Pet Sematary

The Plot:

Louis (Jason Clarke), wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Elie (Jeté Laurence) and son Gage (Hugo Lavoie) arrive to open land and plenty of promise in rural Maine.

That rural charm shifts to trepidation when they discover a local pet cemetery on their land.

It shifts again to dread when Louis and Rachel experience a tragedy and transforms to horror as Ludlow, Maine gathers this family into its sour bosom.

Kent’s Take:

“Pet Sematary” is adapted from Stephen King’s 1983 unsettling classic novel. Mixing local myth, rural isolation and dark secrets, this horror film is twisted and masterfully unsettling.

Last years hit “Hereditary” brought an enviable building of tension to a horrific tale. “Pet Sematary” does the same, showing audiences why King is the master of timeless horror.

Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer build tension in King’s style – building dread and anxiety to a crescendo to quickly plummet and begin again. Audiences are never given a reprieve from their fears as the stakes continue to rise.

Viewers know horrible things are about to happen, from the disturbing incidents at Louis’ work (a local hospital), to wife Rachel’s disturbing childhood. Louis is forewarned by spirit Victor and their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) – but he doesn’t listen.

Clarke and Seimetz give strong performances. However, Laurence and Lithgow fully sell this film to audiences. Laurence gives a nuanced performance well beyond her years and the beloved Lithgow continues to show why he is an actors actor with his complex Jud.

The care by which this story is told and the details seen throughout the film elevate this story – deepening the terror, bringing home the chilling realization of bad decisions. From Elie’s blue-veined skin and sagging eye, to Gage’s pure innocence, this story is built to twist you in knots.

“Pet Sematary” will bury you in heaping shovels of horror as Stephen King’s frightening tale comes to rest in theaters this week.

Lynn’s Take:

Something wicked has taken over the idyllic country life Dr. Louis Creed had wanted for his young family. Tension-filled and rife with frightening occurrences, “Pet Sematary” has the scary moments people demand in horror movies – when ordinary is anything but.

If you have either read the book or seen the original film, you’ll find the story significantly altered, including the ending. I had not, so I came into it fresh, and the characters were engaging enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. The set-up by the two directors was deliberate enough to yield an anxious feeling of dread and some jump scares.

Apparently, the first movie dwelled more on grief and the mistakes well-meaning people make with those they love, and how that affects their memories and guilt. Fred Gwynne, yes Herman Munster, had a larger role as Jud the neighbor.

In this remake, people are haunted by decisions they made and the consequences that occurred. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz are convincing as caring parents who are perplexed by the strange occurrences. Rachel would rather not talk about death around her daughter, as she is wracked with guilt over her disabled sister’s unfortunate demise when she was a youngster.

Jeté Laurence, as Ellie, is a rare find, for she played both sweet and creepy. And John Lithgow just lives in any role he’s given to play.

The couple’s ensuing painful horrific tragedy goes from bad to worse when Louis decides to play God. Fortunately, the gruesome scenes aren’t prolonged, and the film wraps up effectively.

Several under-explained flashbacks raise questions, but overall, King’s 374-page potboiler is considered one of the most terrifying – and accessible –books in his considerable canon.