Monday, October 16, 2017

Pet Sematary (1989)

Having always shied away from watching this due to obvious concerns of dead/dying animals, tonight I was feeling brave and ventured forth. I was happy to see that there's minimal animal trauma - maybe even less than a normal horror movie!

Directed by Mary Lambert - a woman! Shouldn't be a cause for celebration, but it still is! - this was originally meant to be a Romero flick. Due to delays in filming George had to split on the project, so Lambert stepped in as director of this little beauty, based off of Stephen King's own screenplay.

Fact: Mary Lambert also directed Madonna's "Like A Prayer" video 🙏🏻

Quick Pet Sematary plot summary for anyone such as myself who honestly was clueless about it: A happy family of four (dad Louis, mum Rachel, young daughter Ellie and toddler son Gage) move into an idyllic house in the Maine countryside. The place is lovely - apart from the fact it's directly next to a road that Mack trucks come speeding down with alarming regularity.

They have an old man neighbour across the way, Jud Crendell (Fred Gwynne: Herman Munster!) who helpfully explains to the family that the path they see going into the woods from their backyard leads to a "Pet Sematary" (the sign is misspelled, hence the title is too). The place is pretty cool looking, and being there results in some pondering on death and loss - much to the annoyance of Rachel (Denise Crosby).

She wants to shelter her kids from the subject of death. Seems healthy! Though she does have her reasons...

In any case, when Rachel and the children are visiting her parents for Thanksgiving, the family cat, "Church" - short for Winston Churchill - a gorgeous Russian Blue, gets run over. To spare Ellie the pain of losing her beloved pet, Jud leads Louis through the Pet Sematary and up a hill, emerging at a Native American burial site. 

For reasons not made wholly clear, Jud encourages the burial of the dead moggy here, even though he knows from personal experience that this soil has "sour" resurrection properties.

Louis is like "yeah, right" and then "holy shit!" when Church actually does come back, but this kitty isn't happy and spends the rest of the film hissing with glowy eyes. He's not the cat he was.

So you see where this is going. Young children, speeding trucks, an ancient Indian burial ground? Yup, Church isn't the only being brought back to life during this runtime. But as Jud later says, "the person you put up there ain't the person who comes back...", and as tempting as it is to try and reclaim a lost loved one rather than deal with that loss... "sometimes dead is better."

Things get a lot "better" before the end credits.

Negotiating child death in a film is not easy, and Pet Sematary does it pretty excellently all while still giving the audience gasp-worthy moments. We don't see the accident, but we are shown a bloody little shoe. Similarly, we only ever get glimpses of Gage's tiny corpse, never a full on look at it. This builds the tension to when we actually see him again.

And Gage is completely adorable in life, so even though it's not a shock he dies; it is sad. When he returns... well, he's an adorable little monster.

An adorable little KILLING MACHINE monster.

Favourite moment alert: When his doctor father injects his neck to "put him back to sleep" - father's words, creepy much? - in an amazing scene (below), and he toddles off whimpering "no fair!". It's... it's perfect.

I haven't even mentioned Ellie's psychic abilities, Rachel's nightmarish sister, or Victor Pascow, the ghost jogger acting as a kind of spirit guide to the family. 

He first encounters Louis right before dying, and then continues to manifest throughout, offering warnings and handy advice, such as proper name pronunciation and tips on hiring a rental car!

My verdict on this film? Way less animal death than the name would suggest and a satisfyingly sad tale to boot. I wish I hadn't taken so long to see it!

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