“Sometimes Dead is Better”

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Every time a new remake or reboot is announced I’m flooded with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there have been some genuinely good modern takes on classics. Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead coming straight to mind. But then we have other movies. Like Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007). Or Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009).

Hmm. Maybe the problem isn’t the remakes…

I digress.  The point is, I, along with many horror fans, often have conflicted feelings about our classics being messed with.

When it was first announced that Pet Sematary was going to be given the remake treatment, my reaction was not what one would describe as enthusiastic. I grew up watching the original, it was part of a steady rotation of horror films that used to air on USA regularly. Fred Gwynne’s portrayal of Judd Crandall being the most memorable performance outside of that creepy toddler running around with a scalpel. Does the new film have any chance of comparing to the original?

Paramount dropped the first trailer this morning, and early feelings are mixed.

On the one hand, Jete Laurence as Ellie Creed is already a million times less annoying than Blaze Berdahl’s original portrayal and that’s with her only delivering two lines. On the other hand, there’s Jason Clarke.

Look, I’m just going to say it. Jason Clarke is a charisma black hole. His performance in Winchester somehow made Helen Mirren look bad. That is not something easy to achieve. I realize not everyone is going to share my opinion on this, but I have serious doubts on his ability to pull of Louis Creed.

Also, can we talk about the weird creepy children, marching through the woods, ominously beating a drum and wearing masks that look like they’d come straight from the set of The Wicker Man?  It all reeked of trying just a bit too hard. The whole trailer, in fact, was structured very similarly to the way the first Hereditary trailer was set. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and given the comparisons to the original film, having a strong and distinct tone will probably serve it, but it all just felt a little forced.

Now, what worked. Two words: John Lithgow.

I am an unapologetic Lithgow fan. I think he’s a superb comedic and dramatic actor and probably the one thing that’s really exciting me about this film. Fred Gwynne’s portrayal is so recognizable and iconic that anyone stepping in would have a hard time making it there own, and from what is shown, Lithgow has. His Judd feels just a little bit jolly and is missing that distinct Maine accent that Gwynne adopted for the role. Lithgow feels more grounded, more gritty.

The trailer also, wisely, spends a lot of time focusing on him. Lithgow’s Judd is narrating the majority of the trailer, his words warning, “Sometimes dead is better.”

All of that being said, is the original Pet Sematary a masterpiece? No. But it is, arguably, one of the stronger of Stephen King’s adapted works, and a movie that remains beloved by many horror fans of a certain generation. When my childhood brain cries that it’s far too soon for a remake of this film I have to remind myself that when it comes out, the original will be 30 years old. I suppose a more modern telling is once again necessary to appeal to a younger demographic, but I remain skeptical.

As Judd said, “Sometimes dead is better,” and other times leaving a movie alone is best.


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