He’s one of the most respected talents consistently working in Hollywood today. Now, Australian actor Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) stars in Paramount Pictures’ remake of Stephen King’s classic, Pet Sematary as the lead role of Dr. Louis Creed.
Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed, who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
Pet Sematary is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) from a screenplay by Jeff Buhler (The Prodigy), screen story by Matt Greenberg based on the novel by Stephen King.
Each of the four major characters in Pet Sematary offers the actors who play them a meaty role and a realistic emotional journey, says Widmyer, and that is reflected in the casting. “The book’s pretty rich,” he adds. “Every character has a really strong arc and a really good secret. Louis Creed is the protagonist, but all the characters get their own storylines.”
Louis Creed is a physician who has given up his Boston practice for a job at a university health center in rural Maine. He hopes the move will make the family’s life less stressful and give them more time together. Jason Clarke had read King’s book before, but says the story has taken on new meaning now that he is a father himself. “It was deeply disturbing in a way that upset me to the core,” says Clarke. “I could imagine myself in that situation. What would you do as a parent? It’s heartbreakingly beautiful in places, but I had to put it down for a while and pick it up again.”
Every character in the film undergoes a radical transformation, he notes. “The whole family goes on an archetypal hero’s journey in their own way. We talked a lot about the need to make it credible. Ultimately the book works because the emotion is real. It very definitely scares and horrifies, but it also deeply affects and disturbs.”
Clarke has the ability to convey his character’s emotional undercurrents, says producer Mark Vahradian. “He understood the horrific grief of a father losing a child, and at the same time retained the optimism to try to bring her back.”
Pet Sematary is one of the most disturbing films he has ever worked on, says Clarke. “It goes into a deeper level of what true horror is,” he notes. “There’s a great line in the book after Louis has gone through the swamp and seen the Wendigo. He says to himself something like, ‘think about this.’ But he does it anyway.”
One of the most significant changes to the story may surprise longtime fans. In the original, the Creeds’ 2-year-old son Gage is killed in a traffic accident. In this film, it is their 8-year-old daughter Ellie who dies and is resurrected. Making the dramatic change to a story so beloved, the filmmakers say, was nerve-racking, but it allowed them to explore some of the relationships more deeply.
Louis and Rachel have a different connection to their older child, which helps the audience feel more deeply connected to her as well, the directors agree. It also gave them the freedom to portray the undead child with fewer special effects, as she plays complicated psychological mind games with her father and displays a physicality that would be impossible to achieve with a toddler.
“For the audience that knows the book or the movie, it should have some shock effect,” says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “But it also allowed us to delve deeper into the idea of evil and discuss some existential ideas that you can’t do with a child who is pretty much preverbal.”
In Philippine cinemas April 3, Pet Sematary is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/uipmoviesph/ ; Twitter at https://twitter.com/uipmoviesph and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/uipmoviesph/. Use the hashtag #PetSematary.