Though considered something of a horror classic by many, I’ve never personally enjoyed “Pet Sematary.” For the simple fact that though the idea of the pet Sematary is good on paper, director Mary Lambert’s horror drama about a Sematary that revives the living is hell bent on melodrama and meandering back stories and never quite focuses on the allure of the Sematary. In the end the Sematary poses more of a plot device than anything, and spends much of its time on unlikable vapid characters we can never really feel empathy for.
The concept is handled with much more insight and allure in “Re-Animator,” where the thought of beating mortality was often mouth watering. Sure, Herbert West was absolutely insane, but he always came out ahead because he understood that no one could resist beating death and reviving their loved ones. The entire crux of the story is reliant on West’s serum and its effects. “Pet Sematary” however is too wrapped up in familial dysfunction and undertones of abuse to really focus on the horrific elements. The act of reviving a loved one in the sacred Sematary often feels more foolish than relatable, and there’s never an indication of why the town simply doesn’t just bulldoze or destroy the sight. Is there something in the town preventing it? Do the people there know something the characters or the audience do not? And once the relatives that are revived sour and eventually become murderous, then what? Is it their goal to murder their loved ones and simply stop functioning?
Do they continue going on a rampage and just killing anyone and everyone they come across? Has no one ever had this experience beside these characters? Do the undead continue rotting in to pure evil until they monsters? Do they rot like the undead? If this Sematary is considered just a myth, has no one else tried to see if it was true or not until now? There’s never any indication of answers to be had, and any answers are passed off as ambiguity where it’s really just a lot of plot holes and unresolved storylines. Meanwhile the film varies from melodrama, tedium, and just outright goofy sequences that were probably much better handled in the book itself. Or maybe not. In one instance dad Louis attempts to bathe and is greeted by a giant dead rat his newly revived and quickly souring cat Church greets him with. It adds inadvertent laughter to what should be a morbid sign post.
And the ultimate finale involving the family the Creeds’ newly revived undead young son Gage is campy when it should be horrifying. “Pet Sematary” wastes too much time on filler from the grasp to keep the Creeds’ from descending in to madness thanks to the ghost of the grounds named Pascow who fights an uphill battle to save the Creeds from committing ultimate crimes in the sematary. “Pet Sematary” is often a mean spirited and ugly horror film with characters that are much too unlikable to really root or sympathize for. Much of the performances are incredibly over the top, and in the end there’s less a movie about the undead and that grasp for the ones we’ve loved, and more dysfunctional family nonsense that King is prone to digging in to ad nauseum. Mary Lambert’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is pure familial dysfunctional melodrama dripping with incoherence and poor tonal shifts left and right, completely missing the opportunity to become a pure horror movie. With a plot device that leaves wide open plot holes, “Pet Sematary” is a silly and tedious horror drama with no purpose.