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Movie Review: "Pet Sematary"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 4/5/2019

Theatrical Release: 4/5/2019

Synopsis

Louis (Jason Clarke) no longer wants to work the night shift at the emergency room. He wants more time with his children, so he gets a job as a local doctor in a small town in Maine. Him and his wife take their two kids and move into a ranch house, but the house does not come without its mysteries. The woods behind their house contains a local myth, as it is an area where locals have buried their pets for generations. Over the generations, the burial site has become known as the Pet Sematary.

The Pet Sematary is a mysterious area of the woods. There is a strange power in that ancient place, and the locals know it. When their family cat is hit by a car, Louis’ new neighbor (John Lithgow) guides him to a secret area of the woods located far beyond the Pet Sematary. There, they bury the cat, and the next day, the cat shows up at the house. It is very much alive, but it does not act like the cat they buried. When Louis’ daughter is also killed by a car, he wonders if the the Pet Sematary is the key to ending his agony. Can it bring his daughter back, and if so, will she be the same girl that he buried or will she be something else?

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Louis (+8pts)

Rachel (-4pts)

John Lithgow (+5pts)

Judd’s Motivation (-3pts)

Ellie & The Sematary (+8pts)

The Horror (-5pts)

movie-review-pet-sematary

Pro: Louis (+8pts)

If you are a fan of Stephen King, then you know his specialty is writing interesting characters and tossing them into bizarre situations. This story was all about Louis and his struggle to come to terms with the passing of his daughter, while living near the Pet Sematary. His tragedy and desperation made him interesting, and his desperation while living near the Pet Sematary was certainly a bizarre situation. What lengths would he be willing to go to? What would it take to make him realize he made a horrible mistake?

I thought this character was interesting because, while his actions did not have the best outcome, I understood why he did what he did. He was also relatable in the sense that he was learning about the Pet Sematary along with the audience. I even liked that Louis' idea of death—and what comes after—was challenged greatly by the events of this story. Louis went through quite the emotional journey, and I thought Jason Clarke did a great job of conveying this character's varying emotional state, which was crucial in making the audience buy into what he did, as well as his motivations for doing so.

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Con: Rachel (-4pts)

This was a character that got way more screen time and development than what was necessary—while other side characters got little to none. We got a backstory for this character in relation to a trauma from her childhood. This backstory had absolutely nothing to do with the present storyline or the Pet Sematary. I have not read the book, so I do not know if this storyline was in the book or if Stephen King made a better connection between it and the present storyline, but it definitely did not work for me in this movie. It felt like a distraction from the more relevant aspects of this story, and it ended up having absolutely no payoff whatsoever.

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Pro: John Lithgow (+5pts)

John Lithgow played Louis' new neighbor, Judd. I will get into my problem with this character later in my review, but John Lithgow added a lot to this role. You will care about this character because of the depth that John Lithgow added to the role. He is an incredibly talented actor, and was able to give the character compelling layers despite my issues with the character's story. He also has a great screen presence, which made the character stick with me even when he was not on screen. John Lithgow significantly improves any movie he is in, and Pet Sematary was no exception.

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Con: Judd’s Motivation (-3pts)

I liked John Lithgow as Judd, so I enjoyed the character’s presence, but the character's motivations did not make any sense. The character was fully aware of what happened when someone buried something in the Pet Sematary. He knew that these things did not come back the same, so I did not buy his reasoning for telling Louis about the place. Based on what Judd knew about the Pet Sematary, I just did not believe that the character would think that the risk was worth the gain. Perhaps the book did a better job of explaining Judd’s motivations, but the filmmakers definitely did not give it the attention that it needed. It just felt like a classic example of a character making a dumb decision just so that the movie could happen.

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Pro: Ellie & The Sematary (+8pts)

I liked Ellie, not for the actress in the role—although she did a really good job—but for what impact the character had on Louis’ story. What did his actions with Ellie do to his family? What did it do to him, mentally? What was she capable of doing after the fact, and how dangerous was she? It was interesting to see the filmmakers answering these questions on-screen, and it was made even better by how creepy the character was in a number of scenes.

It would be wrong for me to mention what I liked about the Ellie without mentioning the thing that made her the way she was, the Pet Sematary. I liked the veil of mystery that the filmmakers maintained when it came to the Pet Sematary and the supernatural things that happen there. The filmmakers did not give too much focus to the Pet Sematary itself. It got just enough focus to make it feel relevant and interesting, but not so much that it lost its mystery. Stephen King has made his name by making stories that focus on the characters in them, with supernatural things really just happening around them. In other words, the characters are the focal point, and I thought that this story did a decent job of bringing Stephen King’s style to this movie.

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Con: The Horror (-5pts)

Unfortunately, while I liked the movie, I found it to be more of a thriller than a horror. Horror is a weird genre, because by definition, if you are hoping to be scared, you unlikely to be. That being said, I did not think there was much to this movie that was “scary.” I would give examples, but I do not want to spoil anything. All I will say is that the few scenes that felt like attempted horror really just felt like more of a slasher film than a scare inducing horror. I liked the movie, but definitely do not go into it expecting a very scary movie, as it ended up being mild horror at best.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (84pts)

I am a big Stephen King fan, and I enjoy a good horror movie, so I was looking forward to this one. I thought it was a decent movie, but there were definitely some elements of the story that needed some work. Louis, with a strong performance from Jason Clarke, got decent character development, but he was really the only character who was properly developed. Rachel got a bunch of screentime and a fleshed out backstory, but it never felt relevant to the primary story.

The filmmakers also did a poor job of explaining Judd’s motivations, but John Lithgow had a great screen presence. The horror itself felt a little lacking, as the movie felt more like an intense thriller than an actually scary horror movie. There was a lot that the filmmakers could have done better, but I still thought it was a decent movie. Louis was a compelling character, and the situation he found himself in was bizarre in a way that horror fans and Stephen King fans will be totally into. This movie could have been handled better, but it was a decent movie nonetheless.

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