Horror novelist Stephen King is having a cultural moment with various film and TV projects. The latest is Pet Sematary, coming next year from Paramount Pictures. This is the second film adaptation of King’s bestselling 1983 novel, and judging from the trailer, it could well prove to be the definitive one.
The story is well-known by now. A doctor named Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family from the big city (Chicago in the book, Boston in the 2019 film) to a charming small town in Maine. The new house is right by a busy highway on one side and bumps up against a forest in back. So many local pets meet their demise on the highway that the children have set up a “Pet Sematary” in the forest to bury their beloved animals.
But their new neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) warns that the cemetery abuts an ancient cursed burial ground. The dead things buried there are said to come back to life. When the family cat, Church, is hit by a car, Louis and Jud decide to bury it there, rather than break the heartbreaking news of the cat’s death to Louis’ daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence). Church comes back, but he’s much changed: he reeks of the grave and is much more ornery. That’s the tradeoff for getting your pet back.
Naturally, Louis wonders what would happen if one were to bury a person there. Apparently it was tried in the past, with disastrous consequences. But when tragedy strikes the Creed family, Louis is tempted to ignore Crandall’s dire warning. And the rest is horror history.
Pet Sematary is definitely one of King’s darker novels, so much so that the author initially didn’t even want to publish it. His wife convinced him otherwise, and it became a bestseller. King is often at his best when portraying people consumed by grief: the bargaining, the despair, and occasionally the willingness to pay any price to get a departed loved one back. Pet Sematary the novel does this exceptionally well.
But the first film adaption, in 1988, was frankly cheesier than it should have been. That’s why this trailer for the 2019 reboot is so promising. Shot for glorious shot, it looks like it remains true to the tone and subtle nuances of the novel. With the success of the It reboot two years ago and the King-inspired TV anthology series Castle Rock, we could be entering a new golden age for the master of horror.
Listing image by Paramount Pictures