Pet Sematary (1989)

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From one King to another. Upon finding this in a local Big W for $5, my first thoughts were “Is it in widescreen?” and “Is it in 5.1?” to which both of those questions were answered in the affirmative. But surely, a film starring Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) with a feature song by The Ramones (as well as a cameo by Stephen King himself) can’t be too bad, right?

The Creeds have just moved into a new house in the countryside. Their house is perfect, except for two things: the trucks that drive noisily on the road outside, and the mysterious cemetary in the woods behind the house labelled “Pet Sematary”…

I like Stephen King’s work, but I don’t understand, well, what happened: King wrote and published Pet Sematary in 1983, and six years later he sat down to write the screenplay for a movie based on his book. There isn’t anything wrong with the story, dialogue, it’s that scenes, especially earlier on, jump, and some things happen without reason.

The acting, with the exception of Gwynne, is quite poor, laughable in a few situations. Dale Midkiff seems to be in a haze throughout the film, Denise Crosby is actually good, but tries her best with the material she’s been given and ends up looking like she doesn’t know where to go. The kids, are of course, kids, although Miko Hughes, especially later on in the film, is creepy. The direction by Mary Lambert, a female director hovering around horror films should be noted, however she just ended up with a B-grade, at times non-sensical muddle of a movie.

The concept, of having more time with those who have passed on, is of course universal, and something everyone can relate to on one level or another. However, the supernatural aspects surrounding the concept seem half-baked, and we never really get into the head of Louis Creed, the main character played by Midkiff. It is obvious chunks of the book were sliced out to make the book into a movie, however in doing that, the film has actually suffered. Instead of taking the book, and moulding the story into a suitable story for the screen, King has edited the book and given the edit to the actors and crew, at least, is seems like that. Believe you me, I don’t like criticising King but I thought he did a poor job of constructing a screenplay. Add to that middle-of-the-road acting, and a zombie cat (it’s not as awesome as it sounds), Pet Sematary is a poor excuse for a book adaptation, and a poor excuse for a horror movie in general. In fact, it might just be the goofiest horror movie I’ve seen yet. Two skulls.

Audio:
For a cheap DVD, the 5.1 track was quite good. Obviously, the roar of trucks driving past were quite loud, and the laughing of Gage, the son during one of the final sequences, comes out of the rear speakers giving a frightening jolt to the viewer. For a twenty-one year old film, it sounded quite impressive. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
Alas, the video aspect is not as impressive as the audio aspect of the disc. Yes, I understand it’s an old film but my qualms lie with the encoding of the film. Many times I noticed blocking artefacts, taking me out of the film. The rest of the picture was fine, but slightly blurry. It did the job, but it wasn’t the best picture I’ve seen on DVD. Two stars.

Features.
No features are provided on the disc besides subtitles. No skulls.

Overall:
With Pet Sematary, Stephen King proves that while playing a priest at a funeral may be awesome, he should probably stick to writing novels. However, his screenplay is not the only problem. Riddled with mediocre, sometimes laughable acting, and odd horror and cheap non-frightening scares, Pet Sematary is a poor film, but may entertain yourself and some of your friends with it’s B-grade atmosphere. Two skulls.

Dead Silence (2007)

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deadsilenceposterWhen I saw the trailers for this film, from Leigh Whannell and James Wan, Aussie natives who also wrote and directed Saw (well, Wan directed this and Saw with Whanell writing with Wan), needless to say, I was excited to see it. Why not? Supporting Aussie talent behind the camera, horror, sounded like a dream come true.

It sort of was, and to quote Eric Forman, “a really mediocre dream” come true.

It was nice to see them work outside of Jigsaw’s territory, but it was also a half-hearted film as well. Almost like they would make money no matter what as long as “Saw” was somewhere on the advertising material. And it wasn’t because there was no gore (unlike its relatives the family Saw where gore splashes the screen every minute), I truly appreciated the creepy nature they were going for, but the problem simply lies with the script and how half-baked it was.

The film is about a man (another Aussie, Ryan Kwanten) goes back to his hometown after a doll named Billy (similarly named to the doll in the Saw films) is “following” him after his wife’s death. A detective (played by Donnie Wahlberg, who was also in Saw II) is following him, thinking he is the murderer of his wife.

Nothing really builds up to a horrifying climax or anything like that. All the lines never really intertwine well enough. Nothing is explained 100% (refer to the ending).

A very cool thing about this was whenever Mary Shaw (the villainess) is about to attack, the audio becomes silent. It was a cool use of the surround sound but wasn’t creepy enough to make up for the rest of the film.

One problem I had, and I was probably the only one, was Kwanten’s character just dived straight into the “mystery”. With things like this, it needs to constantly be there and torment and torture the character’s sanity before they dive into the mystery.

Donnie Wahlberg’s cop was completely unnecessary. I enjoy watching him more than his little brother Mark, but his character was just there and never amounted to anything by the end. It was almost like he was just there because he was a friend of Whannell’s and Wan’s. I can appreciate that, but make an actual fitting and more sense ending to his character’s role in the story.

The aspect that it was a ghost story plaguing childhoods in the film was very cool (when I have children, I’ll make sure to tell them, when they see a decomposing old woman, not to scream!) but the whole pay-off for the film was very uninspired, no matter how unpredictable it actually was.

I can appreciate what my favourite Aussie Horror guys tried to do with Dead Silence, but I can’t appreciate what they ultimately ended up doing. Two stars.

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