By Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Recently, the movie theatre ushered in the next highly anticipated Stephen King adaptation, Pet Semetary. It can also be considered a remake of the 1989 film with the same name. The new take on the classic tale doesn’t bring anything new to the table which makes the film drag out. Jumpscares certainly take precedence over atmospheric and character-based horror and the film suffers as a result.
The story focuses on the Creed family, who moves to rural Maine in order to catch a break from the busy Boston lifestyle. Once they settle in, they meet their neighbor Jud Crandall, who introduces the family to a mysterious ancient burial ground directly behind their property. Throughout the film, the Creed’s learn about the land’s history as things around their home increase in abnormality.
Louis, the father of the family, is played by Jason Clarke and he brings very little emotion to the role. He seemed stoic throughout, even during scenes of intense emotional trauma. The film cares more about creating a gloomy atmosphere, rather than portraying a believable father figure.
While he’s successful in doing this, it’s constant. Since he’s always in this state, it makes Clarke’s character almost stoic. When the audience is supposed to empathize with him, Clarke’s performance only adds a few stray tears, illustrating a tired edgy tone. They attempt to balance it by adding scenes of Clarke playing with his children, or play wrestling with his wife, but they are ultimately breezed over in order to get to the main attraction. The film chooses to focus on scares rather than developing characters.
Another character that the film changes is Jud, the endearing neighbor. This time around, the character is played by John Lithgow. In the original film, Jud serves as a kind neighbor who slowly gives exposition about the burial ground and its horrific history. The remake flips this and establishes Jud by having their daughter see him watching them from his window while he smokes a cigarette.
When they meet, his appearance is accompanied by a jumpscare and an intimidating look. It seems that Ellie would have little reason to befriend Jud, but she does for the sake of the story. Jud’s befriending but mysterious nature is what helped balanced the original film. By making him strictly creepy, they rob him of any realistic or redeemable qualities.
Pet Semetary essentially follows the same beats as its predecessor which makes it predictable throughout. However, it tries to shake it up in the second and third acts of the film. A couple of character deaths differ from those in the original which were generally surprising. Subverting the expectations of the audience can be an effective method when trying to captivate them. However, subversion has to directly affect the story. Even though these deaths are significantly different from the original, the film continues unchanged. It was brave enough to alter the story, but not enough to explore other avenues and ideas.
The presentation ultimately makes the film feel repetitive. It feels like a generic modern horror movie and it doesn’t offer much to be desired. The entire presentation seems to have a gloomy filter over it.Most of the horrific elements involve jumpscares which can be effective when used sparingly, but the film directly relies on them which illustrates laziness. It’s easy to get someone to jump when you just play a loud noise, whether or not its source is actually scary. Atmospheric horror takes so much more time and effort, which is why it’s more appreciated. Unfortunately, Pet Semetary focuses more on the shock factor.
At the end of the day, this adaptation doesn’t live up to the original film or source material. Any changes that are made are quickly glossed over in order to stay close to the original story. The characters lack realistic emotions and as a result, it’s hard to empathize with them. Overall, it feels like the film was created for the sake of horror nostalgia rather than for the sake of a compelling adaptation.