The Creed family: father Louis (Jason Clarke, Winchester), mother Rachel (Amy Seimetz, Stranger Things, Alien: Covenant), eight-year-old Ellie (Jeté Laurence, The Snowman), toddler Gage, and cat Church have just moved to a woodsy part of Maine for a chance to live the simple life. Unfortunately they find that life is simple nowhere, particularly when they live next to a road full of distracted truckers and a cemetery that brings dead things back to a state of animation. Sometimes, dead really is better.
First, the elephant in the room. The screenwriters changed the book. In a bigly way. In the book and the original adaptation, Gage is the one who is killed and then brought back to life. In this one (this should no longer be a spoiler to you, friends), Ellie is the one who dies. I for one like the change. I agree with the filmmakers that an eight-year-old is much creepier than a toddler (especially one so adorable but not good at acting evil as Miko Hughes, the original Gage). Ellie is old enough to be able to articulate her feelings: (“I’m dead, aren’t I?”) and attack people much more efficiently. And Laurence is phenomenal. I read on IMDB that even the directors were blown away by her professionalism and scariness. (Church, on the other hand, remains much cuter in this movie than in the original.) Stephen King gave the switch his blessing.
Clarke puts in a great performance as well (though he seems to be typecast as the worst husband ever—see Winchester, Serenity, and All I See is You). His Louis goes from kind and likable to grizzled and insane, and he’s so creepy. Let’s not forget John Lithgow as Jud—Fred Gwynne left some big shoes to fill, and Lithgow fills them aptly. And of course one must mention Alyssa Brooke Levine as Rachel’s malevolent sister Zelda, an actual woman, while a man played her in the 1989 version.
It’s directed by the duo behind Starry Eyes, and it’s just as beautifully shot. It’s mindboggling how some directors (and the rest of the team, yes, not just the directors) can make movies with such ugly content that look so gorgeous. (Gore-geous?) I won’t say it’s better than the 1989’s Pet Sematary, but it’s not significantly worse. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it for a fresh take on the source novel.