, after all, remains one of the most universally reviled King properties to come out of the author’s booze-and-coke ’80s period, which wasn’t helped by a garbage 1989 film adaptation. The best I can say about the new film is that it really swims a few laps in that boozy, drug-filled pool and relishes its garbage origins.
The result, however, is far more comedic than any trailer would indicate.
“They spelled it wrong!”
Let’s review: family moves to the woods to “get away from it all.” Family is initially stoked about the massive backyard in their new property, only to learn that it’s linked to a few really troubling stories about murders and animals, uh, coming back to life. The property also has a very short driveway that leads to a two-lane, 60mph highway with no gate.
Plus, 30 minutes in, we learn that the stay-at-home mom in this family has unresolved childhood trauma about… being left alone in a creepy old house. Good thing issue won’t get triggered any time soon!
All of this, plus a random procession of silent, mask-wearing children into their property’s backyard animal cemetery (“they spelled it wrong!” the daughter cries) and a single, painfully creepy neighbor who stares at the family through a window while smoking a cigarette, set the tone for ‘s endless, obvious, obnoxious plot shifts into “terrifying” paths.
Meaning: what seemed creepy or exciting in the film’s trailers falls flat. There’s no subtlety about that procession of masked children, for example; no logic that the characters can fall back on to logically co-exist in a “hey, this small town is just kinda weird” way. The obvious and freaky just sits in plain view, like a rotting cat corpse. Instead of yelling “Don’t open that door!” at the screen, we the viewers are left wanting the irredeemably dumb characters to hurry up and get themselves killed.
I left wondering what I was supposed to be creeped out by in my real life as a parallel. Making bad real estate decisions? Not quitting my job at a hospital and fleeing town the instant I saw a vision of a dead patient coming back to life (or, worse, having my infant son repeat the same anecdote a few days later)? Having a neighbor who called his dead dog a “helluva sniffer”? Nonstandard spelling?
Lithgow for the lulz
The good news: every single actor seems in on the joke. Every bad decision is pantomimed by ‘s leads with wide-eyed wonder, and they oversell every stupid or terrified moment with enough gravitas and effort to count as WWE-caliber reactions.
As a bonus for anyone who attends for the lulz, John Lithgow is an absolute highlight in terms of selling the film’s absurdity. Is he a creep? A monster? A savior in the end, primed to save the day? Lithgow’s performance brilliantly straddles the line between these possibilities. His bulging eyes peer through a wrinkled, bearded face as if he were haunted by the fact that the new family in his neighborhood is really this stupid.
To be clear, I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of last year’s adaptation, but at least that film had its share of quality surprises, gore-splosions, and unique twists on the scary-clown cliché. Do not go into expecting any quality overlap. Instead, expect a sentiment much like this tweet, from yours truly:
My favorite thing about seeing Pet Sematary this week was the *one* scene where the film wasn’t being laughed at for tongue-in-cheek cheese, where a couple was being sweet to each other, and a guy in the crowd ripped a room-filling fart. Kinda says everything.
— Sam Machkovech (@samred) April 4, 2019
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