Three Imaginary Girls

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Clockwise, Top Left: Amy Seimetz as Rachel, Jason Clarke as Louis, Hugo Lavoie as Gage, and Jeté Laurence as Ellie in PET SEMATARY, from Paramount Pictures.

It’s always tough for Directors to take on a remake, especially when the original has established itself as a campy classic within the giant catalog of available Stephen King adaptations. But while I’m sympathetic to the challenges Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer faced, I feel like their version of Pet Sematary just did NOT work.

{some spoilers ahead}

I was intrigued at the beginning, in which Kölsch and Widmyer flash us forward to shortly before the end of the film to pull us into the oncoming destruction. I started getting sucked in to the story of the Creeds: Louis (Jason Clarke), Rachel (Amy Seimetz), Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and Gage (twins Hugo & Lucas Lavoie) moving to the small town of Ludlow so they can slow down and spend more time together as a family.

The Creeds settle into an idyllic farmhouse that’s almostperfect except for two things: 1) GIANT Orinco tanker trucks speed down the road within inches of their property at breakneck speeds, and 2) there’s a creepy-as-fuck Pet “Sematary” in the woods out back. Friendly neighbor Judd (John Lithgow) delivers a slight warning about those woods when Ellie wanders into them, but as it turns out his advice is pretty useless.

It’s not long before Ellie’s beloved cat Church gets hit by one of those (almost comically fast) killer trucks, so natch Judd has the brilliant idea of burying him beyond the barrier of the kid-stuff cemetery, in the SERIOUSLY for real spooky supernatural burial ground, so kitty can come back and Ellie can live blissfully unaware of death and cuddle her favorite pet.

After Church comes back from the dead and starts scratching the hell out of people and dropping eviscerated rodents and birds on them, Judd finally tells Louis some useful info: there’s a hungry Wendigo roaming around back in the woods; the ground is sour; a man’s heart is stonier; and sometimes (?!?! just sometimes?) dead is better, etc. etc. etc.

If there’s one thing y’all should know about supernatural burial grounds, it’s that they demand a price — and that price, as it turns out, is Ellie’s life. Surprisingly, this is not the plot change that bothered me the most (I even enjoyed the fake out they employed in the scene where she bites the dust).

But although Ellie being the reanimated child this time around didn’t bug, it is when she comes back that the movie started to fall apart for me. Scenes dragged on too long; there wasn’t enough action to move the plot forward, and ENOUGH with the goddamn dumbwaiter already.

The cast is strong (Clarke is perfect in his denial and grief), and the sets and special F/X are bangin’, but almost all of the fun was sucked out of this for me by Ellie explaining pretty much every move she made, and mostly, of course, by the terrible f*cking ending. The ending that breaks the whole mythology of the story, makes no sense, and is not even the tiniest bit scary.

Having rewatched Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation of Pet Sematary just before this one, I can tell you that version is superior. Silly as it is, it still manages to deliver some moments of genuine terror. Plus that chilling, true to the source material ending remains one of the best I’ve seen (shout-out to Denise Crosby!), and I found Miko Hughes as 3-year-old Gage to be 100x creepier – and more terrifying – then 9-year-old Ellie.

I had hopes this would be good since I loved this duo’s creeptastic feature debut Starry Eyes, but uh. Nope. Better luck next time, guys.