The novel is scary as all hell. The first movie adaptation was campy as hell (but what wasn’t campy in the 80s?) The remake, in theaters now, adheres more to the classic suspense/horror genre that modern audiences are used to.
This time around, there are some key changes to the plot which helps keep it fresh. But since it’s been 30 years since the original, new fans to the franchise won’t have a clue about the changes.
Louis and Rachel, along with their kids Ellie and Gage, move to the middle of Nowhere, Maine, to escape the big city life and the ills that it holds. In addition to learning a creepy, misspelled Pet Sematary is on their property, their home is on a busy road with an abnormal amount of high-speed gasoline trucks zooming past.
The family cat, Church, gets whacked and is found on the side of the road. That’s when their neighbor, Jud (John Lithgow), tells Louis about a spot that lies beyond the Sematary.
Side note: In a less-than-subtle aside, Ellie explains to Jud that Church is short for Winston Churchill, a guy who lived a long time ago. Jud notes he’s well familiar with Mr. Churchill. Lithgow won the Supporting Actor in a TV Drama for his portrayal of Churchill in The Crown.
So off they go, scaling a forbidding wall built by Native Americans before they abandoned the “sour” ground, and bury Church.
But he’s not gone long. When Rachel and Louis tell Ellie Church ran away and likely won’t be coming back, she says he’s back, and points to him. But, as expected, our zombie cat is not the same, and is actually one pissed off pussy.
But at least Elie is happy.
In the original, Gage is eventually killed, buried, and brought back to life. This time around, Ellie is lured to her death. It makes for a different, but not necessarily more interesting version of the tale.
The movie holds some suspense, and is a good popcorn flick, but doesn’t really delve into the moral issues of life and death, and humans playing God. Jud does say “sometimes dead is better,” but that’s about it.
Everyone pays for their sins in one way or another. There is loss, grief, estrangement, mistrust, but almost all of these emotions are pro forma to advance the plot, and not explored in any meaningful way.
John Lithgow is, as always, outstanding. The rest of the cast is forgettable and interchangeable.
This film is not one you must rush to the multiplex to see. It’s perfect for a stormy night at home, a bag of hot popcorn, and drink.
Which drink? I’m glad you asked..
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Red wine. It’s served several times in the movie, such as when we see empty glasses on the table when Jud comes over for dinner. Red wine is also used symbolically in the rituals of several religions. More importantly it will help steady your nerves through this different but still terrifying film.