Three and a half stars
Director Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Starring Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz
Running time 101 minutes
Verdict Scary as hell
LIKE red wine and curry, good horror movies improve with age.
Having exhumed Stephen King’s 1983 novel, Pet Sematary, which was adapted into a 1989 film of the same name, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer make clever use of the rotting motifs and decaying genre tropes.
The ruthlessly efficient scaremeisters set moviegoers’ nerves jangling from the get-go, with a simple but effective jump-scare involving a thundering semi-trailer, followed by a creepy procession involving a bunch of kids in animal masks, a beating drum, and a dead dog in a wheelbarrow.
Neither of these scenarios represents an immediate threat to Louis Creed’s (Jason Clarke) vulnerable family-of-four – but they neatly foreshadow the terror that is to come.
Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) has persuaded her doctor husband to relocate from Boston, where he worked long hours in the ER, to leafy, rural Maine, so they can spend more time together as a family.
The catalyst for their tree change is alluded to several times in the film, but never fully explained.
We do know it’s got something to do with Rachel’s emotional fragility, which in turn can be traced back to a traumatic incident involving her late, crippled sister.
Like any curious nine-year-old, their cute-as-a-button daughter, Ellie (Jeté Laurence), is quick to test the boundaries in her new environment.
Stumbling upon the children of the town’s misspelt Pet Sematary, she is befriended by a crusty old neighbour.
With his nicotine-stained grey beard and weathered features, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) remains an ambiguous character for almost the entire film.
But friend or foe, he clearly knows more than he’s letting on. And well intentioned or not, it’s Jud who leads Louis to the mist-shrouded netherworld where the dead can be resurrected – for a price.
From the eerie swamp at the back of the Creed’s rural hideaway to the skeletons in the dumb-waiter, supernatural Maine is Kölsch and Widmyer’s native habitat.
Tonally, their Pet Sematary remake never falters.
There are no winks or nudges, scant social satire and a very focused Freudian subtext. Even the possessed cats and undead children play it fairly straight.
This timeless, classic horror movie, which centres around a grieving father who can’t bear to let his daughter go, will haunt you long after the credits have rolled.