A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pet Sematary is a remake of the 1989 horror movie; both films are based on Stephen King's 1983 novel. While it's not excessively heavy on gore, it's plenty violent. Expect creepy, disturbing imagery and brief scenes of struggling, strangling, and stabbing. A few scenes (including nightmare sequences) show blood dripping or gushing. Characters die, and a dead cat and a nearly dead bird are seen. A gun is shown, and a gunshot is heard. Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "damn," and more. A married couple kisses and embraces playfully and passionately in bed. A character smokes cigarettes, and several people drink whiskey (one glass is drugged with a sleeping powder). This take on the story focuses on characters and emotions, but it's also quite dark, and some fans may miss the silliness of the original.
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What's the story?
In PET SEMATARY, doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family -- wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and toddler Gage -- move from Boston to a small town in Maine, hoping to "slow down" a bit. Unfortunately, their new house is near a trucking route, and huge vehicles speed by without warning. Rachel and Ellie also discover a pet cemetery in the woods not far from their home. Then a young man whose life Louis fails to save appears to Louis with a warning. Meanwhile, Rachel is haunted by visions of her dead sister. After the family's cat, Church, is killed on the road, a friendly neighbor, Jud (John Lithgow), offers to help. He takes Louis behind the pet cemetery to a special, sinister burial ground. Before long, Church returns, but he's not quite himself. And now that Louis knows about that dark place, he must decide what's right the next time tragedy strikes.
Is it any good?
Coming 30 years after the original 1989 movie adaptation, this remake is effectively unsettling, focusing on the characters and their understandable emotions rather than on overt gore and FX. Based, like the first movie, on Stephen King's 1983 novel and directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch (Starry Eyes), Pet Sematary begins with legitimate discussions about death. The Creeds discuss whether 9-year-old Ellie is mature enough to learn about death, and they argue about the possibility of an afterlife; Rachel believes there's something, but Louis is certain that life simply ends, and that's it. This simple idea establishes that death is actually meaningful in this story, and it also helps deepen the characters.
Pet Sematary is a little slow to get going because of this, but it also means that the first payoff -- the creepy, matted Church returning to the house -- has more impact when it actually comes. Co-writers Matt Greenberg (1408) and Jeff Buhler (The Midnight Meat Train) throw in an interesting twist, differing from the novel and original movie, and the directors concentrate on atmosphere and sound design (including a chilling score by the great Christopher Young). But this is arguably the darkest story King ever wrote (he was initially reluctant to have it published), and its effect is more unsettling than it is thrilling. Some horror fans will appreciate this remake's above-average craftsmanship, but others will miss the sillier, slasher-y quality of the original.
Talk to your kids about ...
How scary is the movie? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How does this version compare to the original, if you've seen it? Or to the novel?
Is the movie's message about meddling with forces beyond one's control relevant (or scary) today?
Would you choose to bring back a loved one or a beloved pet if you could? Why or why not?
- In theaters: April 5, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 9, 2019
- Cast: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz
- Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: horror violence, bloody images, and some language
- Last updated: September 10, 2020
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