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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Reviews    Movie, Television and DVD Reviews  ›  Pet Sematary (2019) Moderators: Nixon
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  Author    Pet Sematary (2019)  (currently 587 views)
James McClung
Posted: April 6th, 2019, 9:48pm Report to Moderator
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Normally, I'd like to include a trailer when I write a review like this, but I'll refrain from doing so in this case as the trailer for Pet Sematary 2019 is one of the worst I've ever seen. It's dramatic and well edited, as all trailers should be, but it spoils nearly the entire movie. There's been much controversy on this subject already on the Internet, but I'll belabor it for a moment so as to advise those who have not seen the trailer to avoid at all costs if they have any interest in seeing the film.

I'll avoid an intro for this one other than to say that I've been anticipating this one since it was announced with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. The original Pet Sematary is not only one of my favorite horror movies of all time but one of only two that actually scares me. I first saw it when I was 12, and I've been traumatized ever since... which is probably why I've seen it many, many times since (self-abuse much?). In 2011, I finally decided that I'm crazy to torture myself like this and swore off of rewatching the film entirely. Here I am in 2019 texting Zelda gifs to my friends in an ironic (barely) defense mechanism (self-abuse much indeed).

I'll try to keep this short if I can. Didn't work out the last time, but let's try again. I tried to watch this remake on its own terms, so I'll avoid comparisons to the novel or 1989 film as much as I can, at least as far as merit is concerned; however, there are moments here and there where comparison is pertinent. I will say at the outset, though, that I prefer the original version of the film, with the novel being the most superior version of the story.

Overall, I'd say this was... decent. Pretty good, to be generous. It's a dark, heavy, serious-minded horror movie. You can tell right when the credits start, especially with Christopher Young's (Hellraiser) dour score hanging over the thing. It's character- and theme-driven and generally a cut above the vast majority of horror movies out there (not saying much IMO, but true nonetheless). The horror splits the difference between dread, suspense, and atmosphere; and a fair amount of jump scares. I myself hate jump scares and would like to see them retired from horror movies outright, but the ones in this film were generally effective, not too annoying, and didn't fake out the audience. So yeah, go for it if that's your kinda thing.

Performances are solid all around, as I expected them to be. Jason Clarke brings some proper gravitas and subtlety to his pivotal role of Louis Creed. John Lithgow is a dark, ambiguous presence with a foot in both camps of warmth and sinister portent (honestly, I wasn't sure if he'd pull this one off). Child actor Jeté Laurence is an adorable standout as Ellie Creed, essentially carrying much of the film's weight. Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed has a particularly complex role and handles it pretty deftly. I mean, I don't want to come off too glowing (I think I did in my last review for "Us," certainly more than I intended), but I'll say that you get what you ought to expect from the professionals, so to speak.

Definitely issues here. Not happy about the jump scares, as I mentioned, even though they weren't that bad. The themes at the heart of Pet Sematary (death, grief, afterlife, etc.) as a story across the board are extremely weighty, complex, and require a delicate but brave, deliberate, and unwavering touch; I do feel that the filmmakers went for it here, but some of the dialogue and set pieces felt a little cursory, inarticulate, or just generally not thought through with proper depth.

Where the film differs from the source material is sort of hit and miss. While I'm generally a proponent of staying faithful to the source material (where possible), I commend the filmmakers for pursuing their own original take and also extrapolating on some directions that are discussed in the novel but are unexplored in both the novel and 1989 film. However, while some scenes are effective and break new ground, others just don't feel consistent or thought through. Worst of all, there are two major characters from both the novel and original film that are absolutely vital in both but rendered nearly irrelevant in the remake. At the same time, there are a few scenes that are treated much more faithfully in regards to the novel than in the case of the original film. So yeah. Mixed bag here.

Overall, I feel disinclined to say this was a flawed enough film to tip over into the realms of "bad" or "inadequate." It's a "responsible" film, as I like to say in regards to those that do what you'd expect, essentially. I've got rose-colored glasses in regards to the original film as well as the novel, so I find myself in a spot where it's almost impossible to give a genuine impartial take on this one. Novel devotees are pretty rabid (rightfully so), so on that front I'd advise caution. More than ever, I've found opinions on the original film to be pretty mixed, so perhaps take the dive if you've evaluated your feelings sufficiently. If you know nothing about either and are just a typical horror fan, I'd say approach with caution as well; definitely a slow burn with lots of setup and non-horror drama.

Reflecting now, once again, I feel like this was... okay. Not bad. Maybe pretty good. Let me know what y'all think.



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James McClung  -  April 7th, 2019, 10:57am
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Zack
Posted: April 6th, 2019, 10:10pm Report to Moderator
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Don't get it right. Get it written.

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Awesome review, James. I'm so pumped to see this. Hopefully going tomorrow.


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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: April 7th, 2019, 6:22am Report to Moderator
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Trailers are universally terrible now. They give away the entire plot, including plot twists.

I saw Captive State last week, which was a lot better than the critics said, but the twist at the end, which the whole movie is based around, was revealed in the pre - release media.

It's bizarre.
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Angry Bear
Posted: April 7th, 2019, 7:56am Report to Moderator
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This is from our long time member, but not often seen here any more, Higgonaitor.  

I did think that it’s biggest problem was it’s script, because the pacing was WAY off, and it felt like no time was spent building relationships or trying to get us attached to these characters.

I thought there were some very cool shots that helped create a creepy tone, but there were also times that my whole theatre was laughing—and I don’t think that is what they were going for. It wasn’t intentionally campy—it seemed it was unintentionally hokey. Particularly moments between the revived and the living.

One of the things that I thought worked so well about the book (I saw the original movie back in high school but don’t remember it so well—I reread the book back in October) was the way Church was when he was revived. He wasn’t a monster; he was just—wrong. We also spent a looooot of time in the book getting to know Church, getting Ellie’s relationship with Church, getting the Dad’s relationship with Church, all before Church died. In this movie Church was dead and alive again in what felt like the first twenty minutes.
Everything felt rushed and nothing really stuck, and the choices they made to “make it fresh” all fell very flat for me and seemed to lack a “why?”


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James McClung
Posted: April 7th, 2019, 1:11pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Angry Bear
This is from our long time member, but not often seen here any more, Higgonaitor.  

I did think that it’s biggest problem was it’s script, because the pacing was WAY off, and it felt like no time was spent building relationships or trying to get us attached to these characters.

One of the things that I thought worked so well about the book (I saw the original movie back in high school but don’t remember it so well—I reread the book back in October) was the way Church was when he was revived. He wasn’t a monster; he was just—wrong. We also spent a looooot of time in the book getting to know Church, getting Ellie’s relationship with Church, getting the Dad’s relationship with Church, all before Church died. In this movie Church was dead and alive again in what felt like the first twenty minutes.
Everything felt rushed and nothing really stuck, and the choices they made to “make it fresh” all fell very flat for me and seemed to lack a “why?”


I'd more or less agree with this, although I wouldn't say the pacing was "WAY off." It was noticeably speedier than the novel/previous film, although it still might be a little too slow for some horror fans not familiar with either. The decisions characters make and the reasoning behind them don't quite get the time to sink in the way they did in previous incarnations, which is too bad.

I've heard many complaints before about the fact that the dead that come back in the novel aren't evil, per se, but kinda strange and broken. The stuff with Church and Timmy Baterman in the novel in particular is especially disturbing in the way they move and express themselves. These characters (in the novel) are where the nature of the beings is articulated the most in-depth, I feel. This version comes a little closer to that, whereas the previous film features all "evil" characters, but still doesn't quite do the novel justice.

That said, some of the things with the cat, especially, I don't know that they'd even be feasible in a film. Some of the things Church is described as doing in the novel, I just don't know that you'd be able to get a real cat to do those things, no matter how trained they are. Same with child actors. "Evil" is a binary concept that I think would be easier for children to wrap their heads around, whereas the "wrongness" of these beings in the novel is much more nuanced. Even the performance of Miko Hughes (Gage) in the 1989 version is such where the filmmakers caught a lucky break and found that rare kid who just had a more natural understanding of what he was doing on set.

I'd have preferred many more things from the novel be present in the films. I go back and forth wondering which elements are the result of limitations within the film medium and which are simply oversight on the part of the filmmakers. Sometimes it's just apples and oranges, I suppose.


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