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We are in a brilliant time for horror, as the genre is winning new converts thanks to what seems to be an alternating pattern of inventive new original films and fantastic remakes and sequels in hallowed franchises. After Jordan Peele’s Us blew the doors off the box office last month, April has brought the remake/new adaptation of horror master Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.
Considered to be one of Stephen King’s most terrifying novels, Pet Sematary was last adapted for the big screen in 1989, in a film that is well-liked by some fans, but one that probably needed a remake. So how does the new Pet Sematary fare? Pretty well it seems. The reviews are up for the film and CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars, praising it as an adaptation of King’s work. In his review, Sean said:
Pet Sematary, as a story, isn’t for everyone. It’s dark and sad, heartbreaking and complicated. But for fans eager to venture to the hallowed ground of King’s novel, this adaptation is a worthy and unsettling tour guide through the mind caverns of King.
That is encouraging to hear for Stephen King fans who have seen the author’s work run the gamut from unwatchable to masterpiece. That said, the story of Pet Sematary isn’t going to appeal to everyone, and it’s not meant to. Collider’s Perri Nemiroff echoes some of Sean’s points while highlighting how scary Pet Sematary is. She says in her "A-" review of the film:
Pet Sematary isn’t striving to be an easy communal crowdpleaser. Just like the source material, it’s a movie with a real thoughtful mean streak that’ll chill you to the bone, and ensure you remain sufficiently on edge well after it concludes.
It sounds like Pet Sematary is truly scary and will leave you feeling rattled long after the credits roll. Right before the credits, though, is where there seems to be some debate, with some reviewers feeling that this new film, while ultimately being a success, doesn’t quite stick the landing. IndieWire’s Britt Hayes gave Pet Sematary a “B-“ and said:
Succeeds in some areas where the 1989 version failed while ultimately failing to deliver an ending that resonates as deeply as its source material.
Others, like The Wrap’s Monica Castillo seemed to appreciate the new ending to the film how it leaves audiences with a lot to ponder in their post-Pet Sematary trauma. She said:
Its terrifying story about death still leaves audiences with much to think about long after the credits roll, and the twists that lead to a new ending are fun to follow.
Not everyone felt that this new Pet Sematary actually felt new though. In one of the film’s negative reviews, Nikki Baughan of ScreenDaily found the positive elements to be far outweighed by how trite the whole thing felt. She said:
Yet these are buried deep under a mudslide of horror cliches — jump scares, creepy kids, expositional newspaper headlines — that reduce this to just another run-of-the-mill horror remake.
Opinions like that seem to be the minority though, and some, like Slashfilm’s Chris Evangelista, fall on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. He found that this new Pet Sematary made changes that were for the better and allowed the filmmakers to tell a new version of the story that maintains the frightening and emotional impact of the source material. He gave the film extremely high praise in his 9 out of 10 review, and said:
Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer take the terror that King forged, and mold it into something fresh, and exciting, and downright horrifying. Pet Sematary is one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever.
As of now, with an 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems that Pet Sematary is another winning chapter in the ongoing horror renaissance. The film won't be for everyone and Stephen King die-hards and fans of the original film can probably go either way on the changes. Pet Sematary also isn't a particularly happy film, so if you're doing a double feature with Shazam! it's probably best to end with that delightful superhero film instead of going home on such a heavy note.
Pet Sematary rises from its grave when it opens in theaters on April 5. Check out our 2019 release schedule to see all the horror films and everything else you can look forward to this year.