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The Ups and Downs of Supernatural Pet Ownership

Pet Sematary and Unicorn Store

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PET SEMATARY. I started reading Stephen King, well, probably too young. The phase receded in early-mid adolescence, although I have, as recently as this year, begun to revisit his books at this late stage. I continue to enjoy the force of his imagination, the breadth (perhaps more than the depth) of his storytelling, his ability to drag a wide and varied audience down into the dark places, and make them like it. I have never been a hardcore fan, though, nor a completist, so there are swaths of his output I have never lit upon. The novel Pet Sematary is one, as are the majority of the many cinematic adaptations of his work.

I've seen both versions of Carrie (1976 and 2013), preferring the former; Misery (1990) holds up all right; The Shining (1980), one of the most finely made American movies ever, is a favorite that King hates, thereby distancing he and I, perhaps irreparably; I watched Gerald's Game (2017) on Netflix while home sick or something, but can't recommend it. Scraps of Maximum Overdrive (1986), King's cocaine-induced version of a directorial debut, flit through my memory, joined of course by Stand By Me (1986) and The Running Man (1987).

There are significant gulfs in my experience of the King canon but making a project of reading all of his words and watching all of the adaptations would, I suspect, preclude a person from doing much of anything else. So I don't feel any loyalty to the source novel of Pet Sematary, nor the first movie. Which might be for the best — I enjoyed the new version well enough.

Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), nearing burnout from working "the graveyard shift in the ER," relocates with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence), son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) and beloved housecat Church (Leo, Tonic, Jager and JD — union rules, you know) to the Maine woods. They buy a charming farmhouse set among 50 acres of forested land (debatably soured by the touch of evil) and Louis takes a job tending to the students of a nearby college. Shortly after the move, though, a student is struck by a car on campus and dies in Louis' care. He's shaken but it also triggers hideous memories for Rachel of her sister's illness and tragic death. Then things start to get supernatural. From their initially creepy but eventually avuncular neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), the family learns of a companion animal interment site not far from their own house. Jud further intimates to Louis that beyond said site lies another, more powerful and sinister one that may or may not have the capacity to reanimate the dead. (Spoiler: It does).

Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, 2014; Valentine's Day segment of Holidays, 2016) are quite clearly horror-peddlers and students of the genre, but they make the prudent decision here to lean into atmosphere, letting the narrative take shape and get moving before deploying some of the scare tactics to which we have all lately become so accustomed. There are jump scares and buckets of blood in store but, measured against the tone and pace of the thing as a whole, they seem proportionate. The more devout, harder core among us may turn their noses up at the relative palatability of the movie as a whole and the humor with which it is frequently infused. But those touches allow Pet Sematary to bridge a gap between some of the horror faithful. It synthesizes the old school with the new, pays not undue homage to its sources and references and carries it all off with a measure of style and powerful acting from a surprisingly potent cast. R. 100M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

When you're 100 percent straight but then you see a Janelle Monáe video. - UNICORN STORE
  • Unicorn Store
  • When you're 100 percent straight but then you see a Janelle Monáe video.

UNICORN STORE. I didn't know much of anything about this. A friend recommended it and I find Brie Larson compelling enough to see what she has to say as a director. And faced with the prospect of a late Monday night out watching Shazam! or The Best of Enemies — both of which I'm sure have something to offer (they have to, right?) — I chose the coward's path and stayed home with the Netflix. Given my expectations, I wasn't disappointed. I haven't found a new favorite, either, but hey, I got to stay home.

Kit (Brie Larson) can't seem to find the right fit in life. Her kooky, ropes-course operating parents Gladys and Gene (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) love her but don't really get her. Her art school instructors, well, they don't either. And so she resigns herself to the mundanity of existence, putting on a gray suit and joining the workforce as a permanent temp at an ad agency. But then she gets a miraculous invitation to a store seemingly made just for her, where The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) offers her the opportunity of a lifetime: to buy a unicorn.

The whole affair is perhaps even more twee and precious than it sounds, but it's good-hearted and aims to deliver a message of self-acceptance, I think. Still, the punches of rainbow color and the filter of deliberate kookiness can't change the fact that the script feels somehow too spare and overcrowded at the same time, creating a sort of self-referential muddle that approaches transcendence in moments but pulls away before it can actually develop. NR. 92M. NETFLIX.

— John J. Bennett

See showtimes at www.northcoastjournal.com  or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richard 's Goat Miniplex 630-5000.

Previews

AFTER. A college freshman's (Josephine Langford) romance is marred by her creepy boyfriend's (Hero Feinnes Tiffin) creepy secret. PG13. 106M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

BABYLON (1980). A time capsule of youth culture and reggae music in West London in the 1980s that follows a mechanic/musician on a losing streak amid poverty and racism. NR. 95M. MINIPLEX.

HELLBOY. Reboot of the comic adaptation in which the wisecracking spawn of Hell (David Harbour) sets his horns against an evil sorceress (Milla Jovovich). R. 121M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

LITTLE. Issa Rae stars as a woman whose terror of a boss (Regina Hall) is zapped back to her child self (Marsai Martin) in this Tina Gordon comedy. PG13. 109M. BROADWAY

MISSING LINK. Zach Galifianakis voices a yeti who enlists a pair of adventurers (Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana) to help him find his kinfolk. PG. 135M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971). Be entertained by children in peril and Gene Wilder not caring. G. 100M. BROADWAY.

Continuing

APOLLO 11. Documentary about the moon mission with Neil Armstong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, who will apparently still punch you in the face if you insist it was faked. G. 93M. MINIPLEX.

THE BEST OF ENEMIES. Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell star in a dramatization of civil rights activist Ann Atwater going toe to toe with the head of the KKK in North Carolina in 1971. BROADWAY. PG13. 132M.

BIRDS OF PASSAGE. Drama about an indigenous family's disastrous entanglement with a drug war in Colombia. Starring Carmiña Martínez and José Acosta. In Spanish and Wayuu with subtitles. NR. 125M. MINIPLEX.

CAPTAIN MARVEL. Brie Larson's superheroine is literally down-to-earth in a refreshing '90s-era origin story that thankfully takes a break from Marvel's massive scale and delivers more focused action and story. With baby-faced Samuel L. Jackson. PG13. 124M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

DUMBO. Tim Burton's live-action and CG remake of the flying elephant story. With Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito. PG. 152M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

FIVE FEET APART. Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse star as young people with cystic fibrosis conducting a romance around their quarantines. PG13. 116M. BROADWAY.

SHAZAM! An adolescent foster kid (Asher Angel) turns into the D.C. comic superhero (Zachary Levi) in the red suit and cape. PG13. 132M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

UNPLANNED. Anti-abortion drama from the director of God's Not Dead and God's Not Dead 2. BROADWAY.

US. Writer/director Jordan Peele's excellent, genre-expanding horror movie about a family beset by their creepy doubles is a grotesque dance with the self and the other that also manages charm and humor. Starring Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke. R. BROADWAY, MINOR.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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