by Philip Price
Directed: Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz & John Lithgow
Runtime: 1 hour & 41 minutes
As with 2017's “IT,” this year's adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel is an update of an earlier adaptation that has a loyal fan base born of the generation in which King also penned these horror stories. Is this to say those original, filmed adaptations were more in tune with King's stories than today's updates? I couldn't say specifically in regards to “IT” or “Pet Sematary” as I haven't had the nerve to open either of those books, but while 1989's “Pet Sematary” and 1990's “IT” miniseries undoubtedly share a certain kindred spirit with King’s novels these current re-imaginings operate on a grander scale of sorts - idolizing the source material in a way that translates these stories in more epic terms to the screen.
King’s emotionally-driven, character-based work tends to use the horror genre more as a mask for saying what he wants to say which would seem to account for why King’s work has always operated in being more vividly unsettling than straight up scary, but the themes of Pet Sematary are really dark ... even for King.
Though I have no personal connection or nostalgic ties to either King’s original novel or the original 1989 movie adaptation I tend to be intrigued if not by the premises of King’s works, but for the emotional investment they are able to create through this aforementioned character work.
This is why “IT” ultimately worked so well two years ago for despite having a terrifying clown at the center it was the group of kids and their personal stories as well as the dynamics between them that allowed the movie to work and to be about things besides Pennywise. In directing duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s new take on King’s material, there is certainly no fear of going as far as is necessary to evoke the grief that comes along with dealing in loss and more specifically-the loss of a child. Kölsch and Widmyer undoubtedly create a sense of dread from the beginning playing the titular location in a way King would be proud as this sense of dread is not only represented in the literal manifestation of this burial ground, but of the reach it has into the lives of those that both live near and/or meddle in it. An interesting concept and fitting approach, no doubt, but while the emotions are as raw as the aesthetic approach it is a lack of connection to these character’s-especially Jason Clarke’s withdrawn nature despite his character’s actions-that give “Pet Sematary” a strong sense of purpose if not the lasting, devastating impact it seems pre-disposed to possess.