Pet Sematary directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer discuss adapting Stephen King and more in recent interview.
Pet Sematary is the latest Stephen King adaptation to sink our teeth into and it looks like we’re dealing with one the year’s biggest success stories within the horror genre. King’s 1983 novel tells the story of a family who attempts to cheat death and bring back a dearly departed family member. Many regard it as the master of horror’s scariest book to date, and the trailers suggest that directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer really want this to translate to their interpretation. Mary Lambert‘s 1989 feature-film adaptation of Pet Sematary definitely warrants an update, and it seems that critics agree.
The film has earned very favourable reviews, and audiences yet to see it are sold as a result of some very effective marketing. When the first trailer arrived, many fans of King’s novel immediately began to speculate whether Kölsch and Widmyer’s vision would be definitive. Honestly, the signs are very promising so far, and subsequent trailers have been successful in intriguing potential audiences.
The directors are foremostly known for their underrated 2014 horror Starry Eyes, which some genre fans regarded as one of the best films of that year. They also contributed to Holidays, a 2016 anthology film, but it seems that Pet Sematary will be their biggest success to date, hopefully opening up many doors for these two ambitious craftsmen. In a recent South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) interview with Fresh Fiction journalist Preston Barta, both Kölsch and Widmyer sat down to discuss the film. The full interview can be accessed below:
“What was really important to us was just staying true to the essence of the book, but also making something that was for today,” reveals Kölsch. “Like, Pet Sematary is a very universal tale. It deals with grieving and it deals with death.” He’s right, as the film taps into something which is important to and concerns us all. These key themes have been explored in cinema since the very beginning, and it’s important that filmmakers continue to explore them in creative new ways.
Later on in the discussion, Barta offers his take: “There’s certain images in this film that I feel, like, really call attention to the stuff that he [Stanley Kubrick] was doing in The Shining.” Of course, Kubrick’s 1980 horror film was an adaptation of King’s novel of the same name. It’s often considered the best King adaptation, despite the author’s well-documented disdain for it. So, whenever King’s source material is adapted, The Shining always comes up in conversation; critics, filmmakers and audiences alike simply cannot resist.
In this case, it’s really high praise, as it seems that Kubrick was – as he is on many – a huge inspiration in mind when the pair were sculpting the tone of the film. Kolsch begins to respond: “There’s certain images in this film that happen that I feel…” However, he’s soon interrupted by his co-director – Widmyer – unbuttoning his shirt to slightly reveal a Stanley Kubrick t-shirt, almost as a badge of honour. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words; as we expect to find out soon in Pet Sematary.
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