‘Pet Sematary’ is exactly the kind of horror movie that is ripe for remaking. The 1989 version of Stephen King’s creepy novel is fairly well remembered, but it’s far from a classic, not even the cult kind. You can reinvent it without really annoying anyone. That’s exactly what the creative team on this movie have done. They’ve hacked up the narrative and resurrected it in a slightly different, weirder form.
The script keeps the same rough shape as King’s novel. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their young daughter and son move to a quiet Maine town in the hope of a simpler life than the one they had in Boston. Louis learns of a spooky burial ground behind his house, which he discovers has the power to raise the dead. First, he buries his dead cat, which comes back whiffy and mean, but soon grief drives him to test its powers on someone human. In the details, the writers have some mischievous fun, changing key elements to give the film its own surprises (avoid all the trailers if you want some major ones preserved).
Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer make the tone just a little cheesy, as the premise deserves, but not overripe. The scares are easy – sometimes literally a cat jumping from the shadows – but cleanly done. Helped by intense performances from Clarke and Seimetz, there’s a deep human sadness running beneath the silliness.