With Stephen King’s popularity reaching another crescendo, Hollywood is again dipping into the reboot well to renew interest with some of his old titles. IT was a massive hit in 2017 and a sequel is on the way, but in the meantime Pet Sematary is here to whet our appetites. The original was released in 1989, so 30 years is far enough back to reintroduce this story of a pet cemetery which rests on haunted ground. This updated version was co-directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and written by Jeff Buhler (screenplay) and Matt Greenberg (screen story). Sematary stars Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie and has a running time of 101 minutes.

This supernatural horror follows the Creeds as they adjust to life in the small town of Ludlow, Maine. Louis has grown weary of the fast paced lifestyle that comes with being a doctor in Boston and, in an effort to spend more time with his family, moves to Ludlow with his wife Rachel (Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Laurence) and son Gage (Hugo & Lucas) to reset and slow down.

With their new home sitting on a vast amount of real estate, the Creeds discover a couple of things – a quiet, beaten down neighbor named Jud Crandall (Lithgow) and a creepy pet cemetery which has existed for ages. The Creeds’ family cat, Church, turns up dead and, to save Ellie from grief, Louis and Rachel plan on lying by telling her Church ran away. Jud, who discovered Church died, feels sympathy for Ellie. He leads Louis deep into the woods and has him bury Church’s body there. The next morning, when Louis and Rachel inform Ellie about Church, they are shocked to discover their cat alive in Ellie’s closet. The miracle is quickly set aside as the Creeds realize Church is more surly and violent.

After Church’s resurrection, things continue to get weird. Louis is probing Jud for an explanation, a dead patient haunts his dreams, and Rachel’s troubled past has crept into her present. Even Ellie’s feeling down since she wants to return to Boston. Then tragedy strikes and the Creeds are left reeling from its after effects.

One drawback to Pet Sematary is the massive amount of jump scares Kölsch and Widmyer employed. If they were looking to pay homage by emulating one aspect of the 1989 film, it seems jump scares are the clear winner. Kölsch and Widmyer went jump scare crazy, so if you’re into that old tactic then Pet Sematary is definitely for you. For me, I usually tune out after the third jump scare but this entry is enough fun to overlook that overabundance.

Another issue, and it was teased with one of its trailers, is one change in the story. Fans will likely know what I’m referring to, and it may be a dealbreaker. The change won't affect viewers entering this Sematary for the first time and, within this film’s context, it makes more sense. Outside of that, Pet Sematary is plenty scary and should satisfy those thirsting for a good horror.

As far as its tone and pacing, Pet Sematary takes time to warm up, but by the halfway point it picks up (along with its intensity). Patience has to be practiced, even though the final act is worth the wait.

Jason Clarke is strong, starting off as the strong patriarch, then devolving into a confused and unbalanced man. He adds enough stoicism to offset Seimetz’s turn. As Rachel, Seimetz is good at putting up a front for the sake of her children, but her stability weakens as the things progress. She’s good despite the fact Rachel is a trope (to be fair, all the characters are playing up tropes, but that’s okay). And Lithgow, who’s brilliant in nearly every role, is fantastic as Jud. His scruffy, tough exterior masks a tired, sensitive man who’s seen and done unthinkable things. His punishment is that he’s still alive to remember the past and feel regret, perfect for a horror story.

With all of the above in place, Pet Sematary is an excellent horror film which improves upon the original and is arguably one of the best Stephen King-based features. It’s fun, scary and shocking and is worth a look for both horror film fans and casual filmgoers.

4 stars out of 5

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