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The mood of Pet Sematary is so creepy, gathering flowers would have menace. It’s full of boos and squeaks, as befits a well-made scary movie. Hinges screech, thunder arrives, and the worst of actions are enacted on a forbidden hill in the dead of night. 

Welcome to Stephen King country, where little makes sense and the gloom is galore. Mildly altered from the original story, this adaptation features a road-killed feline to introduce the Creed family to the phenomenon of creature resurrection – and their cat, Church, returns with quite a yowl. 

Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) move from Boston to rural Maine to begin a new, family-centered life with their kids, Ellie and Gage. As luck would have it, their nearest neighbour, Jud (John Lithgow), is not only an amiably crusty old coot but also the custodian of ancient lore about a forbidden burial ground, beyond the cute-ish pet “sematary,” which brings the dead back to life.

Or does it? Well, no, of course not. This is a horror movie and a pretty good one. Eventually, everyone is sort of undead, perhaps as they were in life. Rachel is haunted by memories of her deceased, ill older sister, providing chilling sequences of terror and evocative thumps from beyond the grave. Louis, increasingly insane after the death of daughter Ellie, descends into wild-eyed desperation. Meanwhile, Jud offers bizarrely pat platitudes to justify the visit to the forbidden terrain.  

Pet Sematary is no masterpiece, but it is a satisfying scary movie. No fancy special effects, but rather a reliance on old-school uses of music, light and pained expressions to evoke an overall sense of imminent danger. And if you like your terrible schlocky horror films to have a bit of levity, the final scene is faintly hilarious. Who can resist a grumpy cat? 

★★★

 

Reviewed by Olga Azar