Pet Sematary (4 stars)

Pet Sematary

Second screen outing for the Stephen King story that's an effective and old-fashioned chiller

Thirty years on from its first cinematic incarnation, Stephen King's 1983 novel Pet Sematary is brought to the screen for a second time. First Man's Jason Clarke plays Dr Louis Creed, who uproots his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and two children from Boston and heads to rural Maine for a bit of the good life. What a pity their sprawling property includes a spooky pet cemetery (misspelled as 'sematary' on the sign), where local kids come to bury their dear departed furry friends.

That's exactly what Louis does when the family cat, Church, gets runs over by a juggernaut, until his friendly neighbour Jud (John Lithgow) convinces him to take the flattened feline to a stone circle deeper in the woods. Why? We soon find out, as Church comes back from the dead, hissing, spitting and scratching, and evidently no longer the same kindly kitty. Worse is to come, however, when a more seismic tragedy strikes and Louis can't seem to stop those weird hallucinations in his head.

Directed with panache by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Scream: The TV Series), Pet Sematary gradually escalates towards a grim and grisly finale that'll leave you feeling uncomfortable long afterwards. Particular credit is due to young Jeté Laurence (The Snowman), who plays the Creeds' daughter Ellie and goes through a remarkable arc, from sweetness and light to…well, you'll have to wait and see.

Religious themes and a warning about the folly of playing creator loom large, while Clarke is well cast as a rational man of science who refuses to believe in the afterlife until he sees it for himself. With the film neatly blending prosthetics, animatronics and minimal CGI, it's an effective and old-fashioned chiller, which wouldn't look out of place in the decade King wrote the book.

General release from Thu 4 Apr.

Pet Sematary

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
  • Cast: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz
  • UK release: 5 April 2019

Louis (Clarke) takes his wife Rachel (Seimetz) and two children from Boston and settles in Maine, in a property that includes a spooky pet cemetery. The second adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has panache and escalates to a grim and grisly finale.