Pet Sematary 4K Blu-ray Review
Any film with Herman Munster and Tasha Yar gets my vote
Pet Sematary Film Review
Sometimes, dead is betterLouis Creed, his wife, daughter, son and family cat move into a new house, in a new town to start a new life. Outside the front of the house is a busy road, populated by large trucks that speed by with scant regard to safety; it has claimed many pets, so much so, that the neighbourhood children have their very own pet cemetery. But the cemetery also holds a secret. When the Creed’s cat unfortunately gets hit, their kindly neighbour, Jud, shows Louis that secret: that when a pet is buried there, they come back! But they come back changed, evil and vicious, yet this does not stop Louis, for when the road takes a second more precious victim, the call to the burial ground is too strong, despite good spirits intervening to prevent disaster, the dark path has already been trod and therein lies only misery.
I have vivid memories of reading Pet Sematary years ago. Something about the mournful significance of the piece resonated with me. In particular, the service for Gage in the church and the altercation with Louis and his father-in-law; an awful, painful and despondent chapter that was so dreadfully powerful it has remained with me ever since. There is something about Stephen King’s writings; his character and world building are so intricate that you become absorbed into their lives and when such an outpouring of emotion causes a fight at a funeral you are right there in the desperate helplessness of it all.
Adaptations of King’s books have been too numerous to mention and the very best of them take only the essence of the source and run wild with it. Books and film are different media and are consumed very differently, and for a film to truly be successful it need to be its own beast (best King example, The Shining, or if you want a novel to TV – Game of Thrones). Pet Sematary was brought to life by music video director Mary Lambert, whose ethos for the film was to tell King’s story the best she could; the author was the screen writer and available onset for most of the shoot, in practice this means that the film sticks very faithfully to the source and this hampers it slightly because, as we know, the book contains so much more behind the characters; when Rachael is telling Louis about Zelda it feels shoehorned-in rather than part of the story, being one example.
However, such is the verve of the piece that the overall themes and story narrative can, and do, overcome this (fairly major) shortcoming in becoming a horror examination of grief and loss with supernatural overtones. It remains unsettling throughout and builds to a suitably nasty conclusion. Oh, and the funeral makes it into the film in all its awful emotional horror. Plus any film with Herman Munster and Tasha Yar in gets my vote.
Pet Sematary 4K PicturePet Sematary was shot using Panavision cameras on 35mm film. The source for this release was made from the original camera negative which was scanned at 4K resolution, then cleaned up and regraded under the supervision of director Mary Lambert, the result being utilised for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents a native 4K 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for both Dolby Vision and HDR10. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Pet Sematary on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
What is immediately apparent is the clarity of the image, the detail on show is terrific; check out the grime on the aged gravestones, the wrinkles in Jud’s face, the whiskers of Church; all are pristine. Edges are held firm throughout, checkout the bark on the trees, the blades of grass, the tiles on the houses, and the sheen on the trucks: tremendous stuff.
The WCG and HDR add a fresh look to the colours, this is especially true of the early part of the film, outside bathed in sunlight, check out how blue the sky is, how green the grass is, how the splashes of colour from the flowers pop out. As the film progresses, the colour palette become progressively dour and washed out, this means that while the colour ‘thins’ they still retain the depth of gradation, something the Blu-ray simply cannot recover. Interestingly, though, the colours are not ‘in your face’ bright – check out the flames at the end, there is a decent sense of depth to the orange, but it does not burn your retina as other more modern productions are wont to do; this gives a very natural feel to the frame.
Black level is now immense, there is so much going on in the black that, when compared to the Blu-ray which now looks so crushed, it beggars belief. Checkout the night-time walks to the cemetery, how much is going on in the woods or in the barrier trees; check out the devastation of Jud’s house when Louis first walks in. The white end of the scale is just as keen, there are super highlights that never clip.
The original source is in very good condition, the very occasional speck is barely noticeable and the whole image is covered with a light sheen of filmic grain. Digitally, there are no issues to contend with.
Pet Sematary 4K SoundUnfortunately, the sound hasn’t been given an upgrade and appears to be the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track that adorns previous releases. But that is no bad thing, as the track is engaging, engrossing and eerie. Right from the off, during the credits, the chants of the children in the cemetery show terrific separation and excellent stereo effects and this only improves as the film advances. The trucks as they speed past the house, the students in the corridors, the wide open space of the garden; all present a strong stereo field. The surrounds are used to fill out ambience and effects, further enforcing the environment and the track works at its very best during the climax when Louis is walking through Jud’s house – the oppression of the track is palpable.
Bass is deep and level, though isn’t as subterranean as the very best but still adds significantly to the track in both effects and score. The score itself makes full use of the speakers, placing you in the centre. Dialogue is clean, clear and natural and is given plenty of directionality when required. Despite not having an Atmos (or otherwise) upgrade, the track scores well for its pure verve.
Pet Sematary 4K ExtrasUHD
Audio Commentary - With Director Mary Lambert who talks about her time on the film, how it came to be, her friendship with Stephen King, characters, themes and wanting to make the best interpretation she could without any other agenda.
Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance – Has the cast and crew of the remake talking about how the original influenced them; 7 minute ad really.
Pet Sematary: Revisitation - 9 minute short with Mary Lambert discussing her time on the picture, how it came about, friendships, casting, locations and this UHD restoration.
Galleries – After an introduction from Lambert we are treated to a whole host of images set out in 3 galleries, some of which were newly discovered for this release.
All of the above, plus:
Stephen King Territory – 13 minute feature with King amongst others discussing the inspiration of the book, the story’s history, filming in Maine, some production design, setting and themes.
The Characters – 12 minutes with Lambert and King as they chat about casting, characters and performances.
Filming the Horror – 10 minute feature focusing on the film’s tone, themes, King’s involvement, stunt work and differences between the source book and the film.
Pet Sematary 4K VerdictPet Sematary may be 30 years old, but it sure doesn’t play like it (well, aside from the fashion). Taking themes of death, grief and the horror of what that can do to a person, the film is relentlessly bleak and oppressive. Perhaps slightly hampered by its slavish narration to the source novel and the feeling that bits are missing, the sheer verve and character driven narrative manages to win through. It still manages to make your skin crawl.
As a 4K UHD the set from Paramount is pretty good; the native 4K picture breathes new life into the image, the detail, colour depth and black level really opening up the visuals, and, while the sound hasn’t had the same upgrade, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is still eerie, engaging and enthralling. The extras package has been enhanced with some new material making this release the new disc to own.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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