Pet Sematary

Drew's Hi-Res headshot
Drew Russom


In twenty seventeen, Max, my miniature schnauzer, passed away after fifteen years and six months of life. I have had a recurring dream that no matter how long he has been gone, I would turn a corner and there he would be covered in dirt, but just as lively as he was in life. For many of us, the loss of a pet is our first encounter with the permanency of death. Pet Sematary, both films, addresses death and the need for its acceptance, and the protagonist’s inability to do just that very thing. While the original showed the consequences of those poor choices; the remake ends up as a twisted Addams Family reunion set in Maine.

The setup for the twenty nineteen remake is certainly promising and still holds to the theme of the acceptance of death. There are moments that stand out far better than the original and make the film more memorable. The film does make some changes, both minor and major, that add to my enjoyment of this remake. Unfortunately some of these same changes did restrict what I gained from the movie. Let us start with the positives about the film.

The changes made do keep you on your toes. They definitely alter your expectations enough to where you cannot assume you know what is going to happen if you have seen the original, like me. For instance, Gauge, the baby boy, is not the one who dies by the truck. More emphasis, and even time was given to Rachel and her particular traumatic experience with death. These were my favorite sequences in the entire movie.

Body horror is one of the major factors that can truly be unsettling to me as a fan of horror as a genre. Gore seldom done well, and jump scares actively go against my enjoyment and engagement of horror or thriller films. Rachel’s sister, Zelda, is suffering from severe spinal meningitis that must be tended to daily. Her contorted back, mangled toes, and blotchy complexion already was unsightly, but to a small child; it is the thing of nightmares. These reoccurring memories and hallucinations picture Rachel’s sister as a monster and is our first view of the living dead in Pet Sematary (2019).

Now that I have given credit where credit is due for this remake, let us get into my critical reservations. The movie can be unintentionally funny with certain moments that I will have to spoil for you. Ellie, the first child, is killed by the semi-truck and brought back by her father. She speaks in mono tone, with a lazy eye lid akin to a stroke victim. This choice of acting can come off easily as more humorous, especially when she goes on her murder rampage. I think it is trying to keep in line with Stephen King’s trope of creepy children, just like there is always a person with psychic abilities, a.k.a. the shining.

This choice did not compromise my experience with the movie all that much, but it was the ending that I felt evoked my more subjective stance that I prefer the original more than the remake in terms of established its theme and the execution. At the end of the film, Rachel is killed by Ellie, attempts to resurrect her in the Pet Sematary. Louis, the protagonist, attempts to stop this, and does over power the undead girl, but is impaled by the now resurrected Rachel. The two ladies then drag Louis’s body to the place where he will also be brought back to life. The newly reformed family proceeds to burn down Jud’s house, and one can only assume that the same fate of death and resurrection will fall upon Gauge as well.

The reason why I prefer the original is related to the beginning of this article, the acceptance of death and the consequences of rebuking it. At the end of the original, Louis has lost his wife and baby; his family gone due to his inability to accept the loss of the family cat. He is faced with a choice: accept and go on with his lonely life, or bring back Rachel. Louis gives in to his grief, and suffers the consequences for his inability to learn from his prior actions. For clarification, I am not saying that the remake’s ending is bad; I do in fact understand what the message is behind the ending.

Louis is a family man; he loves his wife and children. So much so that he moves them from Boston to rural Maine so that he can spend more time with them. He brings back Church the cat for the sake of his daughter’s happiness, and subsequently his daughter for his own. Louis’s need for his family and the destructive means he goes through to keep it costs him his life, his family’s life, and humanity in the end. All of this does stem from the fact that Louis does not believe in the afterlife, so he cannot accept the death of his loved ones.

Pet Sematary (2019) is a good film with well done moments, good acting from the cast, and retains most of what made the original special to me, with a little bit of its own uniqueness thrown into the mix. With this film, if you have not seen the original you may very well enjoy this film in its entirety. For those that have seen the nineteen eighty nine film, there is still enjoyment to be had in all of the afore-mentioned positives I stated throughout the article. I enjoyed it, for the most part, and do respect what it attempts to capture and recreate, but I strongly feel that the original stands above ground firmly on its own, while the remake cuts itself short, at the ankles, from greatness.

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