PET SEMATARY arrives on 4K Blu-ray combo pack July 9th via Paramount Home Entertainment. Packed with over 90 minutes of special features, including a chilling alternate ending – here is my review:
After the Creed family relocates from Boston to rural Maine, they soon discover an ancient burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When tragedy strikes, the grief-stricken father is driven by the cemetery’s sinister power, setting off a perilous chain of events that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences. Some secrets are best left buried in this twisted thriller.
Directors Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer are obvious Stephen King fans and even though their 2019 remake of Pet Sematary changes quite a bit of material from the novel and original film, the tone and themes are very much in the spirit of King’s horrifying tale of death and resurrection. It’s just a shame that the movie never really finds its footing and then when the credits roll, you’re left wanting more.
Jason Clarke does an admirable job playing a father who is slowly but surely losing his ever-loving mind after moving to this small rural community where there’s a spot in the woods that you can bury your loved ones and bring them back as Wendigo-possessed ghouls. Church the cat is the first to go and I love every single moment that features this little bastard. There’s a strange lopsided face effect that Church has, which eventually carries over to the daughter once she dies and comes back too. It works better on the cat, but that’s not the only reason why the film suffers once we bring the dead daughter back to life.
Personally, I’m happy Pet Sematary 2019 decided to change the dead kid from the toddler (who dies in the book/original film) to the older daughter instead. I understand why they likely did this for a couple reasons – 1) Having a two year old toddler die by getting run over via semi-truck then go on a killspree is still fucked up and hard to watch and 2) the daughter questions mortality early in the film and it’s more interesting to explore these themes with a more mature child thematically. The problem is that Jeté Laurence’s performance of Ellie just doesn’t work once she is brought back to life. The weird dead-effect they did with her wonky eyeball is OK, but it doesn’t look as cool as it does with Church the cat AND she just…. isn’t believable. Every time she uttered something “evil” it sounded forced. I laughed when she calls her mother a cow and I wasn’t supposed to be laughing in that scene. The transition was almost too jarring and I would have liked to spend more time with these characters in those scenes, but once we get there – the film hurdles towards an ending all too quickly with little payoff.
Major Spoilers Ahead for The Ending:
In the novel and original Pet Sematary film, the father is forced to euthanize both the cat and his toddler after they come back and go on a killspree. Here in the 2019 film, much of the chaos plays out exactly the same way, including that cringe-worthy but inevitable John Lithgow Achilles slice and dice. Where it goes off the rails is when the mother, who dies of course and comes back, kills her husband, then we cut to the little kid who was hiding in the car, who then watches his whole undead family walk towards him, unlock the door and as the end credits roll, we are to assume that they kill the baby too and live happily ever after as undead monsters.
The alternate ending, included on this Blu-ray set – is FAR superior to the theatrical cut. Instead of the undead mother killing the father, Jason Clarke’s character decides to come to grips with his psychotic undead family and he helps resurrect his wife instead before she has a chance to murder him. Then – they walk back to the house, the father takes the toddler from the car, and they all go inside the house to pose for the most horrific and unsettling family portrait ever as Gage is crying, Clarke looks like he needs ten showers and a stint in a mental hospital and the undead ladies both stare ominously into the camera. Roll credits. It’s not a far stretch from the theatrical ending, but it’s better – because it gives the film some more time to breathe. Also it’s a more frightening note to end on honestly – if you’re going for the sad conclusion this is the correct way to pull that off.
There’s also over 90 minutes dedicated to ‘making-of’ segments, all of which are fascinating and deep dives into the creation of the film. They talk about the changes to the source material, how Clarke would try to incorporate lines from the novel into the next day’s shoot because he was obsessed with honoring the book etc. It’s all fascinating stuff even if the film itself wound up fairly basic.
Full List of Special Feature Segments below:
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Night Terrors – Family Haunting Visions
The Tale of Timmy Baterman
Beyond the Deadfall
- Chapter One: Resurrection – Directors, screenwriters and cast discuss bringing this classic back to life
- Chapter Two: The Final Resting Place—A deeper look into finding the right location for the terror to unfold
- Chapter Three: The Road to Sorrow— Inside the film’s tragic themes and creating the iconic cat “Church”
- Chapter Four: Death Comes home—Unearth the creepy elements behind the climax and final scenes of the film