I read a lot. At different stages in my life I’ve always tried to find a consistent window I can dedicate to some pages. Right now it’s on my lunch break. Because I go thru so many books, I don’t always remember them or how I experienced them. I still remember when I read Pet Sematary. And a lot of those books that I’ve read are by Stephen King. This is my favorite of those.
I got thru a huge chunk of the book when I got to be an extra on Stronger. We were left in the holding room for a very long time. That’s when I read the whole bit about the demon cat. Now we know I got two vampire cats of my own. Nosferatu spends most nights in my bed, as long as it’s not too warm out. Lestat rarely did. That night, not only did Lestat sleep in my bed, she stretched out against the length of my leg. Fehr was cuddled up beside my head. I have never been more creeped out by my furbabies.
But not only is the book scary is hell, it’s got hella layers to it. We know I love my horror best when there’s deeper meaning to it, and Pet Sematary is full of it. If you’re not aware of the backstory, it was inspired by an incident in King’s life where he nearly lost his toddler son. The book takes it further and explores how people deal with grief and what happens if you try to avoid it.
Here’s the thing though, and why this is the best example of what King does best, it’s all about the characters. You go thru half the book with only maybe one kidna sorta freaky thing happening. But it doesn’t matter. You get invested in this little family. I would have been perfectly content to see horror-less story play out with them. It makes the scares that much more heightened because you care about what happens to them. You feel it all more. It means more.
All of that is just to background that I know and love this book. I felt like the original adaptation missed the meat of the story and focused on the supernatural. I very much had a high bar set. And I think they came pretty dang close.
So a quick recap. A doctor moves his family from the big city to rural Maine, hoping to slow his life down a bit. On the edge of their property is a burial ground the local children use for their beloved pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Beyond that is a sacred ground of tremendous power that may be home to something sinister.
The film certainly nailed the scares. I saw it in Dolby, which amplifies the sound on all the jumps (especially the 18 wheeler trucks that barrel down the road by the house). Those speakers ensured that my heart was in my throat for the whole film. I heard legit bloodcurdling screams from behind me in the auditorium.
As far as the character work and deeper meaning and all that, I’m a little mixed. I could definitely see the groundwork was there, but the storytelling was a bit rushed. The pace was good in that it kept the movie humming along without a moment wasted, but it didn’t really give you a chance to dwell on what was happening. I hope that people who haven’t read the novel can pick up on the themes and reflect on them later.
A big part of why I have that hope and I believe it can happen is that the cast was phenomenal. I could tell that they knew this material and knew the full weight of what they were trying to convey. As soon as I heard that master actor John Lithgow was cast as kindly neighbor Jud Crandall, I knew he would nail it. Jason Clarke was also the best I’ve ever seen him as the patriarch of the family. He wasn’t just reacting to the moment, he carried everything that happened on the page and the film. Newcomer Jeté Laurence also blew me away, but it’s best not to say too much about what she does.
Even the cat impressed me. He looked just a bit too much like my girl Lestat (who already takes her vampire name way too seriously). Should I be worried?
Pet Sematary – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/