Thirty years after its first cinematic outing in a film directed by Mary Lambert and scripted by the author himself, Stephen King’s seminal horror novel Pet Sematary gets a second adaptation, this time courtesy of co-directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch. Starring Jason Clarke, John Lithgow and Jeté Laurence, the new film offers a brilliantly unsettling, terror inducing and thoroughly engaging narrative which, admirably, manages to stick closely to the original premise of one of King’s scariest and most popular stories to date.
After years of working in a busy emergency ward at a Boston city hospital, Dr. Louis Creed (Clarke) can’t wait to start a new life and job in rural Maine where he and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie) have relocated. Things start to go bump in the night when a gravely injured student is brought in to be treated by Louis at his new rural hospital. Despite not being able to save the young man, Louis soon finds that a bond has been formed between him and the student beyond the grave.
Later, when a tragedy involving Ellie’s cat Church strikes, Louis is led by new neighbour Jud Crandall (Lithgow) to a secret burial ground known for its supernatural healing powers, thus triggering a catastrophic chain reaction that unleashes evil and eventually unfolds into horrific consequences for the couple and their children.
Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch offer a an impressively well devised production which is often genuinely terrifying. And although they cannot resist the odd contrivance, the story itself holds up fairly well and in the end you will find yourself almost unable to look away even during some the creepiest on-goings. Furthermore, while the script is saddled with a needlessly melodramatic subplot relating to Rachel’s own childhood and memories of an ailing sister, on the whole the film still manages to present a coherent enough narrative for us to be able to ignore whatever else is wrong with it.
Whilst clearly capitalising on the current thirst for the “creepy child” trope in horror, Pet Sematary does go further than most by offering some astonishing performances, especially courtesy of Jeté Laurence who is exceptionally good throughout as the Creeds’ daughter Ellie. For his part Jason Clarke shows once again that he is more than capable of taking on any genre with great conviction. And while Amy Seimetz never quite manages to fully convince as Rachel, she is still able to put in a respectable turn even even if her character remains, for the most part, badly served by the screenplay. Elsewhere, John Lithgow is a far cry from his Shakespearean credentials as the gristly Jud Crandall, a role which could have almost been written with him in mind.
On the whole Pet Sematary is a stunning and fantastically executed adaptation of one of the most iconic horror stories of our times. Smart, brilliantly acted and genuinely terrifying throughout.
Pet Sematary is in cinemas nationwide from April 4th