As a cat, I have complex feelings about how we’re portrayed in film. It’s cool when your species is on film, but truth be told, unlike dogs, we don’t normally get the “good guy/non-buffoon” treatment. Think about the asshole cat in Babe that puts doubt in that pig’s head or the Siamese assholes in Lady and the Tramp. I know we were in the Homeward Bound movies and The Cat from Outer Space, but those movies were so “meh.”
Outside of rare films like the Stephen King anthology Cat’s Eye where the cat kicked goblin ass or A Streetcat Named Bob where we played the “magical cat” stereotype or Alien where Jonesy the Cat smartly stayed out of that space monster’s way and got to nestle with Sigourney Weaver, we are never portrayed correctly in film.
Maybe it’s my roommate’s influence, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Church, the cat featured in Pet Sematary. He was fun in the book and the 1989 film. When I half-watched the trailer for the new film on YouTube, I stopped licking my paw long enough to get a glimpse of the new Church. My ambivalence toward yet another remake had changed a little at the moment. I’m a softie when my species looks like badass killing machines. It didn’t hurt that the duo behind the underrated horror film Starry Eyes were directing it.
Going into this film with new eyes isn’t easy. I can’t unread the book or unsee the movie adaptation. I tried though.
For those who don’t know the plot, allow me, the guy with a purr factory, an irritable tail, and captivating face to briefly run down the plot. A family, the Creeds, move into a new home in the town of Ludlow. The family learns about a burial ground that resurrects the townspeoples’ pets. Before too long the Creeds (Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence) and their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) find themselves knee deep in horror movie cliches. The End.
So what did I, a fair feline, think of this film? It reminded me of a lot of other movies I’ve seen in the past. Those movies I speak of are ones that I slinked away with an, “I guess it was alright” impression. I didn’t hate it but I definitely didn’t love it. I probably won’t remember it next year. The acting is good — particularly Lithgow. From the beginning of the movie, the Creeds struck me as a family of rude assholes, so they were about as likable as horny teens in a Friday the 13th sequel. The effects were okay I guess. There were a couple gruesome moments. I loved one scene involving a zombified family member getting a bath and going to bed. Oh, the very, very end of the movie I loved. I didn’t care for the cover of The Ramones’ Pet Sematary song since it reminded me of how much better that movie was.
With Church, I was happy with the exaggerated way my brethren were presented. We can be lovable and, if you cross us the wrong way, we can definitely fuck you up. So yeah, four paws up to JD, Leo, Tonic, and Jager for their portrayal of Church. Considering I stealthily snuck in and didn’t pay anything to see it, I don’t feel any amount of bad for giving my honest opinion about this film.
As I said, I loved the acting job of the four guys playing Church. They were flawless in my eyes. Now, the film itself and considering the talent behind it, was another whole bag of catnip. I don’t understand how movie studios do it. They’ll take a name that is making noise with their small indie film — like Starry Eyes directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer — and then put them in the majors asking them to conform their previously proven brilliant vision for the safety of mainstream audiences.
The most glaring example is the old reliable jump scares — which happen way too often in a story that should rely on a creeping supernatural dread — something ironically showcased very well in Starry Eyes. If my feline intuition is correct, I’m guessing Kolsch and Widmyer really wanted to utilize that same vibe in this film but at some point, a studio head aid declared, “You need everything clearly spelled out with a jump scare occuring every 433 seconds or you lose these people to their phones!”
It’s a real shame because Starry Eyes shows what they can do when not kowtowing to studio interests. If this had been its own film, unencumbered by a past involving a great book and a fun 1989 film, I’d say it was good. Considering its heritage and the talent involved, it’s more of a disappointment than anything else. I don’t see myself revisiting this film unless I want to watch the scenes of Church hissing, clawing, growling, and torturing a bird.
Thanks for reading,
Hank – Kevin Young’s roommate
Pet Sematary — Rated R. Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, and John Lithgow.