With the 30th anniversary of Pet Sematary arriving, it’s time to ask a very important question: which version of Zelda is the best – the one from 1989 or the one from 2019?
Thirty years ago, Director Mary Lambert unleashed Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (read our retro review here) upon the world in film form. Critics didn’t always get it, but for some, it was an instant classic. To be sure, one of my favorite memories of the original film is Zelda, played by Andrew Hubatsek — a man! The gaunt and haunting sister of Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby) left a mark on some impressionable minds back in 1989. While I didn’t have an intense reaction to the Zelda scenes, my younger brother did. In fact, she’s probably one of the few horror characters that scared him as a kid.
Honestly, that fact helps me appreciate the character, and 1989’s Pet Sematary, a lot more. Any film, book or song that can give somebody the creepy-crawlies must possess some kind of power, right? Obviously, for some people, there was just no way to match that level of performance in the contemporary film. Still, it’s fair to ask: How does this year’s version of Zelda (Alyssa Brooke Levine) measure up? This Zelda may be new, but is she improved?
Is My Bias Merely Nostalgia?
For me, there’s barely a comparison between the new Zelda and the old one. Lambert’s version has a way of lingering with me, like a sickly mucous clinging to my brain. While Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer did a decent job with the new film (read our review here), the Zelda scenes fell a little flat for me. For one thing, the original had an unbridled intensity to it. The new one is restrained, feeling more like a mere side character. She’s also somewhat more sympathetic, while the original character feels more like a movie monster (which, to me, is sort of the point of the scene).
Good Things About the New Zelda
I’ll try to be open-minded and fair here, and consider why some people might prefer the new one. The best reason I can come up with is that — as weird as this sounds— the new Zelda seems more plausible. For her to be less overtly menacing makes her more like an average person suffering chronic pain. In a way, the somewhat more sympathetic depiction could make the scenes more terrifying. It implies that this Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) may be projecting her own fears onto her sister, making her scarier than she probably was. It perhaps gets more at the roots of psychological horror.
I personally like both versions of Pet Sematary, and find it an odd task of comparing/contrasting one single character from both films. However, in a few ways, the original definitely comes out on top. I do believe the initial Zelda is freakier overall, and more likely to send you screaming into the night. I could go on about the different characters and performances in each movie, but Zelda just seemed like an appropriate focus due to her nightmare fuel potential.
Whichever Zelda I prefer, I am pleased with both films overall. They both capture unique elements from the original story. I definitely plan to own Pet Sematary (2019), and I see no reason why I can’t find additional freaky elements to Zelda and other characters. Obviously, I’ll have to show my brother this article, and see if Zelda can still send a shiver up his spine.
Which Pet Sematary Zelda is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!