Pet Sematary (15)***

Dirs: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer

With: John Lithgow, Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz

Runtime: 101 minutes

WHY do people in the movies move to the countryside in the hope of a peaceful life? Do they never learn? Here, the latest Bradyesque bunch to up sticks from the big, bad city are the Creeds: doctor dad, mum, two young children, and one cuddly cat, Church.

It is all going terribly well for the first few minutes until it becomes clear that the family’s new house is strangely close to the most dangerous road in the world, and creepy local kids who cannot spell are using part of the property as a pet cemetery. Oh, and did we mention the Native American burial grounds?

Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s adaptation of the Stephen King shocker signals its intentions early on and sticks to the same in your face style. That is not to say there are no genuine, spill your popcorn moments as the family, led by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound) struggles to settle in as disturbing incidents pile up. There to help them is a wise old neighbour, Jud (the always great value John Lithgow, above, with Creed daughter Ellie), who has lived in the area all his life and has some tales to tell.

For dad, a man of science and a former A&E doctor, there is nothing beyond explanation, and when someone or something is dead, that is that. Jud, meanwhile, has his own ideas about the afterlife.

As with any King adaptation, there comes a point when what works on the page doesn’t translate well to the screen, especially when it comes to characters’ motivations. The minute you start asking yourself if people would really behave in such ways, even under enormous pressure, is the moment the spell breaks and reality streams in. There are some pretty unpleasant scenes here, too, and places parents especially will not wish to go.

Still, a brisk, slick if unsubtle take on King that should please a new generation of horror fans who enjoyed the last adaptation of the master’s work, It. Speaking of which, the follow up to Andy Muschietti’s 2017 hit is out in September.