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April 16, 2018

Jason Clarke to Resurrect the Misery of ‘Pet Sematary’

Refusing to let the dead rest, the actor is in talks to play the patriarch of the Creed family.

“Sometimes, dead is better.” Oh man, is that not just the best quote ripped from the original Pet Sematary to apply to all remakes of our precious films? Please, oh please, leave our favorite movies and books alone and get on with original ideas

However, I’ve become rather tired of that knee-jerk reaction. The internet has taught me to press hold on my freak-out responses. Dead might be better sometimes, but on other occasions a resurrected cinematic concept could hold the grotesque joys of John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly. “But Braaaaad, those are the same old remakes everyone champions when droning on about this topic.” Fair enough. I’ll rattle off a few more brilliant rehashes and be done with it: Cape Fear, 12 Monkeys, True Lies, The Ring, Ocean’s Eleven, 3:10 To Yuma, The Departed, True Grit, and IT.

First attempts sometimes miss the mark, especially when adapting literature. The success of Andy Muschietti’s IT exemplifies how one set of writers, directors, and actors can radically re-interpret source material. The film also rekindled a new wave of Stephen King adaptations. If the kids love IT, they’ll love new takes on “The Tommyknockers” and “Pet Sematary” too. There is money to mine in the tomes of King.

Again, I’m choosing not to jump to cynicism. That’s a whole lot easier when you learn that Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch are behind Pet Sematary redeaux. Their film Starry Eyes is an utterly unnerving takedown of Hollywood’s monstrous casting couch. While the film wears its influences on its sleeve (a dash of Rosemary’s Baby, a sprinkling of Lost Highway), the directors carved new meat to tenderize. Starry Eyes is part of that new crop of horror films (The Babadook, It Follows, Get Out, etc.) with more on its mind than jump scares and gore effects. These guys have something to say.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Widmyer and Kolsch are in talks with Jason Clarke to lead the Creed family to that unnatural graveyard in the backwoods of Maine. Clarke was most recently seen as Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick, but he’s no stranger to the thriller genre. He’s battled civil war ghosts in Winchester, fought alongside revolutionaries in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and head-faked Sarah Connor in Terminator: Genisys

For the patriarch of the Creed family, it’s easy to imagine Clarke’s psychological breakdown as the supernatural horror invades his home. After suffering the all-to-real tragedy of his son’s death, Louis Creed buries the child in the pet cemetery behind his house. Having witnessed its restorative powers on the family cat, this bizarre action seems a bit more reasonable. Then again, “Sometimes, dead is better.” Stephen King punishes the whole clan for playing in the rule of God.

Pet Sematary is one of King’s most ruthless novels. When he gave the manuscript to his wife to read, she famously told him that it was too nihilistic to publish. The original adaptation from director Mary Lambert does not shy on the pessimism. When the credits role on that picture, the audience has almost been as tortured by the proceedings as the Creed family. Pet Sematary is an ugly, brutal experience.

Where can Widmyer, Kolsch, and Clarke take the story? Can the depths of misery be plunged even further in a remake? I find that hard to believe, but I’m curious to see where this talent takes King’s novel. Pet Sematary will always be a tough watch.

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