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Movie Review: ‘Pet Sematary’ fails the King of horror

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Jocelyn Arceo
Editor in Chief

The second adaptation of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” debuted last Friday, and if you are anything like me, you were waiting at the box office Thursday night just to see it.

Unfortunately, my waiting proved to be disappointing.

Although the gore throughout the film was tastefully applied without being overdone, the film was still overly cliché and failed to meet my expectations for a Stephen King narrative.

The storyline follows a doctor, Louis Creed, played by Jason Clarke, as he moves his family to Maine from Boston in order to make more time for them as he continues to pursue his medical career.

Rachel, his wife, Gage, his son, Ellie, his daughter and the eldest of the two children, and a pet cat named Church (after Winston Churchill) adjust to the move from the big city to a more rural area.

The Creed family have acres of land behind their new house that weave into the forest, an area definitely spookier than they could have ever imagined.

As the family settles in, Rachel and Ellie encounter a group of people walking in a line through the forest.

Each person in the line had their faces covered with masks depicting several different animals while holding various objects such as a large wooden cross, shovels and a wheel barrow with what appears to be a dead animal inside.

Very clearly ominous and inappropriate for a 10-year-old to stumble into, it left me a little baffled as to why Rachel had no issue with Ellie walking up as close as possible to the group without further detection.

After heading back inside their new home, it was clear that Ellie’s curiosity peaked upon the initial discovery of the strange group, something not uncommon in a young child.

However, Rachel still managed to be struck with surprise after noticing Ellie was nowhere to be found only a few minutes later, something the audience easily saw coming the minute Ellie first started walking toward them prior to returning home.

Ellie’s curiosity had led her to wander into the forest in search of the group, but she instead found a makeshift “pet sematary,” as the sign near the entrance had called it.

An older neighbor of the family named Jud was there, explaining to Ellie that the group was simply following tradition in the town when it came to burials.

What struck me with disappointment, in regards to this scene especially, was just how cliché the exposition of the movie was. We have an upper middle-class white family moving into a new home in the middle of nowhere with young children who are very clearly impressionable, as young children tend to be.

Per usual, obviously strange and unsettling things happen, such as the mysterious group in the woods, and the family ignores it.

And of course, we have the young child, Ellie, who serves as the only member of the family whose interest had peaked, that is, until the father comes across the cemetery much later.

From the scene with the mysterious group in the woods, it appears very obvious the family is going to ignore anything strange until something horrible happens, like every other second-rate horror film.

We know this family will continue to make detrimental decisions that so clearly should not be made.

I was automatically brought back to “Insidious,” and “The Conjuring,” when analyzing the disposition of the family and their responses to the events taking place, that is, their lack of adequate acknowledgment until too late.

Except those movies could never be considered sub-par, as I would describe “Pet Sematary” to be.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the decisions made on behalf of the father bring the family to a terrifying fate.

Throughout the film there are tales of lore, images of gore, several, albeit minimal, jump scares and various storylines to follow, per usual for Stephen King novels.

However, considering this is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, I expected more. King’s novels hold so much more detail and various elements than the film portrayed, just look at the length of most of his books.

The fact that the film managed to water-down what could have been a captivating storyline left me completely unsatisfied.

I was heavily let down by the abundance of clichés throughout, and the several questions remaining after the movie had finished, such as why the lore of the Wendigo was so poorly implemented into the storyline? It felt as though it was thrown in with no purpose.

I understand that the stories King creates have so many components it would be difficult to include it all, however, I do not see a point in including aspects of the story that fail to be followed through.

I almost see this adaptation as a letdown to Stephen King, the king of horror himself.

When looking at the recent re-adaptation of his book, “IT,” and seeing the potential that movie lived up to, there is no reason why this one failed so miserably at portraying the bone-chilling horror we all know King is more than capable of creating.

When looking at the state of recent horror films, especially those created by Jordan Peele such as “Us” and “Get Out,” it is clear that the genre is moving away from cliche, overdone storylines to more complex, captivating narratives.

Peele has risen the bar for horror, and it is clear that this new standard is failing to be met.

Overall, this movie was just another cliché horror film that only adds to the stereotype that horror films lack depth, a belief that is not the truth. Unfortunately, movies like this only continue to solidify that assumption.

Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at jocelyn.arceo@laverne.edu.

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