For most families,
moving is a new beginning. But for the Creeds, it could be the beginning
of the end. Because they've just moved in next door to a place that
children built with broken dreams, the Pet Sematary. It's
a tiny patch of land that hides a mysterious Indian burial ground with
the powers of resurrection.
"The soil in a man's heart is stonier."
- Victor Pascow
This 1989 horror
film directed by Mary Lambert is probably one of the best Stephen King
adaptations so far (next to The Shining). The film makers have fully
succeeded in bringing the literary work to life on screen, a task where
many before them have failed. They have managed to capture the essence
of the novel and translate it into images, every single one filled with
emotional complexity. The result is a powerful, intense & highly atmospheric
thrill-ride, a film that is both visually and emotionally perfect, a film
that will leave no-one untouched. The credit for this must first and foremost
go to director Mary Lambert, who handles the subject matter with steady
and skillful hands. But, like with so many things in life, this is also
a team-effort, and it is the combination of different elements, of different
skilled individuals, that makes the film work as a whole. This is a prime
example of a horror film where everything is perfectly timed; All the different
elements, the well-written script by Stephen King, the stylish cinematography/camera
work, the creepy music, the excellent special effects, the convincing direction,
and the great performances, are perfectly balanced and strung together,
and the result stands heads and shoulders above any of the pseudo wanna-be
horror film shit to have come out of Hollywood lately (yes, I´m talking
about "Scream" and it´s numerous sequels and imitations, if you were
plot focuses on a family of four, the Creeds, who have just moved to a
new house out in the seemingly idyllic countryside. The head of the family,
Louis Creed, is a young doctor, probably in his early thirties, who is
just about to start work as an M.D. in the local community (the family´s
reason for moving I guess). The rest of the family consists of Louis´
wife Rachel, a woman haunted by memories from her childhood, and their
two children Ellie and Gage. Unfortunately things start out real bad for
the newcomers: Upon arriving at the house the young daughter falls from
a swing and hurts herself and the young couple´s 3-4 year old son
is almost run over by a truck. Later, on the first day of work, Louis is
confronted with the casualty of a dreadful accident; A young man with his
skull smashed in. The young man dies on the operating table but returns
to haunt Louis in his dreams, warning him against some unknown threat (and
thus foreshadowing events to come). Everything is somehow connected to
a place out in the woods. You see, behind the Creed house there is a path
leading do an old animal cemetery (hence the title), a place of sorrow
and shattered childhood illusions....and, according to one of the characters
in the film, "...a place where the dead speak". After the family´s
cat, Church, has been run over by a truck, Louis and the aging Judd Crandall,
the neighbor, take it to an ancient Indian burial ground beyond the "pet
sematary", a place rumored to have supernatural powers. Of course, the
dead cat returns from the grave, wreaking havoc. Everything goes straight
to hell from here, and the rest of the film is a downwards spiral rarely
seen even in a horror film. While the family are out on a picnic a moment
of negligence results in the death of their son; He stumbles out onto the
highly trafficked road that runs passed their house and is hit by a truck.
Consumed with grief and guilt, Louis decides to bring his son back to life
and he takes him to the ancient Indian graveyard for resurrection. But
something has changed, and when the dead boy returns Louis suddenly realizes
what the old man (Judd Crandall) meant when he said "Sometimes dead is
though admittedly not exceptionally original concept, serves as a framework
for a number of religious and philosophical questions (which are raised
more than once during the course of the film), among others "What lies
beyond death?", "Why do terrible things happen to seemingly innocent people?"
and "Is there a God?". The whole film is an illustration of our own mortality,
or more correctly our reluctance & unwillingness to accept this mortality,
and how everything in life is perishable. A film that intelligently and
profoundly, not shallowly or superficially, explores & examines death
and our understanding of it, our longing for immortality, and how death
can strike suddenly and without warning, leaving a trail of destruction
and personal holocaust in its wake. The overshadowing theme is doubtless
the "fear of death" and the distance we create to it; Our refusal to accept
death as an inescapable destiny, our refusal to accept and overcome the
death of loved ones. But there are other important themes as well; The
questioning and undermining of one´s personal faith (brought forth
but the death of someone close to you and the hatred towards God for this
act of cruelty inflicted upon the innocent), children as being more open
to the supernatural than grown-ups, and children as evil (after all, they
have not yet developed an understanding of life and death, nor a set of
morals). In addition the film examines to what extent we live in &
are ruled by the past, haunted by memories, consumed with grief over loved
ones we have once lost, unable to carry on.
All in all this
is a personal favorite that rates way up there (on my top 10 list that
is), second only to Romero´s "Day of the Dead". A film that
is both emotionally and intellectually challenging, a film that will keep
you on the edge of the seat and leave you fully drained after it´s
over, wishing the illusion would never end. A film that is nothing short
of a horror classic. The performances, especially that of Miko Hughes as
Gage, are incredible, and it´s amazing how realistically this child
actor interacts with the adult actors. Even more amazing though is how
the film makers have succeeded in taking a 4 year old kid, turning him
into one of the most menacing and frightening figures in horror film history.
To sum it all
up: Pet Sematary is a dark, pessimistic & frightening tale filled
with splattery F/X, claustrophobic atmosphere and doomed protagonist. It
is also one of the few films that really makes my skin crawl, and if you´re
a horror fan, seeking it out is obligatory.
| | |
- When Rachel gets off the semi, the numbers "666" are on it.
- Writer Stephen King can be seen as the minister at the funeral.
- The idea for this story came about when Stephen King's daughter's
cat, Smuckey, was killed on the highway outside their home.
- The role of Zelda, Rachael's dying sister, was played by a man. The role
called for her to look emaciated, and apparently there were no women skinny
- 7 cats were used to play the part of "Church."
- Stephen King required the movie to be filmed in Maine and his
screenplay to be followed rigorously.
- The picture at Rachel's parents' house is a painting of Zelda
as a child, before her spinal meningitis. Gage is later seen wearing a
similar outfit (as well as having her red hair) to signify that Zelda has
come back through him, which was Rachel's deepest fear.
- The factory that the truck that hits Gage is leaving from is the
International Paper (formerly Champion Paper) factory in Bucksport, Maine.
filmmakers were concerned for Miko Hughes, so a mechanical doll with animated
facial features was used for several sequences: 1) when Gage is near the
semi which initially kills him 2) when he slices Jud's Achilles tendon
3) when he cuts out his mother's eye 4) when he is given the shot by his
father. The waxy look to the doll's features are particularly noticeable.
Miko himself has said he remembers playing with the doll on set.