On Tuesday, May 5th at 7:15 p.m. EST, myself and the rest of the Horror Syndicate: Discourse team will be going live on Facebook for an in-depth discussion on ‘Pet Sematary’; we’ll be talking the Stephen King novel, the Mary Lambert adaptation and its sequel, and of course the 2019 remake. With that, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide a tie-in article to this upcoming discussion for a very specific talking-point in which I ask you, the reader of this article or viewer of our show, a simple question:
Has parenthood effected or changed your experiences with the novel or the movies?
Let me explain where I’m coming from on this. I usually tend to be cautious when it comes to getting too personal in my writings here on The Horror Syndicate, however, given the emotional themes that these stories delve into, I felt that this is the perfect opportunity to address its potential effectiveness on the readers or viewers, especially with those who are parents. After-all, it is a story that hinges on any parents’ worst nightmare, and I’ve found that how I watch the movie now since becoming a father is much different then how I watched the movie as a child.
As a child, back at a time when I was a well-behaved, mild-mannered young lad with a halo hovering over my head, and one who never did anything stupid or dangerous or anything to cause my parents to worry, I had seen Mary Lambert’s 1989 film adaptation and her 1992 follow-up as they played on the USA Network. I enjoyed those two films immensely, even if I was a little creeped out by them, especially the scenes with the recently-back-from-the-dead Gage. At the time, though, I liked ‘Pet Sematary Two’ just a little bit better, primarily because it had Edward Furlong in it and I loved ‘Terminator 2’, and if I’m to be totally honest here, as a kid I just didn’t get the emotional punch that the first movie packed. The sequel does have an emotional weight as well, by reversing the original story and instead telling the tale of a child grieving the death of a parent, but while I always felt that these were sad stories, I never considered the deepness of themes presented.
After-all, they were just movies. They were fiction, nothing more – at least to my adolescent mind.
As time passed, I’ve seen both of the movie’s countless times on television, and while in High School I finally read the book. Stephen King was a great influence on me at the time, and it came as no shock to me that the book is far superior to the films, but still, I just could not relate. I understood that it was a sad and tragic tale of grief, loss, and guilt, and how those can affect people differently. Louis, Rachael, Ellie and Judd all react to death in ways unlike each other based off their own individual beliefs and experiences past and present – or in Ellie’s case, a lack thereof – and King really explored the variety of ways we perceive death. But still…
It’s just a book.
It’s just a movie.
It’s just a sequel.
This had changed for me when I was in my mid-twenties, at the time my life changed forever when I became a father. Both of my children are close in age, 15 months apart to be exact, and around the time my oldest was about Gage’s age, I found the DVD of original movie at a store and I had to buy it. I remembered liking them a lot growing up and I was eager to revisit, so I purchased it. Later that night, after the kids were put to bed, I decided that I was going to crack open a few cold one’s and watch the movie for the first time in years. I knew what the story was, I knew what was to happen in it, and because of those reasons I didn’t think anything of it. I’ve seen it before, many times since I was young and it was just a cool horror movie, right? I’ve always separated reality from fiction, and there’s no reason for that to change, right?
And then I get to the big moment – the event in the movie that serves as the catalyst for the Creed family’s undoing – and suddenly I’m in Louis’s shoes. I feel his panic as he desperately races towards his son who’s in the path of the speeding truck, and it hits me. Then, when Gage’s blood-splattered shoe flies through the air and onto the pavement, I started choking up. It’s when, directly after, that Louis is holding his dead son in his arms and screaming that I felt a terrible sadness that shook me to the core. The images that suddenly flash onto the screen, that of Louis holding the newborn Gage at the hospital and other family photos, felt very real and hit me hard. My mind had wandered to a very dark place and I couldn’t help but feel the devastation such a loss would have. I turned the movie off and instead went with something a little bit lighter in order to forget about the terrifying scenarios that clouded my mind, and it had been a long while before I sacked up and watched it again.
I have been able to watch it in its entirety since then, and I’ve re-read the novel as well. And while I still feel the effect from those scenes, I’m okay to watch it, not quite affected on the level as I was on that night post-fatherhood. Of course, when the remake came out in 2019, my children were around the age of Ellie Creed, and well, we all know what they did there.
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have no problem viewing a movie as movie, or a book as a book, and aren’t affected because they’re able to separate reality from fiction. But I’m also sure there are others out there, who, like myself, view these stories a bit differently since becoming parents.
I understand Louis Creed’s actions now more than ever.
Where do you fall?
Be sure to check out our live chat on Facebook this upcoming Tuesday night and let us know what you think!
If you happen to miss this episode live, you can check it out on our YouTube channel.
Check out Discourse LIVE on Facebook, Tuesday and Thrusday at 7:30ET, 6:30CT