Movies

Movie review: ‘Pet Sematary’

Resurrecting a dead and buried Stephen King novel is no easy dig

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 4/7/19

I'm a great admirer of author Stephen King, but am always a little puzzled by the way some people come up with knee-jerk comments like, "I hate his movies."

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Movies

Movie review: ‘Pet Sematary’

Resurrecting a dead and buried Stephen King novel is no easy dig

Posted

I'm a great admirer of author Stephen King, but am always a little puzzled by the way some people come up with knee-jerk comments like, "I hate his movies."

He doesn't make movies (if you don't count the execrable "Maximum Overdrive"). He writes highly popular books that sometimes are made into movies by people with bushels of cash hoping to reap a profit from his name. None of these movies to my thinking have been good enough to consider classic, except maybe for "Carrie," “Delores Claiborne” or "Misery."

Of all the movie adaptations, though, director Mary Lambert's "Pet Sematary" (1989) was one of the worst, although many count it among the author's best adaptations.

That movie, and its just-released iteration, both suffer from a certain drawback traced back to King himself. That is: The dude writes long, and is prone to extravagant tangents that can comprise whole chapters before he returns to the central tale.

This means an adaptation then becomes a basic shot list of important plot points that hopefully will make sense to the audience. Recently, Netflix attempted to address this problem by doing a limited series called "Castle Rock," which tapped various King tropes in a new story with so-so results. There are big hopes pinned on a similar treatment of "The Stand," my fave, by the way.

Anyhoo, the new "Pet Sematary" is about what happens when a city family moves into a new home way out in the moody wilds of Maine. Soon, they discover that local children have created their own pet cemetery on their property, complete with little kid-style spelling and creepy rituals.

Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) is a former E.R. doc who is looking for a place to practice medicine with less stress. He is husband to Rachel (Amy Seimetz), who has traumatic issues of her own stemming from a troubled childhood. Their kids, though, are sweet and shiny. They are 8-year-old Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and 4-year-old Gage (Hugo/ Louis Savoie).

Although rural, their new place has a road in front frequented by 18-wheelers barreling along at high speed.

Before long they meet a friendly but curmudgeonly neighbor named Jud (John Lithgow), who explains what the "pet sematary" is all about. It's wrapped up in an evil forest dwelling Native American spirit called a Wendigo. While there is plenty of lore about this, I have always been uncomfortable with the way elements of Native culture are exploited for their eerie quality simply because they are misunderstood by non-Natives.

Now, because film is a visual medium and not a Stephen King book, we don’t have the luxury of delving into the motivations for the why the characters do what they do by way of the author’s distinctive prose, so, we are simply shown. Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmeyer, working from a script by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler, don’t work too much on developing the characters enough for the audience to care about them before people start dying and horrifically brought back to life after being planted in the “sematary.”

To me, the transformation undergone by Louis from a pragmatic former E.R. doc who doesn’t believe in a hereafter to suddenly doing things that completely run counter should be enormously profound. But, again, this is a movie not a book.

“Pet Sematary” was maybe fated to never become a decent horror movie in the first place. To me, it was a book whose basic conceit had built-in pathways and it was up to the author to follow them or not. He did and he pushed them even farther than he probably should have.

Horror that stabs and carves out a piece of the reader's soul surely leaves he or she wondering why a book like this exists in the first place? What do you think?

Tempo grade: C

“Pet Sematary” is rated R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Gloria Bell

MPAA rating: R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language.

Taos Community Auditorium

Sebastián Lelio directs a reimagining of his 2013 Chilean film. This one stars Julianne Moore. Lelio says, “As one of the greatest actresses in the world, Julianne giving her interpretation of the character is not only a huge honor, it's irresistible. It's going to be like jazz, you’ll feel the spirit of the original story but it’ll be re-invigorated and vital.”

Variety called it "one of the great female-led films of the 21st century, passing the Bechdel test with flying colors — which explains why Moore would be so keen to remake it."

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (April 7) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday (April 8-13) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

Shazam!

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson's (Asher Angel) case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi).

Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he'll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) can get his hands on Shazam's magical abilities.

Directed by David F. Sandberg, this film co-stars Djimon Hounsou.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Unplanned

MPAA rating: R for some disturbing/ bloody images.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation, Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher) was involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women on their reproductive choices.

Her passion surrounding a woman's right to choose led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she so deeply believed in. Until the day she saw something that changed everything.

From Pure Flix, producer of faith-based movies such as “God’s Not Dead,” this film was written and directed by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, based on a memoir by Abby Johnson that follows her life as clinic director for Planned Parenthood and her subsequent conversion to anti-abortion activism. She also founded a ministry to assist former Planned Parenthood employees who turned against abortion.

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