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Generally I gristle at the thought of remakes, reboots or reimaginings, though I'm willing to hear them out, as in the case of Pet Sematary. This new adaptation is the third such cinematic effort following the first one in 1989 (which I think I saw in the theater?) and a sequel in 1992. And because everything is redone in some fashion or another, Stephen King's novel gets a 2019 makeover.
This version is adapted by Matt Greenberg (Seventh Son), and directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes). The modern version of Doctor Louis Creed is played by Jason Clarke (First Man) while Amy Seimetz (Alien: Covenant) plays his wife Rachel. Replacing Fred Gwynne as Jud is John Lithgow (The Accountant). For the unfamiliar, the Creeds move into a sleepy Maine town that contains an burial ground that could have some supernatural powers.
It's difficult to get into this version of Pet Sematary without referencing the first one, but given the shorthand baked in with said original it's hard not to make the comparisons. The big difference in this version is that the pacing is slow and thus tamps down a lot of the key moments within it. Also this film makes a different and significant choice than the 1989 one did. It's understandable why, but knowing how the 1989 film is laid out, the choice is telegraphed, executed too late in the film for it to have much impact on the viewer, and snowballs into several interesting decisions leading up to the ending.
The intent of the film to convey loss is convincing, however. The dread that was attempted in the first film is built upon to convincing detail in this one, to the credit of Clarke and Seimetz. Lithgow on the other hand seems to not want ownership of the role, or if he does it's not entirely convincing. To borrow from Andy Levy, "Sometimes, Fred is better."
I don't have a problem with the idea of remaking Pet Sematary, but they seemed to want to have their cake by doing an 1989 homage before making the last half hour into a run of the mill horror film that emphasizes flash over the emotional investment, and eventually spiraling into convolution. If that's what the production had in mind for this version of the film then, mission accomplished I guess? It's not like the 1989 version was hot stuff anyway, and yet somehow this film couldn't clear that bar.
The opening scenes of the film are overhead as we see Jud and Louis' homes and the shots of the trees include excellent detail and color reproduction, and a fire provides a good shot of vitality to the palette with yellows going against greens and browns nicely. Facial detail in seeing tears pool on faces can be discerned. The visual effects like a truck crashing and other moments can be easily spotted but in the final moments of the film as night turns into daybreak, the black levels are deep and provide solid contrast against the greys and blues of the coming day. Good presentation, nothing mind-blowing.
The Dolby Atmos track sure does make you jump out of your seat when you need to, starting with the trucks roaring by the house early on. Quieter moments when the family encounters people going to the Sematary include ample environmental noise to provide immersion, and channel panning on those moments and more dynamic ones is present and effective. Dialogue is consistent through the center of the theater and requires no adjustment to speak of in what is ultimately a fine presentation from Paramount.
Things start with an alternate ending (9:16) that is a little closer to the first film's ending, and perhaps a little bit darker at times. Next are 7 deleted and extended scenes (16:13) that are a little redundant and unimpressive. "Night Terrors" (4:57) look at the nightmares of the Creeds, while "The Tale of Timmy Baterman" (3:04) is a strange piece with Lithgow in character discussing one of the boys and the sematary. The big piece on the disc is "Beyond the Deadfall," a four-part, hour-long look at the film from beginning to end (1:01:22), which examines story choices, casting ideas and decisions, location, set and production design, visual effects and makeup, and even a look at and test footage with some of the cats for the film! All of the extras are on the Blu-ray and none are on the UHD.
For me, Pet Sematary falls in the vein of ‘if you saw the first film, there's some things that may make you consider watching this one, but…' And that may be what some of the intent behind this is. On its own merits it's fine, but it has a predecessor to live up to whether they like it or not. Technically it's good, not great, and the bonus material is surprisingly good. Worth a look, but hardly memorable when you're done with it.