Sometimes no adaptation at all is better. Sometimes no remakes are better. Sometimes books are better. Well, actually, on that last one, it is most of the time isn’t it? I’m going to warn you now. I have read Pet Sematary, the novel, twice. I have seen the original 1989 movie and the 90s sequel with young John Connor. I’m going to make reference to the giant change that the marketing people decided to spoil in the trailers (they really shouldn’t have) and spoil some things the book has that the movie doesn’t. I WILL NOT SPOIL the absolutely brand new ending that isn’t in any of the previous adaptations. So if you want to go into this blind, don’t watch any of the trailers (the first teaser one should’ve been the only one released). Also, if you want to go into this really blind and maybe enjoy yourself, don’t watch the other two movies or read the book either. And certainly, don’t read this review. However, if any of you ever actually listen and agree with most of my reviews and are going to read my critique anyway, let me give you some advice. Just read the book. The book is a masterpiece on sorrow, grief, tragedy, with elements of the supernatural sprinkled about in it. It’s essentially a drama. It just happens to have horror and supernatural shit in it (kind of like Indiana Jones is mainly adventure film with some relgious and sci-fi undertones). It is one of Stephen King’s best books. This new movie, is a cookie cutter fast food cheap jump scare bullshit hollow entity that doesn’t have any of the substance or subtext the book or hell, even the original movie had, and is the first big disappointment of 2019 and one of the year’s worst films.
I guess if you are a dumb younger millennial and enjoy the stupid ookie-spooky “what’s that sound?” kind of shit, where they just put in a giant, loud, obnoxious music cue to incite you to jump in your chair a quarter of an inch…well, then this movie is right up your alley! I hope not, I hope you are smarter than that. I hope that when a movie adapts something beloved to you that, when you watch said movie, you make sure to look for and find all the instances that made the book great. And I’m not talking about every single little freaking piece of dialogue, or even all the scenes, just what is necessary to take the message, subtext, substance, themes, etc. etc. and translate it to the screen well. And I’ll admit it first, yes, I was about to boycott this movie because the 2nd and final trailer reveal that a certain characters demise in this is actually switched with another character, and I personally felt that would take out all the grief and sorrow themes the book handled so damn well. Well…that twist…is the least of the movie’s fucking problems.
And the switcheroo have ultimately been a problem if it had been done well. The movie is only 100 minutes (including credits) and there just wasn’t enough time to establish or set up characters and relationships, and when the tragedy strikes, there are no payoffs filled with grief, sorrow, or tragedy. I have said it time and again: set ups must have payoffs. If the set ups aren’t done correctly, your payoffs aren’t going to work either. The movie rush, rush, rushes everything just to get to that next cheap jump scare to make dumb people that fall for that crap feel like they spent their box office dollars well. It doesn’t work on someone like me that has grown up from that cheap horror crap and wants a frightening film with fucking God damn themes and subtext, like Hereditary or Us. I didn’t care about the characters here. I didn’t feel the love between the father and his son and daughter, the mothers relationship with her children is barely there if even at all, the Jud and Louis relationship that is done so well in the novel, isn’t even there. So when characters get hurt or die, I just didn’t care. I didn’t get choked up. Movies that do tragedy and grief well make you think about your own loved ones while you are watching the movie, and if the movie invests your time for you get to know the characters, you should care if they bite the dust.
I didn’t here at all. In fact, the main accident/tragedy in the book is done like a dumb Fast and Furious bait and switch action scene. It might’ve been more effective if I didn’t already know about the different fate of two of the characters. If the marketing team had just left it at that one teaser trailer…maybe the incident would’ve shocked me to my core, had my jaw drop, and intrigued me to want to watch further on why they had made that switch. But I already knew about it, and so the accident ended up looking like a CGI Vin Diesel crap fest. Even then, while I might’ve been shocked, the rest of the movie, before and after that incident, didn’t establish anything well enough for me to care about what happened. There are a BUNCH of things from the book that are missing from this movie that would’ve helped the movie become something more than just a cheap jump scare shit fest. For my Pet Sematary fans out there that have read the novel , here is what is missing I consider pivotal: Jud’s wife, more of Jud and Louis’s budding friendship, the backstory of the Indian Burial Ground, the relationship between Louis Creed and his in-laws (hell, you can even consider the relationship between him and his wife barely even there here), and the very pivotal funeral confrontation scene.
Oh…and the cat, Church, is completely mishandled here. In the book, he comes back different and weird, and he kills birds and squirrels and shit and brings them in, but he doesn’t attack humans and doesn’t feel like a huge threat. That’s why Jud recommends burying the cat there in the first place, because he know it won’t do any harm. The cat just feels off but won’t kill you. In the movie, he’s scratching and biting and just vicious and mean from the get go. They even make it look like Church plans to kill Gage at one point. Didn’t make much sense that Jud would recommend bringing it back to life considering that later in the movie he fucking admits that when he brought his dog back it was as mean as ever and they put it down soon after (in the book he reveals his dog ultimately died again at a much older age). Also, putting random creepy kids wearing creepy masks with an awkward unusual procession of a dead dog, doesn’t automatically make your movie creepy. It makes it awkward and makes you look like you are throwing in creepy for creepy-sakes. Make you look like bad filmmakers. The only thing I can truly give praise to is the acting. Especially John Lithgow as Jud. All the casting was quite good, they just didn’t have a decent screenplay or direction to bring it all together.
And the movies ending. Let’s talk about it as much as a can without spoiling a God damn thing. The book’s ending is pretty much perfect, in my opinion. Doesn’t wrap up everything in a nice neat bow, but is chilling, sad, and haunting. Makes you wonder what happens next. In fact, shit doesn’t really go down until the last 30 – 40 pages of the novel. All of that is gone here. Not even a trace. They trade it in for a horror action type scene that is just insulting to Stephen King and the fans of his novel. The last little thing before it cuts to black is extremely stupid as well. I can’t believe Stephen King is endorsing this film. If I was him, I’d hate it even more than he does with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation to The Shining. And I know that Stephen King thinks his books is depressing and that the only reason why it was published was to get out of a dumb contract that a book company had him in. But over the years, it has become one of his most timely novels, depressing, but with a haunting message, and the best words and prose I’ve ever seen dealing with grief. This screenplay was written by one asshole, and directed by two assholes just trying to trick people into giving them their money. And I fell for it.
But please, please, please don’t you fall for it. If you really want to watch a film adaptation of Pet Sematary, just watch the 1989 version. Even though it really isn’t the best, it doesn’t hold a candle to how awful this film is. If you really want to do right by the story, just read the book. I know, who reads anymore these days right? But it is a fantastic read that I can’t recommend enough. This movie is dull. This movie is cheap. This movie doesn’t try to make you think. It tries to steal your money and your time. If you like your horror movies like you like McDonald’s or Taco Bell; buried in some greasy, ugly, unhealthy shit that you might enjoy after that 2 am buzz but will regret it with your anus in the morning, then this movie is for you. If you love the book, or hell, if you love the 1989 film, a fan of Stephen King novels in general, or if you like horror movies like you would love eating at an expensive, fancy, and delicious steak house, feeling alive again with all the trimmings, look else where. This movie was DOA and needs to be buried and never brought back to life again. I wish it could be erased from existence. Sometimes Thanos’ Snap Is Better.