was absolutely priceless. I know there was a wink to the camera, but it didn't really feel like a wink to the camera. Besides that, Pet Sematary falls into the category of effective-remake, but who really cares? It's not a classic. Probably the original story isn't that much of a classic. Honestly, part of me is already pretty tired of this story and I don't really want to watch more of it. Regardless, it's a fine movie I guess.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.