SXSW Interview: ‘PET SEMATARY’ cast and directors on the Kubrick-like horror imagery

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Left to right: Director Kevin Kölsch, John Lithgow, Director Dennis Widmyer behind the scenes on the set of ‘PET SEMATARY,’ from Paramount Pictures.

Preston Barta // Features Editor

AUSTIN – The 2019 rebirth of Stephen King’s acclaimed novel PET SEMATARY, starring Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz, closed the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 16. The Paramount Theatre was packed to the brim and audiences were eager to get a taste of the latest film in the King-aissance, as it’s being coined. Since 2017’s IT, we have seen more and more filmmakers putting a modern and darker twist on King’s work for the big and small screen. Filmmaker Mike Flanagan, who has been riding a major wave of success lately since casting Netflix’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE out into the world, directed King’s GERARLD’S GAME and is currently set to release King’s follow-up to THE SHINING, titled DOCTOR SLEEP, this fall. Not to mention 1922 (that released on Netflix in 2017) and IT: CHAPTER 2 (hitting theaters in early September). So, obviously we’re in full swing of the King, and PET SEMATARY knocks it out of the park.

In my SXSW review (which you can find here), I compared a lot of the film’s terror to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. The way PET SEMATARY directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (STARRY EYES) blur the lines of fantasy and reality in the film, while also building an intense amount of dread throughout, it’s easy to equate the two. The story and how the characters are handled also feel much fuller compared to the 1989 film adaptation, like an acoustic performance compared to an orchestra. For fans of the King’s novel and/or the 1989 film, you will be surprised by Kölsch and Widmyer’s direction.

The story concerns Louis and Rachel Creed (Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz), who move from the big city to a small rural town in Maine for a fresh start with their two children, Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (portrayed by twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie). After settling in, they discover there’s a pet cemetery (or “pet samatary,” as a handmade wooden sign indicates) on their property. Slowly it is revealed that beyond the cemetery is sour ground with the power to resurrect the dead. What may seem like a route to cheat death has deadly consequences.

Fresh Fiction sat down with directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and stars Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz at SXSW to discuss the film. We talk about making the experience fun for fans of the original text and film, the lessons they learned from being a part of it, as well as how the film managed to even scare them.

Our SXSW interview with the cast and filmmakers of ‘PET SEMATARY’ (2019):

Paramount Pictures will release PET SEMATARY nationwide on April 5, 2019.

Special thanks to Paramount Pictures for making this interview and experience possible. They provided the camera crew and setup at SXSW.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.