Ignoring source material is usually a recipe for disaster when it comes to movie making. The built-in audience always gets pissed off. That'll probably happen with the release of Pet Sematary this year. The second adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel (which is itself a modernized version of W.W. Jacobs's The Monkey's Paw), actually does stay true to the novel for the first two acts. After that, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, and writers Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg, take us into their own vision of King's work. It's a risk, and it's a fun, wise one.
Pet Sematary, the novel, is prime material for this kind of adaptation. The book is far from King's best, although it's rooted in his family history. Birthed after his daughter's kitty was killed by a truck outside their house, Pet Sematary was first put onscreen in 1989. That one was faithful to the novel and it has many fans. Pet Sematary 2019 just takes things a little further. The madness quotient is higher. The gore and guts are elevated. And everything is done in the spirit of King's work. Hopefully, the author appreciates not seeing the same story done again. Where's the fun in that? Most remakes are seen as unnecessary because they don't take risks. Here's a movie that does.
Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), and son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) as they move from Boston to a sleepy Maine town called Ludlow. After Ellie's cat, Church, is killed, weirdo neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) tells Louis about the nearby Pet Sematary and, beyond it, a Micmac burial ground where things don't stay buried. Louis buries Church there in an effort to spare his daughter grief. The cat comes back, but he's changed, more aggressive, and, well, "sometimes dead is better."
I won't spoil the changes made after these opening events (even though the poster and trailer already have), but they heighten the urgency of the story and provide surprises. King's novel never really establishes the Creeds as anything beyond a typical, white, cookie cutter family and the movie doesn't either. The novel's faults remain. The fun lies in thinking you know what's going to happen and being shocked by the updates.