The sad thing about the latest version of Pet Sematary is that it’s not a new adaptation of the Stephen King novel, but rather a remake of the 1989 film. This may come as a shock to anyone who’s been even slightly interested in horror movies over the last few years, but the previous version of Pet Sematary is not a horror classic and a seminal 80s film. It’s actually pretty average To be fair, it’s not quite as shit as all the other 80s Stephen King adaptations that various chancers and nostalgia-hounds are currently trying to convince everyone were actually really classics. If anyone tries to tell you that Cujo or Christine are worth your time, run; if they mention Maximum Overdrive, you’re legally allowed to kick them in the shins.
Stephen King was a one-man industry in the 80s, and pretty much every adaptation of his films back then was designed to separate suckers – uh, that is to say, fans – from their cash before they woke up to the scam. Said scam being that while the books were good-to-great, Hollywood – especially the directors being tapped on the shoulder to adapt his work – had no idea how to bring what made them great to the big screen.
And they still don’t: It part 1 might have made an absolute fortune at the box office not long back but that was clearly a combination of 80s nostalgia and a very long dry spell at the movies that saw audiences desperate for anything halfway decent to watch (it didn’t hurt that Pennywise the Clown is Stephen King’s one classic monster).
If this new version of Pet Sematary has anything to teach us, it’s that so long as Stephen King’s name gets audiences into the cinema, the quality of the films themselves will be of secondary concern.
The thing is, Pet Sematary is a really good horror novel that works in ways that in 2019 would be (relatively) easy to bring to the big screen. Unfortunately, a decent adaptation would be about as far from a fun time thrilling horror adventure as it’s possible to get, considering the book is really only interested in one thing: just how much it would massively suck to have your young son die.
Yes, there’s also a killer kid and a messed up cat and a small but memorable body count in the book. But where both movies focus on that stuff, the book focuses on dread and despair and being trapped in a nightmare that is also – even more horribly – not even remotely unusual or unnatural.
It’s a kind of horror that doesn’t rely on jump scares and ankle stabs and yes, the notorious ankle stab from the first film is back; it’s also the kind of horror that we actually do get to see in cinemas at the moment (ie: Us) and which, if done with even half the skill of that shoddy, sloppy film, would make for a sure-fire classic piece of cinema. Which, sad to say, this new version of Pet Sematary really isn’t.