It's been 30 years since Stephen King's Pet Sematary originally came to the big screen, and the time in-between doesn't seem to have helped today's modern filmmakers improve upon it in any way—the new remake is really just OK, and we can't give it much more credit than that.
If you haven't seen the original, Pet Sematary follows a super-bummed father who finds out that the woods behind his family's new home in wherever-the-heck, Maine, can raise the dead. Good news for him, we guess, because his cat just died. Whatever it is he brings back, though, it's certainly not the feline he knew and loved, and that goes double when he tries the same thing with his dead kid (sorry for the spoilers, but seriously, it's been 30 years, so if you didn't already know, it's kind of on you). Dead cat or dead daughter, this dude just can't win. Cue creepy kid's drawings, "She's not the same, dammit!" lines and brief glimpses into grief-propelled insanity.
Jason Clarke as Louis, the aforementioned grieving dad, brings a serviceable performance to life, so to speak, phasing between over-the-top sadness and somewhat capable emotion. He just never quite gets to a place where we aren't aware we're watching a movie. John Lithgow is somewhere in there, too, but it's hard to tell if his role as zombie catalyst is done poorly or he's simply not given enough screen time to reel us in. Amy Seimetz feels pointless as the mother with a dark secret from the past, though the reveal of her secret is so unceremonious and facile that, at best, it's hard to care and, at worst, it sort of feels like she deserves to be a bundle of nerves and bad acting. Young Jeté Laurence (The Snowman) surprises as the daughter, however, with a charming performance as the living version of her character and a downright chilling turn as the recently deceased. She's easily the best part of the movie, and it's got to feel horrible for seasoned (or at least longtime) actors to struggle to keep up with a 10-year-old. Maybe she just had the better dialogue?
It doesn't really matter, though, because Pet Sematary will make its money off a combination of nostalgia, the success of the other recent King remake, It, and the societal agreement we've all made that horror movies don't really have to be well-made—we'll probably go see them anyway.
+Laurence is pretty great; a few worthwhile scares
-Not a whole lot happens; we hate the mom
Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
With Clarke, Seimetz, Lithgow and Laurence
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 101 min.