Dark Rift Films: Paul Butler and Stewart Sparke, makers of ‘The Creature Below’ have done it again with a partly Kickstarter funded award winning horror film.
To set the scene it’s Sophie’s 18th birthday and she’s hoping to have a quiet time of things but that’s not going to happen as her friends have organised a surprise party, and if any of the ‘teenagers’ at the party were under twenty years old I’d be surprised, but that’s not a big deal all things considered as it doesn’t detract from the film. Anyway, back to the basics… Her dad Jonas (Nicholas Vince, yes THAT Nicholas Vince from Hellraiser and Nightbreed) gives her a present, it’s a book which her mom used to read to her when she was a kid, the titular ‘Book of Monsters’, which she’s not too thrilled about having as the last time she saw said book she was eight years old and her mom was killed by a monster under the bed with the result that Sophie spent a year in an asylum getting over it.
I’m twenty five minutes into this film and I’m uncertain as to whether it’s actually supposed to be a comedy as it’s a ridiculous gore-fest in a 1980s style. A little while later and yeah, ok, it’s a comedy! The garden gnomes have confirmed that for me, I’ll not tell you why as you are probably going to want to see it for yourself. I say that as I’m only half way through it and already want to watch it again.
Full of ludicrous situations, unbelievable reactions and shonky dialogue it’s got what in a straight horror would be some serious downsides, but as it’s played for laughs it has nothing which prevents it from being highly enjoyable with far more imagination than most of its contemporaries. Right at the start I was wondering what the hell I had got myself into as it looked as if it was going to be another piss-poor attempt at a horror film but I need not have been concerned as it’s dumb, cheesy and very funny. The acting is for the most part good, the concept is overall fine if a little derivative, and I’d say that it’s well worth the addition to anyone’s collection.
It’s available right now, so go get it as I’m giving this a solid four out of five on the Gingernutometer.
Ginger Nuts of Horror returns to the Pet Sematary
Whilst many sighed at the prospect of a new version of Pet Sematary I did not mind too much as I never had much love for the original film, which I saw on the cinema way back in 1989. One shudders at the sheer number of Stephen King adaptations which have hit the screens in the thirty years since we made that original cinematic journey to the Pet Sematary. The 1989 film was fairly faithful to the source material, this new version takes a more substantial detour from the book. However, I found the alterations in the third and final part to be an entertaining diversion, whether the many King diehards whom know the book back-to-front agree is another question.
This 2019 version was a solid, but unspectacular, take on what is an incredibly bleak book and very difficult to film without getting too schlocky or trashy. It is not creative enough to rank amongst the best of King adaptation, however, there are a lot worse on the market. Nine-year-old Ellie (Jeté Laurence) definitely has a much bigger part which cleverly alters the dynamics of the family unit and in particular the final third of the film. If film goers unfamiliar with the original King novel are encouraged to read the book they’re going to get a number of surprises that should be seen a major plus point in a story which is too familiar to many. As I said, the 1989 film was more faithful to the book, this adaptation strayed further, but could have updated even more by ramping up the evil and sense of threat, which seemed to be lacking from the overall atmosphere of the film.
The story is so well-known I’m not going to spend much time on that. Louis and Rachel Creed escape the rat race and buy a rural house close to a very busy road, which has an ancient Pet Sematary lurking behind their property. The family befriend elderly neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) who introduces Louis to the secret burial ground behind the Pet Sematary after the much-loved family pet cat Church is killed on the deadly road. The next day the cat is back, but changed, and off we go.
I have to give a special mention to the cat Church, as he was a major disappointment in both films. Why? Because in the novel he is SCARY AS HELL! I first read Pet Sematary as a 13-year-old and reread it thirty years later and one night during the revisit I had a nightmare and jumped clean out of bed. I was sure that damned cat was in the bedroom. That’s the power a scary book that gets under your skin can have which a film can never recreate, especially if it relies on jump scares, which this does. In the novel the cat is described as having a jerky kind of movement absent in both films and the level of cruelty is downplayed significantly. All Church does in the new film is scratch a couple of people, hiss a lot, kill a bird and scare the little boy. Disappointing, as in the book it truly oozed both evil and menace.
Along the way there are some decent jump scares, however, the majority of these are connected to the back-story of Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) who has unresolved issues over the death of a sister many years previously rather than the Pet Sematary itself. This went unexplored in the original film but is given a decent amount of screen time this time out.
The trailer (and poster) is seriously misleading as it gives off a slight folk-horror vibe, with a parade of kids with freaky masks marching to the Pet Sematary with a dead dog in a wheel-barrow. Sadly, the scene from the trailer is not expanded upon in the film and none of these other children have any part in the film and only appear in this one scene. It was freaky and ripe for development in a film that had very few characters. Featuring some other kids could have broadened the story out somewhat and was a missed opportunity to do something different.
And why not? Ellie Creed has a bigger role in this version and most crucially in the corresponding scene from the original which tears the family apart. I had not read any other reviews and welcomed this major alteration, after all, this scene from the original is highly memorable and amongst the best in the film. It would have been pointless to simply recreate it shot by shot.
The acting was solid, if unspectacular, John Lithgow plays Jud Crandall very similar to Fred Gwynne in the original, if not quite as bug-eyed. Both parents interacted well with the child actors, for instance, when they attempt to explain what happens after death, but ultimately none of the leads are stretched too far.
Its weakness is the incredible familiarity of the story. We all know where it’s heading, with very few surprises along the way as we head into very standard horror-by-numbers territory into an ending that seemed quite rushed. And for the record: in the book, to find the supernatural burial ground it was much further behind the Pet Sematary and was a true hike to reach. I read elsewhere that this film was attempting to bring Stephen King to a new younger audience, hence the poster states: “From the director of IT” and so I hope it succeeds in showcasing an amazing book (and cat nightmares) to a new generation. Finally, to be fair to the film, it may well detour from the book but it does not cop out with its ending.
“Sometimes dead is better”
I have loved this film since I first watched it as a child. It was one of those films that really stuck with me after viewing. It terrified me when I was younger. There is still one scene (Gage cutting Jud’s Achilles tendon) that I can’t watch as it really freaks me out.
I was shocked, well really I shouldn’t be, when I realised that Pet Sematary is now thirty years old. It really doesn’t seem like that long ago I was expecting my dearly departed pets to return from the ground and haunt me.
I have to say, it looks wonderful. The work gone into making the imagery and detail pop is obvious. It’s very clear, very bright and, thankfully, none of the effects have been ‘modernised’ (I hate that).
There are some new features including an interview with director Mary Lambert, and a look at the original film from the perspective of the new cast and crew of 2019’s Pet Sematary.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching Pet Sematary. It had been a while since I had seen it last, and thankfully, it has not lost any of its charm. It’s a tragic film, the Creed family are torn apart after the devastating loss of their son, Gage (Miko Hughes).
When the family cat was killed in the road, family friend and neighbour Jud (Fred Gwynne) introduces Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) to an ancient Micmac burial ground, up on land past the pet cemetery. Jud, with a tragic case of well-meaning poor judgment, instructs Louis to bury the cat, Church, here while reciting the story about his pet dog coming back to life after being buried there. He explains that Church might be different, but it will mean that Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) won’t have to suffer the grief of losing her beloved pet. Church is subsequently resurrected and then returns the Creed household a changed cat.
Filled with grief when Gage is horrifically hit and killed by a truck after wandering into the road, Louis digs his son’s body up and re-buries him at the Micmac site. Jud attempted to stop him by telling Louis about local boy Timmy Bateman who was killed and buried there, and how Timmy came back as some sort of zombie. Louis, distraught with the loss of Gage refuses to listen.
Gage of course returns changed, just like Church and Timmy Bateman. He then proceeds to ‘play with’ and murder Jud, followed his mother Rachel (Denise Crosby).
Louis, after realising that Gage has returned (and that he has taken a scalpel), rushes over to Jud’s house only to find him, and his wife, dead. He battles with the evil Gage, killing him, and then burning Jud’s house down.
Louis, blinded by grief and madness following all this tragedy, takes Rachel’s body to the burial site and buries her. Telling himself that it will be ok this time. Rachel returns, and (off camera) kills Louis.
The 2019 re-imagining is obviously well timed for release on the 30th anniversary. I welcomed the features on the Blu-ray that shared a glimpse of the 2019 film and I was pleased see the new guys showing so much love and respect for the original. I am always worried with remakes, re-imaginings and such that they are trying to completely leave the original behind. I often feel like there is a lack of respect as it were, and that they feel they can do a much better job (it’s often a tragedy of cinema). With this, I am confident that they truly love the original and that they will do it justice.
I am actually going to see 2019 version this evening (05/04/2019), so I’m sure I will have some comments on that too. But this is all about the 1989 version, and what a wonderful film it is.
I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, it may be a bit lacking in scares, or be a little cheesy for some. But for me, it’s a wonderful film. It’s a window into eighties horror, with all the props and the gory make up as well as the idealistic family with the perfect house in the country (well close). It isn’t even that long ago really, 30 years; I was a mere 7 when this was released. It has aged really well, it doesn’t have that feel to it, you know what I mean, the feeling that you are watching an old historical documentary. Some shows and programmes from even just the seventies seem ancient, like a view into the history books.
I was particularly impressed with the look of Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist). I felt that the work they have put into this Blu-ray really worked especially well for making the make up of the deceased Victor look especially grotesque. I felt that this is the best that it has looked. They have done an amazing job cleaning the film up and enhancing the colour and effects.
If you have never seen the original, then there is no more perfect a time. This Blu-ray release is £8.00 on Amazon, it’s a bargain. It’s packed with new features, as well as the original commentary with Mary Lambert. The film itself has never looked better in my opinion, and of course, it’s all about the Pet Sematary at the moment with the recent release of the 2019 re-imagining.
Get yourself a copy, sit down with some snacks and revisit an eighties classic.
You won’t be disappointed.
Film - 5/5
Special features – 5/5
Be sure to check out our Film Review page tomorrow, when we have a review of the remake of Pet Sematary
Run Time: 102 minutes
Director: Mary Lambert
Release: 25th Marth 2019
Starring: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard
Blu-ray special features:
Formerly known as ‘Canaries’ but released under the title Alien Party Crashers on VOD and DVD the film has a promising start reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind in that it follows reports of alien sightings from multiple locations and the promise of imminent contact. This film obviously lacks the budget of CE3K or indeed the average home movie by the overall look of the production, but I am not holding that against it as there’s so much more that I can. It may well start with locations in America and Thailand but it soon transfers to a small village in Wales with an equally small bunch of locals about to host a miniscule New Year’s party. What they don’t know is that aliens have planned to make their presence known to the authorities with a test-invasion and have chosen Lower Cwmtwrch to do it by dropping a dead Maasai Warrior on the house where the party is being held and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Killer aliens and brief mentions of time travel can’t prevent this film from lacking any real atmosphere, humour or excitement that could elevate this above being tedious. When the shit eventually hits the fan the film offers up some of the worst bargain-basement excuses for aliens I’ve ever seen, I kid you not, I’ve seen ordinary regular people’s Hallowe’en costumes with more going for them, I’m not talking the cool cosplay sort either, hell I’ve seen little kids in home-made monster outfits which were better thought out and scarier.
Even though classed as a comedy this wasn’t entirely played for laughs but should have been, or should have been played entirely straight, it might just have pulled through if it had and would then have been in the 1970s Dr Who level of scariness, but this mixed up attempt at an alien invasion comedy is sloppy and all somewhat pointless.
On the Gingernutometer I’m giving this a resounding one Gingernut, but only because we don’t have half Gingernuts and giving it zero would be a bit mean.