When it comes to horror, there is one master storyteller and his name is Stephen King. As a storyteller he can whip his audience up into frenzied terror, and now one his most dreaded stories of all time, Pet Sematary, returns to cinemas to haunt your nightmares.
Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family out of the big city to the country. There he discovers that they have moved near a pet cemetery that rests on an ancient burial ground, and when his daughter is killed in an auto accident, he takes the girl’s body to the cemetery…..where it is resurrected in terrifying demonic form.
Right off the bat the horrors really creep up on you with Pet Sematary and directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer fill this new adaptation up with some serious dread. The pair go right to the heart of King’s terrifying narrative and they show great control of the story which comes from both a respect for the material, along with the opportunity in front of them. And that opportunity is to create a damn scary horror movie….and on that point they absolutely succeed.
As a cinematic experience Pet Sematary moves quick and two the point, and the horrors rush head on towards the audience. Kölsch and Widmyerand frame their story with a en medias res structure and showcase the destruction of the Creed family at the hands of the dreaded Pet Sematary that lies on the outskirts of Ludlow, Maine. While most horror films are known to plod on with their stories or simply leave out any type of first act or framework and instead rush straight towards the action, Pet Sematary takes its time to build up its story and the horrors that lie ahead. It’s structure is perfectly balanced and when the monsters are unleashed everything moves at a tremendous pace.
Pet Sematary is very much a character study and central to this is the character of Dr. Louis Creed played by Jason Clarke. Clarke’s portrayal is that of the everyman gone astray. As a doctor he’s a realist with no sentimentality of anything beyond what he can explain, so the very notion of the Pet Sematary and the supernatural completely washes over him. But while you first come to view him as a moral man, he soon crosses the line, and any chance of morality are completely dashed when he learns of the power of this dark and evil place.
Clarke’s portrayal is a layered one and you see his metamorphosis from a good man into a corrupted one all through events that are completely out of his control, but which he still somehow invites into his world through his own actions. It’s very easy to empathise with his performance as Dr. Louis Creed and when he finally crosses the line, and goes to that dark and dangerous place, then you know that there’s absolutely no coming back from this evil here.
Joining Clarke in the film is actress Amy Seimetz who stars as Louis’ wife Rachel Creed, and her performance is one of straight terror. As the primary supporting character Rachel is the quintessential American mum who on the surface looks completely normal and in control, but as the story moves forward we get to peer inside her fractured mind and she becomes the literal embodiment for the idea of trauma. This trauma for Rachel comes from the haunting memories of her sister Zelda, who died of spinal meningitis, and whose spirit still traumatizes her at every moment.
As the film progresses forward and the evils of Ludlow begin to stir in the Creed household, this trauma is only amplified further, and the horrors of her past collide head on with the terror of the present. Seimetz does a great job of portraying this horror, and even though your rooting for her to run and save her family before it’s all too late….there are some evils that simply can’t be undone.
Thematically, Pet Sematary explores some very interesting territory including family relationships, childhood trauma and death, but the most interesting theme that I found in it was through it’s exploration of man’s trespass into the natural world and the consequences that befall anyone who crosses this line. As you witness Louis breaking this boundary and falling upon the ‘sour ground’ of the Pet Sematary, the fear really begins to build in you with this most unnatural of actions and it soon becomes an unstoppable journey of horror.
Pet Sematary is the horror movie that absolutely creeps up on you and once its scares make their way up onto the screen there’s no escape from it. Combining spot on jump scares, gnarly body horror, jagged slasher moments and the unnerving psychological horror of an evil that will not be stopped, you’re sure to be on the edge of your seat the whole time. Kölsch and Widmyerand also make several changes to their adaptation of King’s work and the results are a very fresh piece of horror cinema, and the ending absolutely gets your heart racing!
If you’re interested in experiencing a sinister nightmare that comes full circle then Pet Sematary is definitely the movie to indulge in. But be prepared for the fear to completely wash over you, because this horror movie is unstoppable!
Image: Paramount Pictures