” Along the other, he saw some sort of monster emerging from the woods behind the house. He had accepted so much that he did not balk at the idea of monsters, or even of daemons, discorporeal beings of evil from the outerworld which might well take charge of a reanimated body from which the original soul had fled. ” (Ch.44, p.420)
After reading Pet Sematary, my second Stephen King book, it’s safe for me to say that King delivers more than just a masterful handling of conventions in his genre. His books give me pleasure above and beyond the entertainment of a good scare. He knows that we live in an over-stimulated and frightening world, so death, disease, and mere allusion to ghosts would hardly have a grip on our attention. In Pet Sematary, King creates chilling invention out of innocuous object, a cat named Church, that is, not quite a cat anymore.
And, really, it wasn’t—except he knew that now the letter would never be written because the parade has a way of moving on, and tomorrow would bring something new. But he had bought that he, hadn’t he? The rat that Church had brought in, surely clawed to bloody ribbons, its intestines dragging, its head perhaps gone. (Ch.33, p.288)
Into a beautiful old house in rural Maine the Creeds move. Louis Creed is a physician in his mid-30s, the job at the university infirmary has relocated him, his wife, his 5-year-old daughter and his infant son from Chicago to Ludlow. A path at the end of his property leads to a pet cemetery and it’s annex, a swamp that was an Indian burial ground rich with possibility and textured with strength. As a doctor he thinks he accepts death, but it’s an unexamined, shallow-rooted acceptance. What he cannot bear is his wife’s and daughter’s fear of death, a fear precipitated by a visit to the cemetery. When the family cat is killed by a truck, the old man from across the road takes Louis into the woods and shows him the town’s dark secret, a truth that is more terrifying than death itself. When the beast comes back to life, it’s hardly an animal, more a reanimated body from which the original soul had fled. The rest of the story is obvious, but not the least grisly and truly scary at times: Louis Creed will inevitably bring back a person with catastrophic consequences for all.
His screams echoed and racketed shrilly through this house where now only dead lived and walked. Eyes bulging, face livid, hair standing on end, he screamed; the sounds came from his swollen throat, like the bells of hell, terrible shrieks that signaled the end of not of love but of sanity; in his mind all the hideous images were suddenly unloosed at once. (Ch.61, p.545)
Although I don’t buy the idea that Creed would repeat the resurrection of a person given the state in which the beast returns to life—mean and reeked of stench, the book serves its purpose—a straight-up scare that is strong on dark, depressing chills. The end is predictable, but the force behind the mysterious capabilities of the cemetery that plays these people like a harp from hell is never really addressed or comforted. All I can say is that nature’s will and clock shall not be violated.
562 pp. Pocket Books. Paper. [Read/
Skim/ Toss] [Buy/ Borrow]