M.L. Miller here! Because you and I love the horror so much, I’ve decided to post a “Worth Noting” pick along with each of my Horror Countdown choices each day through October. The same rules apply. The film must have been released before September 30th, 2019 to the masses (no festival picks). This means that is available to view in theaters, On Demand, DVD/BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films.
How did I compile this list? Horror is such a broad and varied genre that sometimes, while these choices may not represent the best—something about the film is worth taking notice. Some of these films have similar themes to their counterparts in the main countdown. Some just missed the countdown by an inch or two. Others were just squozed in because there’s nothing like them out there. Others because they have been made available for the first time. One way or another, it’s more horror to enjoy!
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Worth Noting – PET SEMATARY 2019!
One of the few remakes that were worth a damn, PET SEMATARY didn’t make the main list due to some of my complaints below. Still, it had its moments and I’m eager to see what Widmyer and Kolsch have up their filmmaking sleeves next. Released on April 5, 2019, here’s my review of PET SEMATARY 2019! Available on DVD/BluRay, digital download, and On Demand
PET SEMATARY (2019)
Directed by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Written by Matt Greenberg & Jeff Buhler, (based on the novel by Stephen King)
Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine, Maria Herrera, Frank Schorpion, Linda E. Smith, Sonia Maria Chirila, Suzi Stingl, Kelly Lee, Nina Lauren
PET SEMATARY is one of those films from the late eighties that sort of stuck into the consciousness of people my age. It was filled with chilling moments, heartbreaking drama, and some gnarly gore. Director Mary Lambert did a decent job of bringing the film to life, but I can understand why producers would want to do a remake (besides for the $$$, that is). The acting is hit and miss throughout and the ending turns out to be pretty lackluster compared to some of the other moments in the film. For a remake, I think the filmmaking team of Kolsch and Widmyer (the pair behind the excellent STARRY EYES) had a lot of fodder to work with and improve upon. While I do like many aspects of PET SEMATARY, the overall film left me wanting once again, except this time, for different reasons.
The story is well known. When the Creed family move into the Maine countryside, they discover that behind their new home is a bizarre burial ground that serves as the final resting place for animals that are killed by the busy highway that runs in front of the property. When the cat of his daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) dies, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) want to shield their daughter from the hurt and try to make it seem like the cat ran away. But after Louis and his neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) buries the cat in the thick forests and swamps behind the pet burial ground, it turns out the cat returns from the dead. This awakens a curse and a tragic series of events where Louis is given the chance to play god, deciding when someone can be brought back and when they should rest in peace. While Jud warns, “Sometimes…dead is better.” Louis ignores his words and the curse begins to manifest itself in the Creed home in horrifying ways.
What I liked about this film is the fact that the filmmakers decided to go a little deeper into the lore of the evil spirits that live in the badlands behind the Pet Sematary. The scenes where Jud and Louis make their way through the forest and something indistinguishable keeps pushing itself through the trees are by far the best addition to this film the pair offered up. These scenes were moody and haunting, making you squint to try to see the monsters hidden just over the ridge of the woods, but fearing that you might actually see them. I love the atmosphere during these scenes and it sets up the danger well in a way that didn’t occur in the original film.
I also liked the way this film ended. While the first film took things to a bleak level, the remake goes even darker and the final beat of this movie is one that really does resonate with a powerful intensity. The final scene is iconic and wholly original, despite having the same kind of tones and themes of the original. I only wish the rest of the film would have tried this innovative way of telling the story.
While PET SEMATARY is deftly made and the acting is much better here than with a lot of the soap operatics that were at play in the original, the rest of the film (other than the ending and the addition of the woodland evil) feels almost like a Cliff’s Notes version of the original. Moments that resonated in the original feel like they were rushed through. The death of Pascow, the death of Church the cat, the burial—everything up until the major death in the halfway point of the film feels lesser somehow. It just doesn’t pack the power or freshness that the original had going for it. Maybe it was the over the top dramatics that allowed a little more elbow room for tension in the first half. Either way, this remake plays things in a more subdued manner and Clarke, Seimetz, and just about everyone in front of and behind the camera just feel like they don’t care about all of this set-up stuff and are chomping at the bit to get to the first major death sequence.
I’m trying not to spoil anything, but this film does subvert expectations by switching who dies midway through the film (it’s given away in the trailer, so I guess that’s no surprise). After the death, Windmyer and Krolsch seem to have found a better pace and allow Seimetz and Clarke some time to emote and grieve. While the first part of this film feels fast paced, there film slows to a crawl after the mid-movie shocker. This allows time to delve into some of the themes of the books in a more meticulous manner (some might say it is dumbed down a bit too much so that the masses can catch up). And while events unfold in a similar manner, it all leads to that powerhouse ending that almost makes up for the film’s shortcomings.
Unfortunately, as with the original, the role of Louis is a tough shoe to fill. Dale Midkiff’s performance in the original got almost comical as the film went on, though I think the truck crash sequence and his reaction to it was one of the most heartbreaking moments in horror cinema. In the remake, Jason Clarke tries to give some substance and depth, but for some reason the actor always feels like a blank slate to me. Clarke feels distant throughout and while he is distraught because the music tells us he is feeling so, it just doesn’t seem to crack his stone face. The truck crash sequence in particular doesn’t hold a candle to the original. This might be due to some fantastic direction and editing by Mary Lambert, but also it hinges on Midkiff’s reaction. Clarke just doesn’t reach that level of tragedy or maybe the filmmakers just fail to capture it.
The same can be said for the Zelda sequences, which to me were some of the most powerful in the original. Here, Zelda feels more like the ghost from THE GRUDGE or THE RING, crawling across the floor at you and moving in a hurky jerky manner. In the original, Zelda was used at a minimum, relying on narration and sound design to do a lot of the heavy lifting. In the remake, I feel we saw too much of Zelda and the scenes just weren’t as jarring.
PET SEMATARY isn’t a bad film or it wouldn’t have shown up in my countdown this year, but I feel the best version of the book could be made by Frankenstein-ing these two films together. Use the deft pacing and emotional heft of the original first half, add in the foreboding and eerie scenes of the badlands spirits from the remake, use the original Zelda and tell the story of Jud’s dog Spot from the original, go into some of the deeper themes suggested in the latter portion of the remake, and definitely keep that winner of an ending of the remake and I think you have a damn fine movie. I felt like the filmmakers were excited to get to the parts they were changing in this new version, so they sped through the first half. That made it all resonate a little less for me. I’m sure if you weren’t around for the original PET SEMATARY, this remake might work better, but for me, the original did right what this remake didn’t achieve.
WORTH NOTING SO FAR…
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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