Remaking My Childhood (Pt. 2)
'Pet Sematary' Part Two, the Actual Review
In my last chapter of this series (the only one written so far), I compared the novel and 1989 movie to the information given about the remake. Well, April 5th came and went and we were told an old tale with a new twist.
One of the hugest differences between both the novel and original movie (1989) and this new remake is the fact that the younger child, Gage, is not the Creed child that dies and rises. It is now Ellie, the older child and only daughter of Louis and Rachel Creed. I'll recap the story as it is now and then get into my own review.
The Creed family moves to Ludlow, Maine, a small town with a mysterious history. Just like both the old movie and novel. They're introduced to the Pet Sematary (now on their own property and not just the woods near them) because Ellie wanders out after seeing a bunch of children in creepy nightmare masks burying a dog.
She seems to be drawn to the Sematary, as if it is calling her. She tries to climb the stick covered side of the hill and falls, managing to be stung by a bee. Jud Crandall (I may have misspelled his name in the last chapter) sees her and helps her out with an old remedy. Rachel comes running when she sees the old man with her daughter and is more than a little leary of his intentions. He is understanding and polite with her and ends up meeting the entire family. The family bonds with Jud and this is where the relationship between Jud and the Creed family differs from both book and original movie. It seems that while Jud and Louis are close, it is Ellie that Jud becomes friends with.
The time skips a bit and we see the Creed's life in Ludlow and it seems like things are pretty normal. That is until a student named Victor Pascow (like the novel whereas the movie made Pascow a random jogger) is hit by a car and taken to Louis. Louis tries to act fast, but the injuries are too severe. Pascow dies and in the same fashion as both the novel and movie, he acts as a warning of things to come for Louis.
Things goes on for Louis and he seems to forget Pascow's warning. Unfortunately, Halloween comes and Church, Ellie's sweet cat, is killed by a truck (we assume). Jud finds Church and informs Louis. Both are dismayed to see the cat's body and Louis worries about not only Ellie's reaction, but Rachel's too. As Rachel seems to be constantly afraid of death and Church's death will add another dent to her psyche, Louis fears.
Jud tells him that they'll bury Church at night and that is when we're introduced to the spot that brings back the dead. Jud does mention the Wendigo, an evil spirit mentioned in the book from Native American legend, as the two men bury the cat. Louis laughs it off and laments telling Rachel and Ellie.
Louis ends up telling Rachel and Rachel insists they tell Ellie that Church ran away—to ease her own pain, as well as Ellie's. Ellie listens as they tell her that Church seems to have ran away, but she is confused. Because in her closet is none other than Church himself.
Louis and Rachel are astonished and Ellie is happy, though that soon stops as Church (usually sweet and docile) starts to exhibit aggressive behavior. The whole family starts to notice changes in him and Ellie keeps him out of her bedroom as "he stinks," most likely a result of his present decayed flesh.
Louis wrestles with the idea of putting Church down, but decides against it, as he is the one who brought him back in the first place. He gets closer with Jud, and Jud starts to become an integral part of the Creeds. He even helps with Ellie's ninth birthday party. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and Ellie is hit by a semi truck when she wanders out into the road because she sees Church.
Louis and Rachel are distraught and even Gage realizes that his older sister is gone. Rachel and Gage go to Rachel's parents, while Louis stays behind to "settle things in Ludlow." In reality though, he plans to get Jud drunk and bury Ellie in the sacred burial ground. Louis and Jud drink and Jud passes out. He quickly figures out Louis' plan and prepares to kill her.
This is the hugest difference between Ellie and Gage. While it is extremely creepy for either kid to be an undead killer, Gage was especially creepy as a toddler shouldn't be able to take down a fully grown man. However, Ellie who was a sweet and smart girl in life, is even smarter as the undead girl. Without her trademark sweetness, Ellie has no problem taking down Jud and even getting over on her mother, a healthy woman roughly in her late 30's. She wreaks her havoc, but Louis realizes he has to stop her.
In the 1989 version, Louis is able to kill Gage, but in this version, not only is Rachel killed, but Louis succumbs to his daughter and wife. The final image of the movie is not Rachel and Louis kissing before Rachel kills Louis off-screen, but a more haunting image. Gage has been left in the car so he is left out of this, but with the whole family dead and risen again, we are shown the family going back to the car. Gage sees his whole family in the windshield as Church jumps up on the car and we know he's in trouble.
In a nutshell, I actually enjoyed this movie. As far as a movie, it is engaging. A movie about a child killed and brought back to life by her grief-stricken father definitely takes you through some emotions. Which is what a good movie should do. You feel sorry for the father, but angry at his abandonment of common sense. The cat was a warning that the burying bodies in the Pet Sematary is a very bad idea.
As a remake—which it is—it is pretty okay. I did enjoy the subtle changes they introduced to the remake. The Wendigo being more involved in the burial ground, the foreshadowing showing Ellie's death rather than Gage, etc. The change I did surprisingly enjoy was seeing Ellie being the killer and seeing this sweet girl turn into a terrifying nightmare. It's easier to see her connection to her family as more than just their kid. She's also a kid who tries to brighten everyone's day and her death seems like more just the death of a kid, but the death of innocence for everyone around her even her little brother.
The actors in this movie have done a fantastic job, especially. It takes a special skill to make an audience forget that we've seen this movie before and this cast does that exactly. The animal trainer did a perfect job with the cats playing Church. He's sweet when he needs to be and creepy when the scene calls for it. Although the closet scene is more than likely a puppet just based on the movements of the cat. Ellie and Gage are both done well, which can be hard for children actors. Jud and Rachel are believable and relatable. Jud remembers losing his own dog and only wants to spare Ellie the pain, and Rachel is haunted by the death of her older sister.
But the real hero in this movie is Jason Clarke, aka Louis Creed. His performance captured the essence of King perfectly. He displayed grief with finesse and anger with the typical over-the-top King style. He won't get an Oscar for this performance, but he definitely deserves a special call out.
A question on the minds of many King fans is, will they remake the second one?
Even though I immensely enjoyed this movie, my answer is God, I hope not.