As many of us are, I was familiar with Stephen King’s work from a very young age. Mainly due to Family Guy parodies and the fact my first boyfriend as a teenager was obsessed with Shawshank Redemption. With a mam who loves horror, as I got older, she’d sing the praises of Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Misery and Stand by Me, and I’d seen most of the classics others had by the time I finished my teens.
The original Pet Semetary came out in 1989 and spawned a sequel. I never heard it ranted or raved about, but heard my mam discuss it in passing while we were baking one Sunday, and I googled it after hearing a joke about it on Family Guy (they’re obsessed with Stephen King, seemingly).
When the 2018 remake was announced and advertised, it was following the reboot of IT and the film adaptation of Gerald’s Game, both of which I really enjoyed. I worked at a cinema at the time, and we managed to get an advanced viewing on the Pet Semetary reboot, assessing the more recent Stephen King adaptations and reboots, this film had no excuse what so ever to not be up to the same calibre as them.
I'll end your suffering in suspense. I thought it was terrible and I hated it. I don’t know why, but some of the plot holes and choices made me irrationally mad. I have decided after stewing on it for 3 years, and taking the opportunity to change my perspective and mature, that not only am I still mad, but I feel the need to vocalise it publicly to move on.
Disclaimer: I don’t know if any of these flaws are down to the film or the source material, so please find me and correct me if these are Stephen King’s fault. Please don’t take this as a serious review, I am not a film critic and my experience was subjective, as are all opinions about all films, and I hope if you saw this film, you really enjoyed it. But I didn’t, and I want to complain. Major spoilers ahead.
1. The Kid in The Crash
At the start, we meet the core nuclear family, with the dad being an ER doctor. He has not yet been near the Pet Semetary or done anything to aggravate it. He gets a call about a teenager who’s been in a horrific car crash and needs to be seen immediately. We meet the kid, his entire skull busted open in full HD, and very close to death. He dies whilst being worked on, and whilst the doctor attempts to save him, he sits bolt upright and does a Creepy Kid Speech about the barrier being broken. Except the doctor and assumedly the teenager have not broken any barriers, and I do not understand why the dead teenager came back to life when he hasn’t been buried in the cemetery and the doctor has never buried anyone there.
2. The Dream Sequences
Slightly later on, our main doctor has used the cemetery and is now aware of its powers. Twice we see dream sequences, where he’s led out of his bedroom while he sleeps and into a very badly CGI’d dreamscape with lumpy set pieces in the foreground. They’re mildly intriguing and I wanted to know where they were going to take us, except they stopped immediately and didn’t take you anywhere or give you any information whatsoever. They had one, another one 20 minutes later and just gave up on them. Why?!
3. The Daughter Dying Instead of The Son
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but in the book it’s their younger son that dies. The writers of the film made the choice to kill the daughter instead. I was at a loss as to why they chose to do this, but then it was obvious. Speaking of which!
4. The Direction of the Daughter
They obviously wanted to kill the daughter off to add a creepy little girl to appeal to a mainstream audience, cause the public obsess over creepy kids in horror. Now, acting, performance and art are obviously subjective. What some people find believable and genuine, others laugh at. I think the actress playing this part in Pet Semetary did a really good job, I think she thought through the lines and did them as directed. However, I think whoever guided this child ruined any possibility of any genuine scares from the little girl once she comes back from the cemetery. The way she looks, sounds and behaves now she’s Evil Back from The Dead Child is over the line of exaggerated straight into parody, and it distracted me for the entirety of the film after the daughter's death.
5. The Young Girls Accident
For context, the daughter dies at her own birthday party. Bleak. Her younger brother runs out through a gap in the trees onto the carriageway, directly into the path of a giant tanker truck going full speed.
Now in the book, the son gets taken out by the truck and dies. However, in the film the daughter runs out and saves him, sacrificing herself in front of the truck. For the full picture, the truck skids, the tank the size of the width of the highway detaches and rolls along the floor (still at full speed), taking out the little girl. The family run and find her laid on the road side like she’s having a quick nap. If you remember, I said earlier that the teenager at the start was in a collision and his entire face was completely open. This child had been rolled over by a tank like a giant rolling pin, and she ends up laying on the grass on her back. With not one drop of blood to be seen. I didn’t even think she was dead at first. I know children and severe gore don’t go well together, but if you’re going to show a teenager with his eye dangling out, you can show a child with a cut on her forehead.
6. The Explanation For The Cemetery (Or Semetary)
Akin to the dream sequences, this was just given no development at all. They live across the way from an old dude, and after a few deaths and resurrections, he explains to the doctor how the cemetery came to fruition. Except he doesn’t really, he just says it's something to do with native Americans and moves on?! What?!
They just mention this in passing as another reason for the cemetery? What? How? Wendigos are creatures born from humans eating other humans? What do they have to do with the cemetery? Am I missing something?
8. The Old Man’s Wife
Speaking of the old man, we come to know that he buried his wife in the cemetery after she passed, which makes him warn the doctor against burying anything there. Close to the end of the film, the little girl enters his home to kill him, occasionally morphing into his wife. In this segment, the half child half adult woman says “we know what you did”, and you’d think alluding to him doing something so horrible, we’d find out what he did, right? Wrong. You’re wrong. You’ll never know.
9. The Daughters Scalp
Bouncing back to the creepy girl one more time, sorry. When she initially comes back, her dad gives her a bath to wash all the mud and death reanimation smell off her. During which, he finds a seam on the back of her scalp under her hair. I have thought about this so, so much and still have no mortal clue why that seam is there. Was she opened and sewn back up? Did someone put something in her skull to bring her back? I am lost.
10. The Sister and the Dumb Waiter
I have truly saved the most confusing for last. Although I’ve not mentioned her yet, the doctor has a wife with a lot of issues. They argue in the films first act over dad forcing the inevitability of death on their daughter, with the wife talking about how he ‘knows’ about her issues with death. We find out that when she was young, she didn’t want to take food upstairs to her dying (albeit, terrifying) sister whilst she was ill. She tries to use a broken dumb waiter, which her sister falls down, killing her.
Now, you’d think such a large and well explained plot point would be relevant? Nope. Not at all. The mam hallucinates her sister falling through the medicine cabinet and dead sister does some creepy whispering, all of which in a house hundreds of miles from where she actually died. The sister also has no relation to the Pet Semetary, so there isn’t the weird native American vague force bringing her back. Why they would just give us this, in such detail, with so much weight, for it to not actually matter and have no relevance to the family’s demise, will truly be lost on me till the day I die.
In conclusion, this film let me down so severely it’s taken me three years to properly compute and put down into words. Thank you for reading and sharing my plight. If you did enjoy this film, please contact me and tell me why. Or if you didn’t, tell me why as well.
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