Pet Sematary (film)

I really honestly thought that I had a review of this movie up on the blog but I can’t find it now, so if I do, well, then I guess they’ll be two of them.

I remember that this was a movie that confused me greatly when I was a child because my father would never let it be aired in the house. So I grew up thinking that the movie was actually about pets. Then as a college student, I both saw the film and read the novel (and it was one of the few times that I actually preferred the movie)-but the movie wasn’t all that terrifying either.

It wasn’t until I was well into my late twenties that the movie actually became scary to me, once the subtext became more obvious to me. One of the nastier aspects of mortality is that you have to experience death before you really understand how pivotal and how final death actually is-which is sort of the point of the film, isn’t it?

I find it hard to write about movies this popular in the genre because what is there to say about them, really? As an adult I can fully understand what it is that scares my father so much. It’s not just the lose of a child that makes this movie so scary-it’s the suggestion that when you’re gone, the people still here will be so unwilling to give up their hold on you as to bring you back from wherever you were. But you really were supposed to be there; that’s the nature of humanity, to be fleeting and transitory. I don’t make that argument lightly, I actually find that being aware of how short life is gives life that much more depth.

This is one of those movies where in rewatching it I find new parts of the argument, and as I get more involved with death positivity and more interested in the end of life cycle, one of the things that hits me is just how much in denial the people in this town are of their own deaths. Just the mention of the word death throws Rachel Creed into a frenzy, and Louis Creed would rather engage in what amounts to necromancy than to simply tell his daughter that their cat is dead.

The psychopomp role in the film is fulfilled by Jud-who knows full well why the dead should stay down even as he reluctantly teaches Louis about the burial ground. He knows that this shouldn’t be done but he knows that he can’t stop the pursuit anyway. It is Rachel whoever that really does personify our feelings on death as a culture-we don’t want pain, we want those who are ill to just die (the discussion of her relationship with her sister Zelda) because to be ill or dying is to be shameful, but we just can’t talk about it anyway. Or maybe we can’t talk about it because to die and to be mortal is to put a burden on those around us. And Louis, for all of his misguided empathy throughout the film, is more concerned about his wife’s emotional state than the fact that Zelda was treated as such a terrible secret.

On a lighter note, I notice new minor details on every new watch through. Louis is reading a book of E. Nesbit stories-a writer who is mostly known for her work on and for children, but who also wrote horror shorts in a style that actually meshes very well with King’s aesthetic.

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2 comments

  1. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this movie. I read the book too.

    Funny, I never thought of them as zombies. LOL

    I had a hard time understanding why the characters reactions to death were so extreme. Looking back now, maybe it was because I had already experienced the death of loved ones so many times.

  2. Pet Sematary is one of my favorite Stephen King books! The movie, I liked less (though Gage’s antics at the end did creepy me out thoroughly), but I in general tend to like Stephen King movies, specifically, less than the book.

    I think when people lose somebody, especially in the “lost too soon” context, especially to some terrible random accident, they very frequently want there to be a way to “take it back”. A vehicular accident is somehow far more of a terrible robbery than an illness. It’s so sudden and there’s no way to prepare for it, because even though in theory one prepares for it each time they get behind the wheel and turn they key, one never thinks it’ll happen, not really.

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