First things first, Churchill the undead demon cat is probably no worse than any cat I’ve ever had. Church is a pretty accurate representation of any cat alive or undead. I’m not saying this out of spite for cats. I love cats. The meaner, the better, they remind me of angry teenagers. But, yes, ‘Pet Semetary’ is more than how to deal with an angry feline. The film is of course based on the Stephen King novel released in 1983 which was followed by the Mary Lambert directed ‘Pet Semetary’ in 1989. The 2019 version does make some changes and improves on certain aspects. Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have delivered a fun, solid horror movie, but not one that blew me away.
In this version, the Creed family has just moved from Boston to a small rural town in Maine called Ludlow. Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) are searching for a slower paced life. One that allows Louis to spend more time with their children, eight-year-old Ellie (Jete Laurence) and toddler, Gage (Hugo & Lucas Lavoie). It’s not long before Ellie starts exploring the creepy woods surrounding their new home. She comes across a makeshift graveyard with a wooden sign that reads ‘Pet Semetary.’ She attempts to climb a massive pile of branches at the edge of the cemetery. Her new neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) stops her. Jud is a friendly albeit lonely old widower that quickly takes a liking to Ellie. Soon Jud becomes friends with the family.
Right away, the family knows there is something not quite right with the woods. Rachel is having visions of a trauma from childhood that involves her disfigured sister, and Louis has images of a dead patient warning him of the woods. When Jud finds Churchill, Ellie’s cat, dead on the side of the road, he tells Louis to come with him to bury it. Jud makes a horrible choice out of love for Ellie and buries the cat somewhere beyond the pile of branches with Louis. Church is back in Ellie’s room the next morning, but he is not the same lovable cat he was before he died.
I don’t want to give anything else away, but it doesn’t take much imagination to know what will happen when a second tragedy occurs.
The film itself is shot beautifully. I love a good mist over eerie woods. The look of the film felt very nostalgic to me. Besides the cell phones, it had almost a timeless vibe. The costumes, the sets, looked like it could very easily be 1983 or just as easily be 2019. The pacing of the film did seem to drag a bit. The film deals with themes of death and grief, but nothing super elevated or thought-provoking. There are countless other horror movies that I think give a more profound commentary on grief. One I kept thinking of while watching ‘Pet Semetary’ was Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film ‘Don’t Look Now’ starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. I know they are two completely different films, but just as an example, at least to me, Roeg’s film does a more effective job in depicting a parent’s grief.
I enjoyed the ending of the film. I thought the final scene was smart and cheeky. ‘Pet Semetary’ as a whole was enjoyable and fun to watch. Is it my favorite film I’ve seen this year? Not by a long shot, but if you’re a fan of Stephen King and like a little a schlock in your horror, you’ll dig it. My final little warning, do not watch the trailer until after you’ve seen the film. As a habit, I never watch trailers before because they tend to give away way too much of the film. The trailer for ‘Pet Semetary’ is no different. And I would totally adopt Churchill, demon cat or not.
Louis Creed, his wife Rachel, and their two children, Gage and Ellie, move to a rural home where they are welcomed and enlightened about the eerie ‘Pet Sematary’ located nearby. After the tragedy of their cat being killed by a truck, Louis resorts to burying it in the mysterious pet cemetery, which is definitely not as it seems, as it proves to the Creeds that sometimes, dead is better.
Rated: R for horror violence and bloody images
Runtime: 101 minutes
Production Company: di Bonaventura Pictures
Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jete Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, John Lithgow
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Screenwriter: Jeff Buhler
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Steven Schneider
Executive producer: Mark Moran
Director of Photography: Laurie Rose