Updated: Aug 14, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
“PET SEMATARY” – 2019
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for horror violence, bloody images, and some profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: A meaty four-part making-of, “Beyond the Deadfall”
IT’S NOT EASY to make a movie about a dead pet, much less a child. But director Mary Lambert and Paramount Studios charged into it in 1989. (See our review of the 30th Anniversary “Pet Sematary” Collector’s Edition.)
It was a hit. King wrote the script. The book spends the first two thirds in family drama, with the final chapters surging into horror. The 2019 remake of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” took almost 10 years to make. Directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch see their version as a “re-adaptation.” So do screenwriters Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler. “My pitch originally was this isn’t about the cat … This isn’t about magical burying grounds. This is about grief. And the monster in this film is loss,” Buhler says in the disc’s making-of extras.
Those who have read the book and seen the first film will note significant changes. The relationship between Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) is more stable. Neighbor Jud Crandall’s (John Lithgow) reasons for returning to the old burial grounds make sense. One the biggest changes is the death of oldest child, Ellie (a convincing Jeté Laurence), instead of two-year-old Gage. The father-daughter relationship is one of the strongest in King’s book. Then there's the ending. Wow.
Dr. Creed and his family move from Boston to a rural setting in Maine surrounded by an old tree forest. Their new neighbor across the street, Crandall, is a character, friendly and brimming with local lore – like tales of the pet cemetery located just behind the Creed’s new home. He also forms a close bond with Ellie. When her beloved cat Church is hit and killed by one of the Orinco trucks that speed by on the road between them, Jud shows Louis the secret behind the forest deadfall. It’s an ancient Indian burial ground, where once interred, the dead return to life. As it turns out, that’s not a good thing.
The catch phrase says it: “Sometimes dead is better.”
“I was very much taken with the character of Jud … He was like a magician who could perform a trick, which he knew he should never perform. And yet somehow, he just can’t resist performing it.” — John Lithgow
Paramount’s 2019 “Pet Sematary” is available on a 2160p Ultra HD Blu-ray with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and a 1080p presentation (2.39:1 aspect ratio). Both look very good, with a slighter-than-usual edge going to the 4K.
Digitally filmed on Arri Alexa cameras, it was remastered in 2K. Color is somewhat better toned on the 4K, with more definition in sets and location shots, clothing and cats. (It took five to create Church.)
Complexions show more depth and texture. Makeup is simple but stunning, especially on the returned Ellie. There's more than veins, snarled hair and mud going on. This is an intelligent performance from Jeté Laurence as she transforms from sweet kid to vengeful revenant. The difference is startling, very creepy. Harbinger Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) is ghastly, a vision of tragedy to come.
The Creed house location actually had its own pet cemetery, but the production built their own; the bordering deadfall, too. It was all made from natural materials; no CGI or carved foam was used. “Crew members felt emotional going in there because it felt like a real thing,” Producer Mark Vahradian says.
“We actually moved the ending from the basement of the Creed house to the pet cemetery because we loved it so much.” — Production Designer Todd Cherniawsky
Director of Photography Laurie Rose used a reverse approach in filming King’s story. “Often you might start in a quiet, sedate, steady way … all very flowing and gentle and nice and beautifully composed … Then you descend as the locks come off, and it goes kind of crazy,” he explains. “Pet Sematary” starts with a “looser dynamic at the beginning,” and then becomes steadier, “more eerie and composed as we move on.”
Most of the action was shot on location in Canada, which helped enhance the separation between the real and and supernatural worlds. The land beyond the deadfall was created on a set with a petrified forest, swamps, and stone faces looming out of the darker regions. It helped control lighting and rigging. “It’s got to feel like a journey into the heart of darkness,” scriptwriter Widmyer says.
AUDIO Find exceptional eight channel Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD soundtracks on the 4K Ultra HD and 1080p discs. Dialogue is clean and understandable throughout. Ambient and special effects bloom throughout the room, most effectively from floor to ceiling on the Atmos.
In the beginning, there's a nice mix of birds, insects and breeze; we can almost feel the sunshine. Then – boom! – an Orinco super truck roars down the road between the Creed and Crandall homes. We collectively jumped every time one sped by.
Another herald of doom-to-come is the droning beat of the local children’s funeral procession as the Creeds settle into their new home. Supernatural sounds glide through in later sequences, but the early dirge, along with the creepy, animal head masks, sets viewers up for things to come.
Christopher Young (“Sinister,” 2013; “The Grudge,” 2004) composed the original, eerie score. Starcrawler covers The Ramones’ iconic punk-rock classic, “I Don’t Want to be Buried in a Pet Sematary” over the end credits. It’s good.
Bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc, and some of the streaming sites. The film’s new ending is a chiller, but there’s an alternate ending among the extras. There are seven deleted scenes, and three more “Night Terror” scenes separately focusing on Louis, Rachel and Ellie.
Jud Crandall relates “The Tale of Timmy Baterman,” seen in the 1989 version and excised from the 2019 version.
“Beyond the Deadfall” is a juicy four “chapter” making-of with interviews from the filmmakers and actors: “Resurrection,” about the influence of King’s works, and a look at bringing the re-adaptation to the screen; “The Final Resting Place,” on shooting in Montreal, and creating makeup and costumes; “The Road to Sorrow,” an entertaining look at working with the cats, shooting on the deadfall set, the two houses, and character relationships; “Death Comes Home,” has more on makeup, making script changes during filming, and themes of death in the movie and King’s work.
“Facing mortality as a human being is something we all go through as we grow up. The flip side of the fear of our own dying is a loved one that dies and how far are you willing to go?” —Todd Cherniawsky, production designer
One thing’s for sure, you don’t want to move next door. The Creed house will be haunted forever, even though it’s safe to visit onscreen. A great chiller for hot summer days and nights!
— Kay Reynolds