Why not before?
I’ve had a long-time fascination with Stephen King, but my track record of actually reading his books and watching the films based on them hasn’t exactly been great. I’ve read Carrie, his memoir, On Writing, and a few of his short stories. I’ve also seen both versions of Carrie, The Shining, and the highly underrated 1408. Much to my shame, that’s about it.
I’m fairly certain that I had the plot of Pet Sematary half explained to me at a very young age and the idea of animals coming back from the dead scared me a little bit. It’s also one of those films that came out when I was very young, and was never quite prominent enough that it ever made it to the top of my “to-watch” list.
Well for one thing I’ve decided to take action and find redemption for my previous crimes against Mr King. I’m about a third of the way through the book of Pet Sematary and am greatly enjoying it (despite knowing the ending already). Also, it is the end of Women in Horror Month, and not too many people are aware that the film adaptation of Pet Sematary was directed by a woman, Mary Lambert. I’m always in favour of killing multiple undead birds with one stone, so this seemed like the opportune moment to watch it.
- Something pretty faithful to the book. After all, King wrote the screenplay
- Some nice atmosphere, it was made in the 80s after all.
- A horror film that maybe isn’t amazing, but a good and solid work.
What I Actually got:
Pretty spot on as far as what I expected, but with a few surprises.
Firstly there were some really lovely shots. One that caught my eye in particular was of the ghostly Pascow disappearing into the trees as he leads Louis to the Sematary. In fact that entire sequence is well done. I also really liked the make-up effects on the dead characters. They’re gruesome in a way that’s detailed, but not too over the top.
The scenes with Zelda, Rachel Creed’s sick sister, are unnerving in a way that I wasn’t prepared for and are some of the most memorable of the film. I knew I was in for zombie kitty cats, but a twisted, insane girl played by a man? Not so much.
The film was also a lot more heart wrenching than I expected, particularly the latter half dealing with the death of Gage and Louis’ serious downward mental spiral. As you go into the finale you know how badly it’s all going to go down, and that build up really gives you the emotional punch you need for it to work.
The entire cast is solid, but I have to give a special mention to Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall. Apparently he was Mary Lambert’s first and only choice for the role, and he really does embody the fatherly neighbour role perfectly. I think this is one of the areas where Stephen King’s script and Lambert’s directing really came together. There are moments in the film that are a direct translation of the book that work so well I could almost hear the text in my head. I’d be interested to see King’s screenplay, just to see the process from the novel’s text to the finished film.
If I had to find fault with the film, I would say that it has those cheesy moments that bring unintentional laughs. It is also a very condensed version of the book and is fast paced to the point that I actually wish they could have slowed down a little to let certain moments breathe a little.
One off or second date potential?
I can definitely see myself watching this again. Maybe not often, but when I expand my sampling of King adaptations and have a little marathon, this could make for a nice addition to the line-up.