Pet Sematary

 

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After all the excitement of Jordan Peele’s Us, we now have the year’s daftest horror film.

 

Pet Sematary

Moggies' torment: John Lithgow and Jeté Laurence  

 

In the vast canon of Stephen King adaptations, Pet Sematary has always been a pet hate. And now it’s been resurrected for a new generation, poor things. If one is going to adapt something as silly as Pet Sematary – previously filmed in 1989 – there is only one way to go: to send it up. Unfortunately, the directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have decided to take it all terribly seriously, which is ridiculous. So the first act laboriously sets up a familiar domestic dynamic, in which a doctor, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), and his wife and two children set out across a picturesque stretch of Maine to arrive at their new home, a capacious property nestled in some dark woods.

 

The main trouble with the film is that there isn’t much of a story, so the directors spend much of their time – and ours – polishing the slim bones of the narrative with ominous riffs and implausible stabs at character development. With no apparent link to the eponymous, misspelt burial ground, the good doctor’s wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), starts to suffer flashbacks from her childhood, when she used to care for her horrifically deformed older sister. Then, decades after the fact, she decides to tell her husband (Jason Clarke) about the life-scarring occasion when her sister died, which doesn’t say much for their marriage. Of course, this revelation is for our benefit alone, but fatally defuses any credibility that Messrs Kölsch and Widmyer have been at pains to establish. Then follows a series of hackneyed and grotesque apparitions. Apart from Rachel’s personal hallucinations, these visions are all linked to the cemetery in the woods, which the Creed family had no idea they owned, which doesn’t say much for their business sense.

 

Of late, the Australian actor Jason Clarke has seemed a little lost in the parts he has played (cf. Serenity, The Aftermath), but manfully struggles to inject a note of gravitas into his role as Louis, gently breaking it to his wife that he doesn’t believe in Heaven (has this couple ever talked?). More dependable is John Lithgow as the Creeds’ neighbour, a suitably ambivalent bear of a man, and the actor even gets to reference his role as Churchill in TV’s The Crown. However, it’s the only laugh in a tedious, formulaic trudge that’s just crying out for a poke in the ribs. One might have hoped that a chiller exploring the horror of losing our pets might at least have scratched the surface of our disquiet.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, John Lithgow, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed.

 

Dir Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, Pro Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Steven Schneider and Mark Vahradian, Screenplay Jeff Buhler, from a story by Matt Greenberg, from the novel by Stepehn King, Ph Laurie Rose, Pro Des Todd Cherniawsky, Ed Sarah Broshar, Music Christopher Young, Costumes Simonetta Mariano.

 

Di Bonaventura Pictures-Paramount Pictures.

100 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 4 April 2019. Cert. 15.