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Monday, October 08, 2012

Pet Sematary

First things first...I would like to take the time to wish everyone in Canada a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that as you are reading this entry, your stomachs are filled with turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and any other goodies that one enjoys on the dinner table.  I know that I have turkey leftovers on one side, and a bottle of Cherry Pepto-Bismol on the other as I write this entry right now.

You know, Thanksgiving is all about spending time with your family and friends, breaking bread, sharing plates of food, and just enjoying the company of each other.  As I grow older, I am incredibly grateful for every holiday that I can spend with my own family members, as I realize that having moments where all of us are together will become rarer and rarer as we all age.

I talked about this in my blog last Thanksgiving (which you can read HERE if you’re interested), but one of my favourite Thanksgiving memories involves having all of my mom’s family at my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.  It was early October 1991 (remember, I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving), and my grandmother wanted to make sure that we all had the best Thanksgiving ever.  My grandmother and mother made almost all of the dishes that year, and everyone left well-fed, and with lots of grand memories.  It still doesn’t make sense to me that less than a month later, my grandmother would pass away of a sudden heart attack at the age of 66.

Even though it has been twenty-one years since her passing, there’s not a minute that I wish that she was still here.  She would have been 87 years old had she lived, and I’m sure that she would have loved to have met her great-grandchildren (the children of my siblings)...the great-grandchildren that she never had a chance to meet.

I’ll admit that there is a part of me that does wish that she could come back, if only for one holiday celebration.  But I suppose in some way, she is here in spirit.  After all, any time my mother makes my grandmother’s recipe for Jam-Jams (cookies filled with raspberry or strawberry jam), it’s almost as if Grandma is right there in the room with all of us.

I mean, I certainly wouldn’t go to the lengths that Louis Creed went to in order to bring back a departed loved one. 

Now, this is the part of the blog where I suspect some of you are wondering “who is Louis Creed”?  Good question.  He happens to be the main character of the book/movie that we’re going to be looking at today.  Granted, this book/movie has absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving...if anything it’s more of a Halloween movie.  But, since Halloween is coming up soon, I figure it’s worth it.

Stephen King wrote the novel “Pet Sematary” way back in 1983, and it was very successful, even winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1984.

And on April 21, 1989, the book became a movie.

“Pet Sematary” was directed by Mary Lambert.  It was her second feature film where she was credited as director.  Prior to that, she directed music videos for Madonna, Janet Jackson, Chris Isaak, Debbie Harry, Whitney Houston, and Sting.  And, “Pet Sematary” did fairly well at the box office, making five times its budget.

The movie starred Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Brad Greenquist, and the late Fred Gwynne.

In quite a few cases, the ideas that Stephen King came up with for the books he wrote were inspired from real life events, and “Pet Sematary” was no exception.  When he and his family were living in the community of Orington, Maine, his daughter’s cat was killed on the highway, which really upset her.  And, this event was what kicked off the events of “Pet Sematary” in both the film and the book.

For argument’s sake, we’ll be discussing the film, but one thing that I will say is that in my opinion, the film does follow the book quite accurately.

The Creed family moves to a brand new house that is situated along a highway where high speed truckers often speed down the road.  (The book specifically names the town that the Creed family move to is Ludlow, Maine).  The Creed family is Dr. Louis Creed (Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Crosby), and their children, Ellie and Gage (Berdahl and Hughes).  It doesn’t take long for the Creed family to make friends with their neighbours, as Louis befriends the elderly man across the street, Jud Crandall (Gwynne).

Jud shows the family the pet cemetery that is located behind their house (which is misspelled as “Pet Sematary”), and tells them that it is where the majority of children bury their deceased pets who died on the highway.  This causes some friction between Louis and Rachel, as Rachel doesn’t feel it is appropriate to discuss death in front of the children (it is explained in the book that Rachel was forced to watch the slow, painful death of her sister, Zelda, from spinal meningitis).

Shortly after the excursion to the pet cemetery, Louis Creed’s life begins to spiral out of control.  When Victor Pascow (Greenquist) is brought in to the medical center that Louis works at after being hit by a truck, Louis tries his best to save his life.  Before Louis can do anything, the head trauma Pascow has sustained prove too much, and he dies.  But before he expires, he grabs Louis and tells him that he will “come” to him.

Later that night, Louis has a rather strange vision of Victor Pascow, who warns him about the dangers of the pet cemetery near his house, and tells him not to venture past a certain point in the cemetery.  At first, Louis believes that it is all a dream...but can’t quite explain why he has dirt all over his feet when he wakes up.

Shortly after that, Rachel takes Ellie and Gage to Chicago to visit her parents, and while they are gone, a truck ends up running over and killing Church, the family pet.  Louis is devastated and heartbroken, and is absolutely sick to his stomach wondering how he is going to tell his daughter that their cat was dead.

Now here’s where things get a little bit creepy.  Jud takes Louis and the dead cat to the pet cemetery where he reveals that there is a section of the cemetery that was an ancient Micmac burial ground which supposedly has the power to bring dead things back to life.  With Jud’s instructions, Louis buries the cat in the cemetery and constructs a cairn, hoping that this will bring Church back to life.

The following day, Church magically comes back to the Creed residence, and at first, all seems well.  But Church isn’t exactly the same cat he used to be.  He moves a lot slower, he was much moodier, and he had the disgusting stench of decomposition lingering around him.  It was as if Church was alive, but dead.  Sort of like a zombie cat, only without the brain eating.

Louis is obviously disturbed by the whole thing, and starts second guessing his decision.  But Jud explained that he did the same thing when he was twelve years old after his dog Spot passed away.  Louis then asks Jud if a human being has ever been buried there, but Jud, almost acting offended by the question, coldly tells Louis that it isn’t possible.

Tragically, when Gage Creed accidentally wanders onto the highway while flying a kite, he gets run over by a truck and dies instantly.  Rachel, Ellie, and Louis are inconsolable, and suddenly the bizarre idea passes through Louis’ mind of burying Gage in the Micmac burial ground in hopes that he will come back to life just like Church did.  Jud strongly advises against the idea, saying that no good can come from bringing back the dead, even citing the example of Timmy Bateman, who ended up terrorizing the town shortly after his reanimation.  Jud tells Louis that “sometimes, dead is better.”

Still, when Rachel and Ellie take off towards Chicago for another visit with Rachel’s parents, Louis’ mind is completely gone, and he ignores common sense in the wake of getting his son back.  So Louis makes the decision to bury his son in the same place where he buried Church.  And, sure enough, Gage comes back to life.

But Jud’s haunting warning soon rears its ugly head...and before the night is over, two more will lose their lives, and Louis ends up in the battle of his life, as well as his sanity.  Who will prevail?  I won’t spoil the ending for any of you, but I will tell you that it is a bit of a surprise, and is left ambiguous so that you can use your imagination in regards to what happens.

I’ll tell you one thing.  I was nine years old when I saw this movie for the first time, and I was so freaked out by it that I couldn’t watch the ending of the movie for at least a decade, and I had nightmares for about one month straight.  It certainly is not a movie that I would recommend for kids.  But after waiting ten years to watch the movie again for a school project, I will admit that it was worth getting over the fear, because the ending was quite satisfying.  Some of you will agree, and others won’t.  But, if anything, this movie certainly makes me think twice about burying anything in the ground again.

In fact, after watching this movie, cremation doesn’t sound like a bad way to go out.

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