This week’s great Stephen King re-read brings me the horror classic, Pet Sematary, which I read in the mid-80s, shortly after I had discovered the prolific writer. I remember greatly enjoying it, and being very unnerved by King’s riff on the famed horror story The Monkey’s Paw.
This time around I was entertained by it, but not quite so engaged as I thought I would be. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, but it just didn’t grab me like it did the first time around. Though there is some very spooky stuff in it to be sure.
Set in Ludlow, Maine,not so very far from Derry, and there is a mention of Cujo, the Creed family moves into a new home so that the patriarch, Louis Creed can work at the local university as their on-campus doctor. With him is his family, wife, Rachel, daughter, Ellie, two year-old Gage, and Ellie’s cat, Church.
Their new neighbor, Jud Crandall is welcoming, and becomes a fast friend, but there is something darker in the woods off their property, something that Lou discovers when Church is killed.
Jud shows Lou a pet cemetery in the woods, and beyond it, something darker, something that lurks, haunts, and terrorizes, and brings Church back to life.
It won’t come as a surprise that Church comes back wrong.
But things get really dark, even by King standards when Gage is killed, and Lou gives into temptation, or perhaps is manipulated by dark forces into taking his dead son to the dark, MicMac burying ground, despite the things he sees and hears.
And Gage comes back wrong…
Everyone remembers the fact that Gage comes back, what they don’t remember is that it doesn’t really happen until near the end of the book, but it does set up a kicker of an ending.
This is one of King’s darkest stories, and it explores the themes of loss, and grief, and the realization that sometimes (let’s be honest most times, especially in a Stephen King novel) dead is better.
Lou is the relatable character, the gateway character for the story, but it is the character of the neighbor, Jud Crandall, whom I love the most. Reading the story, I can visualize this character, I can see him in my mind’s eye, because he’s family. My relations came from down east, in the Maritimes, so there is something very recognizable about the character, and he resonates with me.
Death, grief, loss and terrifying occurrences… I love the stuff that takes place on the dark journey to the burying ground, and it gives us the notion that there is more going on there than we can see… dark forces at work… and they have a plan.
If you haven’t read it, this is definitely a standout King novel, and definitely a dark story. And if you’ve read it before, check it out again, to see where it takes you.