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Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’: An Underrated Horror

With the immense popularity of 2017’s ‘IT’, it seems like every Stephen King novel is getting the thumbs-up for TV and movie adaptions, and rightfully so. Earning 700.4 million dollars at the box office, IT smashed records, becoming the highest grossing horror film of all time. However, ‘Pennywise the Dancing Clown’ isn’t the only infamous character to have come out of Stephen King’s novels. Characters such as Cujo (Cujo), Annie Wilkes (Misery), Kurt Barlow (‘Salem’s Lot), Jack Torrance (The Shining) and the unfortunate Carrie White (Carrie) have terrified adults and children alike for generations. It’s not exactly surprising that the adorable and yet horrifyingly evil Gage Creed seems to have caught Hollywood’s eye.

To anyone who hasn’t read the books, this new movie probably appears to be your average 21st century horror movie. Eerie music? Check! Creepy kids? Check! Creepy masks? Check! Anybody who’s read the book knows there’s a whole lot more to this story than you’re average horror, but does the trailer really do the book justice? Can any of these Pet Sematary movies really to the original novel justice?

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Pet Sematary, a novel written by Stephen King in 1983, tells the story of the Creed family; a seemingly perfect couple – Louis and Rachel – with two beautiful young children – Gage and Ellie. After moving to Maine, the Creeds try their best to settle into their new homes before coming across their Maine-native neighbour Jud Crandall who introduces them to the rural pathway which leads to – you guessed it – the Pet Sematary. Spoiler alert, it turns out to be home to an ancient Native American burial ground, cursed to bring anything that’s buried in it’s soil back to life. However, when Louis’ youngest son Gage is hit in a terrible road accident, Louis faces a dilemma: either bring back his son or lose him forever.

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Sure, it has blood and gore. What kind of Stephen King book would it be if it didn’t? But this novel is, surprisingly enough, one of the few true psychological horrors. Instead of playing around with the idea of the carnage an army of the dead could inflict on the living, Stephen King chooses to keep the novel’s focus purely on the Creed family, showing us the inner working’s of the Creed family father-figure, Louis Creed. Instead of revelling in the gore, we’re exposed to the power of grief and it’s horrifying manipulation of the human mind.

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The classic 1989 Pet Sematary adaption, directed by Mary Lambert, did admittedly make some attempt to catch the psychological trauma Stephen King’s original novel depicts. However, there’s an overwhelming ‘horror movie’ cliche theme to just about every scene that, although these same scenes were depicted in the novel, weren’t adjusted to the silver screen in quite the same way. Instead of a slow, spooky ambiance, the film is too predictable. Instead of taking the time to show Louis’ extreme grief in the loss of his son, the film instantly jumps to Louis choosing to bury Gage in the Pet Sematary… right after being told that everything that’s buried in the Pet Sematary turns bad and seeing those consequences for himself after reviving Church the cat.

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Stephen King’s novels are notoriously long for a reason. They’re long because King himself puts a great amount of effort into assuring that his characters are well fleshed out, flawed, and usually well motivated (in terms of the heroes, of course). Louis Creed is told, after being introduced to the Pet Sematary for the very first time, that not all things that are buried in the Pet Sematary are revived as ‘bad’. Many of the revived actually went on to live their lives just as they had before they’d died, lacking in any or all negative side effects such as a ‘dead’ smell and aggressive-natured behaviour. This way, the actions of the grief-struck Louis don’t seem quite as ridiculous – there’s a high chance his son will come back to life completely normal. It makes readers think to themselves: would I do something like that if I were in that situation? Would I be willing to take that risk?

And how about the new Pet Sematary coming out this year? Well, after seeing this trailer a few times, I’m honestly a little disappointed. With the infamy of films such as ‘Searching’, ‘Hush’, ‘Get Out’ and ‘The Babadook’, it seems that experimental films are becoming more and more well-received. We’re coming to a time where the film industry has become heavily over-saturated with similar stories of heroes and action, and it’s only natural for audiences to want something a little bit different. But 2019’s Pet Sematary, a film which could’ve made an excellent experimental psychological horror, appears yet again to have taken the lazy way out. With creepy kids in animal masks (where-ever that idea came from) and the typical ‘evil little girl’ twist that a majority of horror movies take (The Grudge, The Ring, Insidious, The exorcist ect), it just comes across as your average horror flick.

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Although, I guess we can’t judge it too hard just yet. With more sneak-peaks to come and the movie still to be released, we may just be in for a surprise.

 

 

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