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KVUE Review: 'Pet Sematary,' starring Jason Clarke, John Lithgow

The second film adaptation of Stephen King's novel premiered at SXSW 2019 on March 16.
Credit: Kerry Hayes.
Caption: Left to right: Director Kevin Kölsch, John Lithgow, Director Dennis Widmyer behind the scenes on the set of PET SEMATARY, from Paramount Pictures. © 2019 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Photo credit: Kerry Hayes.

AUSTIN, Texas — The tagline for the new 'Pet Sematary' movie is "Sometimes, dead is better."

As the credits rolled following the film's premiere at SXSW 2019 on Saturday, that sentiment rang true. 

'Pet Sematary' (2019) -- the second film adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel , following the 1989 film -- isn't very good. In fact, if you've seen the '89 film, this one is just that, but worse.

At many points, like many remakes, it's shot-for-shot the same. But there are also several changes from the book and original film that just feel weird and annoying. Though the biggest change is welcome, there are many others that will have you wondering, "Why did they do that?"

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Here's what's good about the film: The score is fairly impressive. The camerawork, while it could be better, is at least trying hard to give a sense of spookiness, slowly easing around hallway corners and through dense woods to heighten tension. There are one or two scenes that successfully toy with the expectations of audience members who've seen the '89 film. And there a few passing references to other King works that will perk up the ears of those in the know.

That's all. The rest of the film is bland, predictable and not scary. The gore (which is really fairly minimal, by horror movie standards) looks no better than in the '89 film, despite 30 years of progress in the industry. There are several references to things from the book that are never fleshed out, leaving you wondering why they mentioned them at all. And when the film pulls out all the stops to scare you, dragging out the score to try to ratchet up anxiety and trick you with a jump scare, it doesn't work. You can see it coming five minutes out, every time.

'Pet Sematary' as King wrote it is a story about death, mortality and the failings of the human heart. It's about the burning, twisted desire to keep something in existence when you know you should let it go.

'Pet Sematary' (2019) is something that exists when Hollywood should have let it go.


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