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Shazam!

comic book, DC, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

After dropping the ball on their two biggest superheroes, Batman and Superman, the DC Extended Universe looked like it was headed for trouble. Justice League was a mess, albeit a sporadically entertaining one, and while Wonder Woman was a cut above, one solid film isn’t enough to challenge Marvel’s box office domination. But then something strange happened, Aquaman was released and revealed itself to be a big, colourful fun movie that utterly demolished the box office. Aquaman! The butt of comic book jokes since time immemorial is now the biggest superhero in the DC pantheon. With that unlikely fact solidly in place, it’s not such a crazy idea that Shazam! could be next. But the question has to be asked: is it any good?

Shazam! tells the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a young tearaway who has basically made it his life’s mission to be a pain in the arse of the various foster families he lives with as he searches for his biological mother, who he was traumatically separated from years earlier at a carnival. Life takes a sudden, unexpected turn when an ancient wizard grants Billy the ability to turn into Shazam (Zachary Levi), a rather dishy-looking adult who can fly, is super strong and most importantly has the power of being able to buy beer without an ID!

The concept of an adolescent boy with super powers is both a bit terrifying and absolutely hilarious, and Shazam! does a wonderful job of milking it for every single chuckle. The scenes where Billy and bestie, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) test out Shazam’s superpowers for Youtube views are easily the best moments in the film, showcasing a wry, knowing wit and genuine belly laughs. Slightly less successful is the villain’s plotline, involving Thaddeus Silvana (Mark Strong) who previously failed to be worthy of the Shazam mantle and is now taking revenge against the world, using the powers of seven demons who are living personifications of the seven deadly sins. Mark Strong is solid, as always, but the plotline gives him little to do other than glower menacingly near the overly digital demons, who look a little like tech demos effusively excited by their very expensive particle effect technology.

Still, Marvel villains are usually a bit pants as well, and that shortcoming doesn’t negatively impact the surprisingly nuanced take on family that is the film’s ultimate message. Shazam! is over-the-top, extremely silly and more than a little juvenile and yet by leaning into the arrested development that so often underscores films in this genre, it actually manages to say something sweet and earnest. Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer do a wonderful job portraying good-hearted, albeit annoying, teenage boys and Zachary Levi absolutely sells being a goofy boy in a big man’s body.

Shazam! won’t change the mind of anybody suffering from superhero fatigue, but for the rest of us it’s an engaging, heartfelt ode to the slightly jerky teenager inside us all and our often untapped potential to do the right thing.

 
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Kelly’s Hollywood

Documentary, Featured, Festival, Review, This Week 1 Comment

The straight-to-the-point plotline of the documentary, Kelly’s Hollywood – in which a young man helps his sister with Down Syndrome taste a little of the fame and adulation that she yearns for – suggests a feel-good charmer with heart and warmth to burn. And while this doco certainly has that in spades, it also offers much, much more, along with a number of thematic detours that hit with an unexpected wallop. The fact that the film is directed by the young man in question, Brian Donovan, affords an extraordinary level of intimacy; indeed, the film is so personal, and its connection to its subject so deep, that you occasionally question whether you should actually have the right to be allowed into its very singular world. The powerful emotions provoked by this generous invitation, however, are nothing short of staggering.

A jobbing actor from the sleepy surrounds of Buffalo, New York, Brian Donovan would eventually find fame via voicing every kid’s favourite taijutsu hero, Rock Lee, in the popular anime series, Naruto, as well as playing the character of Davis in the equally popular hit, Digimon. Before getting there, he appeared in a host of small film and TV roles while grinding out an on-screen living in Los Angeles. With him every step on his journey to fame was his younger sister, Kelly, who was born with Down Syndrome. She too dreams of being in the spotlight, and Brian helps her get there by staging Kelly’s own starring vehicle at a Hollywood theatre.

The extraordinary relationship shared by Brian and Kelly, however, is not all sunshine and flowers. Utterly co-dependent (a fact that Brian fully acknowledges and is totally aware of), their iron-strong bond works to the exclusion of his romantic partners, with Brian’s ex-girlfriends (some of whom are bravely and candidly interviewed) often left in Kelly’s dust. But when he meets charming Aussie writer and former Home And Away star, Tempany Deckert, Brian’s relationship with Kelly is really put to the test.

This is territory rarely glimpsed on screen before, as we see how difficult a relationship with a family member with special needs can be, and not in the usual ways. Kelly and Tempany almost battle in a romantic way for Brian’s attention, which is deeply troubling and utterly heartbreaking. Brian doesn’t deny being complicit in this fraught psychodrama either, copping to a major case of “hero complex and Peter Pan Syndrome.” Boundaries quickly crumble and blur at an alarming yet. Donovan’s bravery in putting this dilemma on screen is unquestionable and admirable, as is his refusal to shy away from his sister’s romantic needs. Kelly develops intense fantasy fixations (which Brian fully indulges) on a variety of unattainable men, from David Hasselhoff, The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb and Colin Firth through to a number of supervisors at her workplace. It’s often uncomfortable to watch, but Donovan wants to depict his sister in her entirety, and this is a vital aspect of her personality, as is her constant attention-seeking and keen facility for manipulation. She’s an amazing and loveable person, but Donovan doesn’t take the easy canonisation route, and the film is all the richer for that.

Kelly’s Hollywood, however, is still a feel-good, three-hanky weepy of the first order. Brian and Kelly Donovan are truly fascinating and incredibly likeable people, and their unconventional relationship is the stuff of great cinema. You’ll likely never see anything quite like it again.

Kelly’s Hollywood is screening April 16 in Brisbane and April 19 in Byron Bay, with each screening followed by a Q&A with Brian Donovan. The film is also available for you to host your own screening through Demand.Film.

 
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mid90s

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Jonah Hill has come a long way from playing a teenager obsessed with drawing genitalia. In the twelve years since Superbad, the actor has gone on to receive multiple Oscar nominations and worked with Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Gus van Sant among others.

Hill can now include writer-director to his own resume with the coming-of-age drama mid90s, an extremely personal look at LA male skate culture.

Being able to capture the mood of a subculture built on a foundation of not giving a damn is as difficult as landing a 720 Gazelle Flip (gnarly). The irony in having someone like Hill – who has found mainstream success – directing a film whose subjects reject pop-culture is risky, with the usual Hollywood representation of people in this subculture as degenerates a la Travis from Clueless.

mid90s’ romanticising the rejection of responsibility can present characters as selfish, though Hill’s considered approach to directing establishes the main cast as a loving unit of complex characters each with their own hardships.

Much like the adventure of growing-up being a fleeting ride of emotion, witnessing the tranquillity felt by the boys as they skateboard together, beautifully conveys their spiritual connection to the culture.

It is here where we see the boys – who find identity in counterculture – build a community based on a shared love of skateboarding but also come together as a family so they can escape the difficulties in their lives. Having real-life skateboarders portray skaters in the film and not focus on their skating technique is a bold move from Hill that pays off in establishing the carefree mood of the time.

Slurs used in jest, in both race and sexuality, highlight the dangers of toxic masculinity in youth culture with acts of kindness often shut down by other boys as a sign of being gay. Hill is liberal in his application of this type of non-PC dialogue, which is ultimately excessive and detracting from what should be moments of connection.

The graininess of each scene, coupled with the decision to shoot in a square aspect ratio, adds authenticity to each shot. Combining this aesthetic with a soundtrack largely comprising of ‘90s R&B and explosive anthems, help mid90s achieve the energy of the time while also working to show joy in the characters.

This being his directorial debut, Hill does demonstrate restraint issues, with certain scenes coming off as indulgent and feeling more like attempts at displaying technique than contributing to the narrative.

Hill’s bravery to deliver on the highs, lows and downright ugly of growing-up speaks to his great respect in grounding mid90s in reality. Throughout the film, babyface Stevie (Sunny Suljic) grows from a sweet 13-year-old boy to someone that resorts to bad deeds that create distance from his family (portrayed by Lucas Hedges and Katherine Waterston). There is a profound sadness in watching Stevie participate in dangerous acts and debauchery (the stuff of every parent’s nightmares) which allows mid90s to serve as an evocative look at adolescence.

mid90s is an impressive debut film by Jonah Hill, a touching testament to growing-up and the power of human connection.

 

 
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The Happy Prince

Review, Theatrical, This Week 1 Comment

Rupert Everett takes centre stage in a role he was born to play, in this lustrous dramatisation of the last days of Oscar Wilde. Everett scripted and stars in his directorial debut, and clearly has much invested in it. He’s certainly had preparation for the role, having played the poet and playwright in the 2012 British play, The Judas Kiss. Happily for him, and the audience, The Happy Prince doesn’t disappoint.

The film focuses on Wilde’s exiled life in France and Italy after serving a prison term for ‘gross indecency’; a charge brought about by the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde’s paramour Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (Colin Morgan). Wilde never fully recovered from his time in prison, either physically or emotionally; his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, written after his release, calls attention to the grim sights witnessed and heard of, while incarcerated.

Capturing a dream-like state of memories and regrets, the film begins with the words of the titular Happy Prince, a fable Wilde wrote for children, and in Everett’s film displays the contradictions and unjustness of late 19th Century European life.

Wilde reads from the tale to his two young sons, later kept apart from him by estranged wife Constance (played with a sorrowful, almost ghostly, distance by Emily Watson), and we see a hazy and melancholy vision of London’s street life. The line, “there is no mystery so great as suffering”, serves as an introduction to both the film and the creator’s tormented state of mind.

Wilde, using the alias Sebastian Melmoth, taken from the lead character of Melmoth the Wanderer, a novel by his great-uncle Charles Maturin, wanders through a squalid hand-to-mouth, or drink and drugs to mouth, existence in Paris and Naples. Everett brilliantly displays the pain that Wilde suffered, with constantly animated features shifting from radiant smile to anguished grimace.

The pain is only added to by the mysteries of love. Still besotted with Bosie, despite his dependence on the father who betrayed him to the prehistoric laws of Victorian England, the two spend time together in Naples. It all ends abruptly when Bosie’s family, as well as Constance, who had been sending Wilde a little money, threaten to stop the allowance if the relationship continues.

At the crux of the film is the trio of Wilde, Bosie, and Robert Ross (Edwin Thomas), a friend and lover, and later the agent who cared for Wilde’s literary estate. The jealousies and rivalries between the dashing, vain and ultimately unforgiving Bosie and the loyal and kind Ross are dramatically brought out, particularly at a chaotic dinner drinks meeting between the three in France.

An imagining of Wilde’s dying dreams are the real point of reference at work; the film is literally an account of his last three years, so the events that are factually accurate are entwined with the personal moods and feelings that he may have thought of on his death bed in Paris. This darkly romantic vision is a world away from the entertaining storyteller of a thousand legends, but it is one that it is inextricably linked. Everett does justice to both man and story.

 
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Maybe Tomorrow

Australian, Australian New Wave Filmmakers, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

‘Why even try?’ is perhaps the central question of Maybe Tomorrow, the latest indie from Melbourne filmmakers Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones (Lazybones). Why try doing something when you are low on money and time? Or what about that big dream of yours, eh? Why bother if your priorities are going to suddenly change?

Who are all these questions being hurled at? Well, that would be young Melbourne couple Erin and Patrick, played by Tegan Crowley and Veteresio Tuikaba. Both are bursting with energy as they discuss the film that they’re going to be making together when their bubble of creativity is burst by the cries of their new born child. It’s not a cold moment, but it foreshadows the rollercoaster journey they will take in the pursuit of artistic expression.

Patrick appears to think nothing of mixing filmmaking with parenthood. Whilst Erin works at a coffee shop to pay the bills, he plays househusband, strumming the ukulele to his child and working out the schedule for the shoot. It’s the kind of free time Erin perhaps misses, when compared to the short time she gets to have at the end of the day with her family and the screenplay she’s poured her heart into – a screenplay which appears to be a release for Erin, in which the scenarios she writes about and even the actors she chooses seem to echo parts of her life with Patrick. So, when her story, including a literal car crash of a finale, begins to be reshaped by outside forces, you can really sense her frustration simmer. Meanwhile, the housebound Patrick is sabotaging his own attempts at making new friends as a father.

Let’s be clear, Maybe Tomorrow is not a mopey kitchen sink drama. Rather, this a playful dramedy. Whilst Patrick storyboards scenes with baby toys and paints any potential new friends as ‘racists’ before he’s even met them, Erin struggles with auditioning actors and their egos.

Farrugia and Jones are clearly having a lot of fun as they make fun of their own world. Upon being asked by Erin what previous parts she’s played, a young Asian actor lists every cliched role that’s beholden to people of colour in Australia: ‘best friend, servant, sex trafficked woman…’

As the couple at the centre of everything, Crowley and Tuikaba share an adorable chemistry as they play with their baby, playfully bicker about whether veggie pasties are really food and not so playfully bicker about film budgets. It says something about their performances that when the filming schedule applies pressure, you find yourself incredibly protective of them.

Loving and warm, Maybe Tomorrow is a charming portrait of new parenthood and the complexities of film production.

 
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Woman at War

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

A joyous and warm-hearted comedy drama taking on essential contemporary issues such as ecological activism, modern motherhood and community identities, Woman at War is a captivating examination of a bruised world in need of repair. Somehow managing to find optimism and positivity in a script focusing on climate change and societal chaos, the film has a fairy tale like quality about it; an effect only enhanced by a Nordic absurdity and surreal camera play.

Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), a woman in her forties, has declared war on the aluminium industry at work near her home town. An eco-warrior hell-bent on shutting down power supplies, she employs military style tactics and a steely determination. Putting everything at risk to curtail the damage being done to her Icelandic homeland and the world at large, she wages a one woman war to put a stop to the unrestricted threat of big business and manufacturing.

Halla’s endeavours lead to her fellow townsfolk wondering just who is behind the shocking power outages. Known only by her alias of ‘The Woman of the Mountain’, she goes from stealthy saboteur moves by night, to teaching local choir classes by day. Her cover is complete, and no one suspects a thing.

Aided by remote farmer Sveinbjörn (Jóhann Sigurðarson) – who may or may not be her cousin – she takes to the remote country, watching out for drones, helicopters and all the powers of the state as they focus their attention on what they believe to be an overseas terrorist threat.

But just as she is about to launch her biggest operation yet, a surprise letter arrives informing her that her four-year-old application to adopt an impoverished child has been successful.

Effectively forcing her to choose between her fight against unfettered capitalism and a lost little girl in need, Halla must show all of her courage to conquer a crisis on all fronts. She also needs to win the trust of her twin sister Asa, a yoga instructor (also played by Geirharðsdóttir) with her sights set on a meditative retreat in India.

Featuring a superb lead performance from Geirharðsdóttir, Woman at War is a startlingly original piece, mixing up Icelandic humour and weirdness with grave dilemmas currently being faced all over the world.

Erlingsson creates an attractive picture cinematically, showcasing the striking sights of Iceland’s countryside in a fashion that certainly won’t do their tourism industry any harm. He also decides on using a whimsical take for the film’s score by bringing the brass band and trio of traditional singers onto the screen, occasionally sharing a knowing glance or nod with Halla as she goes about her own personal business of saving the world. A strange and beautiful film, this is an Icelandic delight to savour.

 
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Us

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Us

In 2017 Jordan Peele, an actor known primarily for his goofy, over-the-top characters on comedy show, Key & Peele, shocked the world with his directorial debut, Get Out. The deeply allegorical horror flick, replete with lashings of social commentary and wit, was an assured and confident effort showcasing a genuine and abiding love of genre cinema. It was also an enormous hit, pretty much guaranteeing Peele’s second film would be much anticipated and extensively scrutinised. Well, Peele’s sophomore effort, Us, is here and… wow, this film is a lot. Like, a whole lot, hey.

In its set up, Us seems, at first at least, to be a pretty traditional horror flick. Our hero family are the Wilsons, comprising mum, dad, daughter and son, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabriel (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The Wilsons are heading to their family holiday house in Santa Cruz, where they intend to chill on the beach, relax a little and hang out with their vaguely awful friends, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker). It should be a relaxing time but Adelaide, haunted by strange, half-remembered events from her childhood, has a feeling something bad is about to happen. And then, one late night, a family appears at the end of their driveway and everything goes to hell.

Get Out, for all its layers of subtext, was at its core a very simple film. It was a genre flick about race and class inequality, a ’70s throwback that the Honest Trailers crew hilariously (and accurately) dubbed “The Stepford Whites”. Us defies such easy definition, which causes the film to linger long in your memory but offers less immediate satisfaction. You may have gathered from the trailers that this is a movie about “scary doppelgangers”, which is not inaccurate as such, however it’s barely a fraction of the story and honestly we’d rather not spoil anything further.

Suffice to say, Us is an extraordinary film that is buoyed further by extraordinary performances. Lupita Nyong’o, pulling double duty like most of the cast, offers two utterly transformative characterisations. Remember last year when the right-thinking parts of the world (excluding the Academy and their tedious genre snobbery) were blown away by Toni Collette’s performance in Hereditary? This year, it’s Lupita’s turn because she is deadset electrifying. The rest of the cast do well too, with Shahadi Wright Joseph giving a particularly chilling turn and Elisabeth Moss moving outside of her various comfort zones.

Ultimately though, Us is a director’s film and Peele’s confident, textured style carries this movie through some of its more flummoxing moments. And make no mistake, this gets weird, offering staggering, M. Night Shyamalan-esque twists and reveals with occasionally dizzying disregard for audience comfort. Us goes big and it’s not afraid to leave you behind when it does so, bursting at the seams with more ideas than it can deal with completely satisfactorily. And yet, it’s because of this surplus of big concepts that makes Us so unforgettable, the kind of film where the audience surges into the foyer afterwards exchanging thoughts and theories with a kind of giddy, excited confusion; like they’re trying to parse meaning from a particularly vivid dream.

Us is probably not going to be for everyone and it’s not really trying to be. Frequently tense, often funny, occasionally profoundly bizarre and ultimately a bit mystifying, it’s a truly original genre film that is unafraid to embrace big ideas and epic weirdness. If that sounds like your jam, you should run, not walk, to this jaw dropping flick. Be warned, though, this is the kind of film that could leave you feeling extremely… untethered.

 
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Dumbo

family film, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

With Disney well and truly in their postmodern era, bringing back just about every one of their animated classics to be remade in varying forms of live-action over the last several years, their latest ostensibly should serve as just the latest in a recent trend. Take something about the original, whether it’s the characters, where the narrative is focused, or even just translating the original directly, and re-examine it with a fresh perspective; it started with Burton’s own Alice In Wonderland and it persists to this day. However, this film serves as a different kind of examination; not of narrative or character, but of the company that brought them to life.

Director Tim Burton has made an entire career out of telling the stories of talented outsiders being exploited, so to find him at the helm here is very on-brand. And sure enough, he and DOP Ben Davis (Guardians Of The Galaxy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Captain Marvel) bring a sense of Disney wonder and grandeur to the classic story of a flying circus elephant. The CGI work is about on par with Wonderland, in that it is quite iffy in places, but they at least do the title character justice by maintaining the inescapable cuteness that is Dumbo.

Not that Dumbo really ends up being the character to focus on here. Nor is it Colin Farrell’s war veteran or his wonkily-performing children (Nico Parker as his daughter is way too stiff to be given this much dialogue). Instead, it’s the villain, Michael Keaton’s V.A. Vandevere, who ends up drawing the most attention.

He is shown as an entrepreneur and showman who buys out the circus owned by Danny De Vito’s Max Medici (it’s like the Batman Returns reunion we never realised we needed), absorbing the company and its properties into a larger fold, which includes a gigantic theme park where “the impossible is possible”. He is also presented as someone whose want for power grows so disastrously that he ends up destroying everything he set out to build. It’s difficult to look at this and not think of how this reflects on Disney as a company, given their own practices along with their recent acquisition of Fox.

Burton and an uncharacteristically subtle script by Transformers scribe Ehren Kruger, essentially create art from dissent behind the main lines, showing a cautionary tale of what happens when monopolistic capitalism goes unchecked and who suffers as a result. It furthers Burton’s oeuvre by going beyond who is being exploited, namely Dumbo and the other circus ‘freaks’, and dives right into who’s doing it. It’s still wondrous, but it’s a wondrousness that is tempered by who is presenting the performance both in and out of the universe.

Whether this falls under critique, irony, or just plain hypocrisy remains to be seen, but with the current cultural climate, it still shows a commendable amount of brass in everyone involved to take aim at a target this massive, and under their own banner at that.

 
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Where Hands Touch

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Filmmaker Amma Assante’s sophomore feature Belle explored issues of mixed-race families, racism, class and identity within the historical context of 18th century England. Her next film A United Kingdom also explored similar themes. However, in her latest film, she once again draws on these themes but sets it in a historical milieu that’s difficult territory to navigate: World War Two and The Holocaust.

The movie begins in 1944, in the painterly-looking town of Rüdesheim, in the Rhine Valley. The Rhineland people of colour include those derisively referred to as ‘Rhineland bastards”, who’d been fathered by French soldiers of African background, during the Rhineland’s occupation in the period following World War I.

Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) is one of these children. Her white German mother, Kerstin (Abbie Cornish) feels the pinch from local Gestapo hounding her family for identification papers and after seeing their neighbours carted off in the middle of the night, fears for her own family. So, the family moves to Berlin in the erroneous hope that there might be safety in numbers in the big city.

In Berlin, Leyna meets Hitler Youth member Lutz (George MacKay), who along with his secret Jazz music listening SS commander father (Christopher Eccleston), both secretly detest the war, conceal their pacifist leanings by towing the Nazi Party line and long for a life away from the horrors of reality. It’s this pacifist side that Lutz displays to Leyna and soon the pair falls for each other. Inevitably, cruel fate intervenes and Leyna is sent to a brutal workers camp, where she must find it in herself to endure, not only for her own sake but for her family’s as well.

The performances are affecting, particularly George MacKay who portrays a difficult character and imbues him with an awkward, diffident humanity. The film was shot on the UK’s Isle of Man, standing in for 1940s Germany so it does at times fall prey to its budgetary constraints, though the painterly cinematography and stylised production design helps give the proceedings a fable-like quality, particularly in the later scenes in the workers camp.

Assante’s deft direction has steered many of her films through plots that involve tricky racial and social minefields. Here, it’s particularly inflammatory due to the nature of the film’s romantic angle, between a ‘Nazi’ and a mixed-race German girl, though the ‘Nazi’ is merely a Hitler Youth, and a sensitive, conflicted pacifist at that.

US media has been bafflingly unkind in its lambasting of the socio-political optics of the film, with a reading of the plot that is patently reductive and reactionary. One of the film’s admirable qualities is presenting complex characters questioning their own actions, and showing us individuals who sometimes act in spite of their own closely held beliefs and others who act according to them, in other words: flawed human beings.

 
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Pet Sematary

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

In 1983, writer Stephen King published Pet Sematary, a pitch-black examination of grief hidden inside a fairly trashy horror novel featuring a zombie cat. In 1989, director Mary Lambert released a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the same, a quality flick that was let down by some ropey acting and moments of general ‘80s hokiness. Still, much like the source material, something of the dark and pervasive subtext shone through and made the film an uncomfortable watch, in a good way.

What with the current cinematic Stephen King renaissance, it’s no shock that Hollywood would eventually dig up Pet Sematary. In fact, the biggest surprise is that it’s taken this long. Enter Pet Sematary (2019), brought to us by directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, the duo responsible for indie horror darling, Starry Eyes (2014).

The story setup remains pretty much unchanged from the novel/original film. The Creed family, comprising father Louis (Jason Clarke), mother Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jete Laurence), infant son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) and cat Church (various felines), have moved from Boston to the sleepy little town of Ludlow, Maine. In their new digs the family find they have an agreeable old man neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) and a “Pet Sematary” in their backyard, where local kids bury their beloved deceased animal friends. Of course, there’s something even further in the woods, an ancient burial ground where things are said to return from death, but the Creeds need not worry about that. Until, that is, Church is killed and what a pity it would be if Ellie were sad about that…

For most of its runtime, Pet Sematary is an effective, albeit slightly redundant remake, going through similar motions to the original while offering better acting and more focused direction. However, in the third act the script goes rogue, abandoning most of King’s story beats, and pursuing a direction that is initially intriguing but ultimately a wee bit empty, even silly.

See, the book and original film, for all their respective flaws, had a great monster at the core: and that monster was grief. The entire point of the book was that grief unmakes us, tears away everything that matters and leave us as desperate, insane and unbearably alive. It’s why the actions of Louis in the original incarnations are so strong and desperately sad in their tragic inevitability.

Horror remakes are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad. John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing introduced the concept of paranoia and distrust. David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly introduced body horror and “insect politics”. The 2019 version of Pet Sematary introduces some surprises but ultimately feels like a series of effective scenes in search of an overarching theme.

Pet Sematary is a well-made, well-acted horror film that will likely delight younger fans who haven’t read many (or any) Stephen King novels and haven’t seen the 1989 original. It’s a pity, however, that the talented directors didn’t dig a little deeper into the material and unearth something authentically disturbing to amp up the horror for modern audiences.