I need to preface this by saying I do not read books if I’ve already seen the movie. It’s difficult for me to go in to a book when I already know what happens. That being said, I do make it a point to attempt to read a book first before watching the movie adaptation.
This was not the case with Pet Sematary. I saw the 1990 movie (probably on USA) sometime when I was a kid. I don’t really remember NOT knowing this story. And yet, I still felt compelled to read the book.
This was probably the best decision I could have made.
I was worried that this book would terrify me. I was worried it would keep me up at night. That hasn’t been the case (maybe because I went in to it already knowing what happens) but that doesn’t make it any less effective.
Pet Sematary is the definition of a slow burn. The first “reveal” hits you at around 150 pages. The heart-racing, horrific parts don’t really start until page 495 (or maybe 200 pages earlier, if you’re a parent). But this is quintessential King. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as an introduction to King’s writing, but it’s a must-read for any fan of his works, or any fan of horror.
[spoilery comments ahead, proceed with caution!]
I did feel a little bit of sadness for stinky, clumsy, undead Church. No one wanted to hold him. No one wanted to pet him. Louis kicked him a few times. That’s another way to see that “sometimes…dead is better.”
At it’s core, Pet Sematary is a novel about grief. Of course a parent would do anything – ANYTHING – to bring their toddler back from the dead. It’s profoundly sad. The true horror isn’t the Wendigo, or the shell of a person (or pet) that comes back from the dead – it’s loss. It’s the gruesome deaths of Church and Gage that will keep you up at night.
Is it grief that drives Louis insane? Or something supernatural? I’d like to think it’s a bit of both.