“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can and tends it.”
Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), Pet Sematary is the second film adaptation of the 1983 Stephen King novel, after Mary Lambert’s 1989 movie. Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow, the story follows a family that discovers a mysterious graveyard in the woods behind their new home.
Louis Creed (Clarke), a doctor from Boston, moves to the small town of Ludlow, Maine, with his wife Rachel (Seimetz), their two young children, Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo & Lucas Lavoie), and Ellie’s cat, Church. While exploring the woods, Ellie stumbles across a funeral procession of children taking a deceased dog to the “Pet Sematary” – a small graveyard for beloved pets built by the children of Ludlow.
Later, Church is killed by a truck. Their neighbor, Jud Crandall (Lithgow) takes Louis to the Pet Sematary, then farther to an Indigenous American burial ground to lay the animal to rest. The next day, Church returns home alive, but something’s different about the cat. Jud tells a stunned Louis that the ancient burial ground brings things back from the dead and is inhabited by a spirit known as the Wendigo.
If you’ve read Stephen King’s novel, or seen Lambert’s ’89 film, you know what happens next. What’s interesting about Kölsch and Widmyer’s take is that it’s a more faithful adaptation to the book, and yet very much its own thing. As someone who loves the novel, I never cared much for the original film version – beyond Fred Gwynne’s memorable performance as Jud, the acting fails to dig into the dramatic depth of the book. That’s not the case with this adaptation. Clarke, Seimetz, Lithgow, and Laurence all give fantastic performances.
The screenplay by Jeff Buhler (The Midnight Meat Train, The Prodigy) offers a few twists and wrinkles to the proceedings in ways that keep the viewer on their toes while cinematographer Laurie Rose (Kill List, A Field in England, High-Rise) conjures dark imagery that speaks to the film’s themes of grief and loss.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kölsch and Widmyer’s updated adaptation of Pet Sematary – while not as great as Andy Muschietti’s It: Chapter One, it does capture the vibe of the novel, even if it’s a streamlined version. The 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray combo pack release has some great deleted and extended scenes that I wish had been left in the movie – or at least included in a director’s cut. There’s so many small quiet moments in the book that are the first to get cut, but those little moments build character (and dread) and could have really fleshed out the 101-minute movie more.
Speaking of the 4K Ultra HD disc, this movie looks simply astonishing in its 4K Dolby Vision presentation, with vivid colors and deep black levels. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is equally impressive – you can hear the rustling of leaves, the wind howling, the chirping of crickets and the creaks of an old farmhouse. There are some truly tense, hair-raising moments in the film and the audio and video presentation on this release accentuates them even further.
In addition to the alternate ending and deleted scenes, this release also includes a series of four featurettes looking into various aspects of the production, such as adapting the novel for contemporary audiences, the production design and shooting locations, the casting and characters, and interview discussions on the plot’s themes.