For quite a span of time, Stephen King was one of the most reliable, frequently used names in movies as well as literature.
Numerous books by the horror icon have been adapted for film, sometimes more than once. See: “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “The Dead Zone” and “It.” And now, King devotees also can see “Pet Sematary” anew, thanks to the current update.
After the blockbuster that “It” became in movie form relatively recently, it’s not surprising that filmmakers and studios would go back to the King canon to see what else of his remains adaptable, even if it’s been adapted before. The 1989 “Pet Sematary” surely has its fans, but the chilling effectiveness of the update proves the tale was ripe for a remake.
Of course, the author’s beloved Maine is the setting as a Boston doctor (played by Jason Clarke) moves his family there. Their new home promises tranquility, but with King’s imprint attached, you just know that is not to be. The most obvious sign of that: the backyard that long has been used as a makeshift cemetery for family pets by area residents, particularly younger ones who have some bizarre burial rites.
The newcomers have brought along their own pet, a beloved cat, which automatically stacks the deck … and makes a certain plot turn entirely foreseeable. It also puts a welcome spotlight on the ever-great John Lithgow, portraying a neighbor whose knowledge of the territory and its secrets ultimately leads to considerable terror for all concerned.
The magic of Stephen King always has been that it thrusts the extraordinary upon ordinary people. That built-in relatability has been a huge part of King’s success in any and every medium, and it’s just as potent as ever in the second screen take on “Pet Sematary.” Amy Seimetz fares well as Clarke’s wife, as do the youngsters who play their children.
While it’s great to see that the King catalog can be mined again nicely, the other side of that coin is the hope that additional remakes of his tales won’t be made just for the sake of trying to cash in. That’s a very real possibility, since Hollywood never has been known to resist any chance to profit — so if other revisits of King’s work do come, here’s hoping they’re approached with the thought and care that “Pet Sematary” and “It” have been.
For now, it’s enough to roll with the frights “Pet Sematary” puts forth, and to marvel at the fact that they manage to be both fresh and familiar.