Just when you thought you couldn’t stand to watch another cat video… Just when you had given up on the hope of seeing anything new and fresh when it comes to your favourite feline friend… along comes Pet Sematary!
There was only one naughty little furry in the movie but trust me, that’s all you’ll need in this classic retelling of the novel by Steven King. And it is a classic horror story. A story that plays on every human’s vulnerability. The loss of a loved one and what you would do to have them back.
A story just doesn’t get any closer to the heart of the human dilemma than that. The creators of Pet Sematary know this and that’s why they stay so faithful to the source material. It does mean that Pet Sematary doesn’t have many surprises, but with story material like this why reinvent the wheel?
So for this movie to be successful it needs to do the basics right. The scene is set with a young family moving to a new town – classic. To start off right we also need some good actors. Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and John Lithgow who plays the local. Done! Three boxes ticked there. For me that’s the difference, that’s the biggest victory right there for a horror to have any chance at all of being good. We need to see the characters afraid, and we need to believe they are afraid, terrified, anxious, disturbed, broken and are in despair.
Then you have a few kid actors. Hmmm, they’re okay.. It’s almost impossible to get this component right. They have a few good moments but it’s almost unfair to ask any more of them. Child actors are always going to expose the weaker parts of a horror and the movie leans more and more on their acting ability. It’s just the nature of the beast that you’ll lose a bit or a lot of the seriousness of your content. It almost becomes a game of minimizing the damage at that point.
And that’s really my two main gripes with Pet Sematary. That it possibly plays it too safe. The movie inevitably loses a bit of power because it’s forced to lean heavily on the child actors. Literally in fact, by the end of the movie … Oh but shhh you didn’t see that coming shhh quiet your mind to the thing that was obviously going to happen yesss gooooood, good.
What else can a movie get fundamentally right? It can be shot well. Tick, I guess. Nice and tidy, again no real surprises here, but it doesn’t get in the road either. Effects? It’s a horror so how were the practical effects? Good, really good in fact. A few scenes really stand out where you go ‘Wow. That looks real’.. ‘Did ya see that squirting out the side of the head there’.. I’m not sure why my inner monologue went Father Ted on me but maybe my inner self needed a priest. And those priests are the ones I know best. I tell you tho, Dougal would not have handled some of those scenes. Damn, those practical effects were done well.
But the darling of this grotesque butterfly was ‘Church’ the cat. I enjoyed every scene that dirty thing was in. The blending of fake and real cat was great! It was the best worst decision to bring that mangy purring hisser back. I wanted to try and comb it too, while it tries to scratch me. It’s all part of the charm of the furry creep.
‘Look-at-him, just sitting there looking at me. Watcha doing there lil fulla? You want me to follow you into the woods at night? Sure. You want me to play with you in the middle of the road? I gotta comb here.. Ahh man your fur’s covered in viscus gore! You rascal watch been-Ahhh don’t bite me in the face! Ahh.. Who am I kidding, I can’t stay mad at you. And it’s the same with this movie. It has that old school charm wrapped up in pretty new actors, cameras and computers.
– Nick Holder