Comparison between the 4K remastered version 2019 (included on both the 4K-Blu-ray and the 2019 Blu-ray release) and the original version (included on the 2012 Blu-ray and earlier DVDs/VHS editions)
30 Years of PET SEMATARY in (home) cinema
In 1983, Stephen King wrote Pet Sematary and the story has been adapted for the big screen three times so far. Apart from Pet Sematary 2 which was made in 1992 and is only loosely based on the original and of course the new film version released in cinemas in April 2019, the first film version of the Pet Sematary (1989) has of course always been in demand as a fan favorite.
In 2019, marketed in some places as "30th Anniversary Edition", the first film was released on 4K Blu-ray and luckily for the studio, this coincides with the start of the remake. In addition to the UHD premiere, a Blu-ray edition was released in a very chic steelbook and is based on the same 4K-remastered version. In the bonus material of both releases you can find a small featurette in which director Mary Lambert enthusiastically indicates that she used the chances of digital progress in the new restoration to polish up a few scenes. This makes film fans and especially readers of our site look up and take notice, because there are several unforgettable examples of such “improvements” in other famous films, such as DVDs & Blu-rays of the Star Wars series (see our various comparisons) or the weapons-adjusted Special Edition of E.T. James Cameron was also often busy with HD premieres, most recently with the 4K remastered 3D re-release of Terminator 2 where he made some digital changes.
And yes: Lambert has also made a few adjustments for Pet Sematary (1989), which sometimes just eradicate goofs but are also worth discussing. So what exactly can buyers of the 2019 Blu-ray/4K Blu-ray expect? Here is a summary: Less than it might seem here in this article and in sum, the adjustments are quite positive and serve the atmosphere of the movie. If you value better picture quality, you can't avoid the 2019 edition anyway – just check out the picture comparison at Caps-a-holic.
Changes in the 4K-Remastered Version (2019)
First of all, there are a few film errors that have been eliminated. Above all, one adjustment stands out: At minute 42, all previous versions recycled an aerial shot of the cemetery while Jud and Louis can be seen in the background. Actually, this shot obviously comes from a scene a few minutes before when they had actually visited it. But here it's just a short cut after a shock moment (death of Missy Dandridge) after the two left the cemetery long ago, so that – dramaturgically - it doesn't make any sense to see them walking around there. But now, the picture isn't only darkened a bit and the movement has been digitally changed, but also the two characters are removed so that the goof is eliminated. Purists may argue about it, but basically such a change is in the viewer's interest.
As is well known, the deceased student Pascow appears as a ghost and thus leads father Louis to the cemetery first. Later, he accompanies Mrs. Rachel during the car ride. While it’s debatable whether the first scene was digitally altered, it is clear for the second scene. Originally, a line from copying his character into the picture can be seen. It is now invisible and a realistic shadow was added, as well. Again: it’s actually a subtle change that just benefits the film. There really isn't any exaggerated gimmickry.
The fact that the colouring of a few scenes differs has already been discussed somewhat more heatedly in German and international forums. From the cemetery it suddenly doesn't shine blue anymore, but almost black and white or at least grayish. In the surrounding area it's noticeable that the cemetery has been separated from "reality" by additional lighting. On top of that, the sky is now suddenly red-purple instead of blue during a visit during the day. Here, too, the basic idea is actually clear: the burial place was supposed to appear a little more mystical. So it wasn't just playing around aimlessly with the colours and the accompanying atmosphere, but one can already recognize an intention following the dramaturgy.
A change that occurs several times revolve around the cat eyes of Church, because in his resurrected form they were colored in bright yellow. The effect is clear and goes along with the just mentioned point: it all seems a bit more threatening and supernatural. Of course, the HDR treatment also benefits the 4K disc, but also the "regular" Blu-ray from 2019 (which was also used for the following comparison) does offer this effect and it’s impressive. In this context, it is interesting to note that in the old Making Of "The Characters", which is only included on the Blu-ray, it is mentioned that a special camera lens was used for these recordings, with which the yellow glow of the eyes could be controlled almost arbitrarily. Unfortunately, this handmade fine-tuning is a bit of a thing of the past. However, this way, some short moments where the eyes either didn't light up at all or were partly greenish instead of yellow by mistake were also eradicated in an understandable way.
Last but not least, the sharpness/blur effect in the flashback scene with Zelda should be mentioned. It is more difficult to capture on screenshots than the other adjustments, but the same motto applies here as well. By increasing the sharpness on Rachel’s face, while she remembers the event, and the light blur effect surrounding her, the scene (in contrast to the old version, which is a bit blurry throughout) looks a bit more like a fever dream and intensifies the creepy atmosphere. Also, this is actually a rather subtle change or not as obvious as it might sound in this description.
Runtimes are displayed in the following order: 2019 Blu-ray (identical to 4K Blu-ray) / 2012 Blu-ray
The old Blu-ray starts insignificant 1.8 sec later.
20:01 / 20:03
When Pascow disappears from the door frame, it has been slightly reworked and the shimmering effect can be seen a little better, especially on the legs.
It is hardly noticeable and could also simply be a basic part of the new scanning. Mary Lambert explicitly mentions in the new featurette that optical effects were partly adapted and two later scenes with Pascow are shown. Presumably there was some reworking here, as well.
21:30-21:36 / 21:32-21:38
This is also an instance that one could consider as just standard procedure during the restoration process but which is a bit conspicuous nonetheless. When Pascow leads Louis across the path, it was brightened on the left side , while the forest with Louis on the right is even darker.
Generally, the picture of the 2019 version is a little bit darker, so that the adjustment on the left side is the most striking thing: Apparently the way to the cemetery was supposed to look a bit more mystical.
22:30-22:33 / 22:32-22:35
After Pascow has shown Louis the way to the entrance, a light flashes from the entrance. In the old version this was still bluish, in the 4K-remastered version it was colored almost black and white.
29:12-30:39 / 29:14-30:41
During the last steps to the Indian burial place, the sky was quite clearly changed in color. It appears in mystical purple now.
After the evening has set in, the picture looks the same again and/or has a reddish touch from this moment on just as it is the case with the old version.
34:10-34:12 / 34:12-34:14
While itís even more obvious in later shots, it can also be seen here: When Louis finds the revived Church for the first time, its yellow eyes were reworked or now shine much more strongly/threatening.
38:42-38:50 / 38:44-38:52
After Louis was surprised with the rat in the bathtub, Church's eyes have been reworked again. This is particularly noticeable in the first shot, as the effect in the old version was only visible on one eye.
41:38-41:42 / 41:40-41:44
After Missy Dandridge has hanged herself, you can see the cemetery again from above. Here, the picture of the 2019 version was colored almost black and white again. Above all, however, a goof has been cleaned up and the persons (Louis & Jud) still that are still recognizable in the upper right corner have been removed. The picture was taken about 15 minutes before, but in the meantime both of them have returned long ago and never belonged there.
On top of that, there was a slight panning in the old version. With the new version, the perspective remains the same instead, but the graves on the ground shift or wander a little.
Hereís the part with the two persons in the right corner again. Quite well recognizable in this detail view: The shadows were simply left there.
43:05-43:07 + 43:44-43:47 / 43:07-43:09 + 43:46-43:48
Pretty obvious in the first shot here: the eyes of Church were clearly receiving a little colorizing help.
45:04-46:41 / 45:06-46:43
When Rachel remembers the time with the sick sister Zelda, the sharpness was increased even more. While the whole shot has a blur in the old version, the 2019 version only has the blur "around it". The face of young Rachel is consistently sharp, while the surroundings are still blurred. Even Zelda is clearer than in the old version, but not as sharp as Rachel.
It's a bit hard to see with the compressed picture size and even a section of the picture would only clarify this unsatisfactory. In the Blu-ray.com forum, you can find a few uncompressed screenshots including a description of the changes to this scene. In any case, both the film grain and the blur effect were applied specifically to parts of the image. It was probably the intention to increase the POV effect or make it clearer that you can see this flashback from Rachel's point of view, so that it is clearly recognizable and only the surroundings are a bit distorted. However, the fact that the neighboring children can also be seen sharply towards the end of the scene speaks against this, see last picture.
At the end of the 54th minute, the cat yelps a bit when she is lying on Rachel's bed. But here the eyes also look almost completely yellow in the old version, so that we didn't count this as a change.
72:16-72:41 / 72:18-72:43
When Louis enters the forest again, the bluish tone was changed to a greyish one. This is particularly noticeable in the lower part of the picture.
74:38-74:47 / 74:40-74:49
As already indicated with the very first deviation: When Pascow appears here as a dimmed fade-in behind Rachel's car, this was somewhat revised. In the old version, you could still see a line from the copied part on the car roof, now the transition is much more "normal". On top of that, the 2019 version also features the mirror image of Pascow on the car roof.
Here again the part with Pascow (transition to the car roof & shadow on it) in close-up:
80:47-81:36 / 80:49-81:38
When Jud gets his heel cut by the revived Gage, Church's eyes were reworked to a clearer yellow tone. In the last shot, one eye of the old version shimmered in green, but now everything is uniform.
82:51-82:54 / 82:53-82:56
At the meeting between Church and Rachel on the veranda, you can still see the pupils in contrast to the aforementioned shots - but the surrounding area was still helped again with yellow.
88:46-89:13 / 88:48-89:15
And for the last time there was only a discreet, but definitely existing color change in several pictures with visible cat eyes.
When Church dies shortly afterwards, it was no longer "yellowed up".
The featurette with Lambert's commentary on revised optical effects also shows the scene from the 96th minute when Louis Rachel's corpse is carried by Pachow, who is standing in the way. Here, however, no deviations can be identified in a single-frame comparison.