This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.
There are some films where you can reasonably tell if you’re going to like them just by the name. This is definitely one of those. You probably already know that animal violence is the quickest way to doom your film and this one has a whole plot built around it. Throw in your usual amount of horror violence and visuals to get a film that was never going to break even. I will admit that the ending is pretty hilarious in a grim way, but that’s not enough to actually make me recommend this title.
The film starts off with Louis and his family moving into a new town since he has been hired as a doctor. Unfortunately someone dies almost immediately and warns Louis that things aren’t right around here. Louis then has a lot to drink and sees the dead guy named Pascow show up. Pascow lets him know that he shouldn’t bring people back to life. Louis also meets up with his neighbor Jud who introduces him and the rest of the family to the Pet Sematary where many animals have been buried. If you go a little farther into the spooky part of the forest you can bury them and even bring these beings back to life. After the family cat is hit by a truck Louis brings him back. When his son is hit by another truck Louis decides to do this as well, but what if what comes back isn’t really the kid?
I’ll give the film credit for building a pretty good atmosphere at least. The scenery in the film all looks pretty good and likewise with the area beyond the graveyard. The lighting effects age pretty good as well. Pascow also makes for an entertaining ghost because he still keeps his sense of humor. Ultimately he only helps to an extent as I suppose he doesn’t want to get mixed up in all of this. Without him Louis probably would have been even more doomed, but granted, Louis isn’t the type of guy to listen to others. He goes with his gut for better or worse.
Louis isn’t the smartest character even if he does mean well. Messing with the regeneration thing right after being warned in a dream wasn’t particularly smart. Then the ending is the real kicker. I think it’s because the film handles the whole ending seriously and unironically but you can’t help but think of it as a parody. I suppose I won’t say anything about the ending specifically, but it’s almost hard to believe the character doing this. Even if just doing the act is fine, at least you’d expect this character to be prepared or ready for action. What Louis chooses to do is basically the worst option that he could have picked. Now, you could try making the case that he was prepared and just wanted to end like this, but then the yell at the end makes me doubt that.
Jud is definitely an odd character. I think he would have worked better as a villain. He seemed like he just wanted to sabotage everything for the group at times. Other times he appeared to be genuine I guess and that’s how the film played his role, but then why even tell Louis about the pit of regeneration? He must have known that things would ultimately escalate from there. He knew how his pet went crazy so once theirs did there was a good chance that someone would die and then they’d use the pit again. He also handled the climax pretty horribly.
Rachel is a nice enough character, but she also doesn’t do well in the climax. I’ll give her credit for figuring out something was wrong and heading back to the house, but she probably should have found some excuse to bring along some backup. As it stands she didn’t have much of a chance. Her parents weren’t much help of course, but they were pretty emotional the whole time and it’s hard to expect them to know anything about the supernatural. The thing is, you shouldn’t need any backup here. The villains are extremely weak.
You can probably put two and two together with the kid involving the climax. All I’ll say is that you better get ready to suspend a whole lot of disbelief. The climax would be funny if it wasn’t so violent. This is definitely a pretty intense horror film so get ready for a whole lot of over the top violence. The animal violence is surprisingly tame in comparison as the cat dies without too many visuals, but it still doesn’t really help matters. Then Rachel gets an origin story out of the blue where we find out that she had a dying relative and decided not to help her. We’ve just added some shade to her character for no reason. Now, the film introduced this so she could show up in the climax, but it definitely feels awfully convenient that this person’s spirit traveled all this way. I always wonder why the evil spirits are so strong and the happy ones always fade away so quickly. This subplot was completely unnecessary and was just here to make the film more gritty.
We get a pretty long speech by Jud with a ton of extra details that nobody wanted nor cared to hear. It’s just a bunch of tragic stories to explain the misspelled cemetery and to make the film extra dark. Louis probably should have noped out of there at that point instead of joining Jud for drinks. Of course, Louis was pretty arrogant for a good chunk of the film so he probably didn’t really care anyway. He never figured any of it would be enough to harm him.
Overall, Pet Sematary plays out exactly as you would expect it to. It’s certainly not my kind of movie and I’d advise steering clear of it. If you want a good horror film then check out Zombie Island instead. Any film built off of animals dying would never really have a future. This movie checks off all the typical horror cliches and never really tries to do anything more than that. You won’t be able to take the climax seriously and the only hype scene in the film is the ending. Ironically if the sequel were to take place right after this one then that would probably give it a chance at doing good since this could become more of a zombie invasion kind of film. Alas, it doesn’t look like it decided to go that way.