“Pet Sematary” fails to live up to the chilling horror that is Stephen King’s original 1983 novel.
“Pet Sematary” begins much like both the novel and the 1989 film, with the Creed family moving to Ludlow, Maine for Louis (Jason Clarke) to take a job working as a doctor at a university. The family meets their neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) and learn about the pet cemetery behind their house, where the children of Ludlow bury their pets.
The movie very closely follows the book for its first half. The Creeds adjust to life in Maine and Louis begins working at the university. It also follows the book when the Creed’s cat, Church, is hit and killed by a speeding truck. Worrying about telling his daughter, Jud takes Louis to what he believes to be the cemetery, only to have to go farther than he thought.
In reality, Jud is taking Louis to an ancient Indian burial ground that brings the dead back to life. Louis is skeptical, until Church returns to the house the next day.
It is at this point where the novel and film begin to differ. At a birthday party for their daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), the Creeds are devastated when Ellie is hit and killed by a truck, whereas in the novel, it was the younger son Gage who suffered this fate. In both mediums, Louis buries his child in the Indian burial grounds, and they come back to life and start killing.
The decision to make Ellie die as opposed to Gage seems to be more believable to see people being murdered by a 9-year-old as opposed to a 2-year-old, but it is so much of a difference from the novel that it feels out of place in the film.
Much like the 1989 film, the best part of the film is the portrayal of Jud Crandall. In this adaptation, his is played by John Lithgow. Lithgow gave an excellent performance as the kind old man who attempts to stop Louis from his plans of resurrection. Unfortunately, Lithgow alone could not carry the entire movie.
Overall, “Pet Sematary” feels like it was only made to capitalize on the recent popularity of Stephen King following the release of 2017’s “It.” And while the film is not bad, it just has parts that don’t seem to fit together, especially if you’re someone who hates when movies deviate from their source material.