The first signs that I was starting to age–not necessarily mature, or grow up, mind you, but age–were developing a fondness for the scent of lavender, and another for the faces of Persian cats. Judging by my reaction to Pet Sematary, I am now on an accelerated decline and will probably need to be put into a nursing home soon. I was never a dedicated Stephen King fan, but I used to be able to soak up his stories with a wide-eyed credulousness, an openness to taking his stories on their own terms.
Now that I am about twice the age I was when I first read Carrie, and have finally been exposed to a smidgen of actual literature, I can’t do it. I still think King is a good author, but I can’t push the line that “he’s got themes” with the same faith as before. Sure, sure he does, but he really bludgeons you in the head with them to make sure you got it.
The emotional core of Pet Sematary is the grief of outliving your loved ones, and the ensuing madness. The protagonist can’t cope with losing his toddler-aged son, and buries the child in a cursed graveyard that resurrects the dead, but in a murderous, zombified sort of way. That’s fine, great premise with a great payoff, but it’s a bit too heavy-handed that the graveyard itself is manipulating everyone in the situation–the truck driver who runs over the child, the old neighbor who tells the protagonist about the graveyard, and of course, the protagonist himself. Humans are more than foolish enough on their own without supernatural powers giving them that extra push to do evil. The thesis of Pet Sematary is that it’s better to learn to live with grief than to go into denial about death, no matter how twisted, menacing, terrifying, or final death is, but it’s really hard to believe that learning to live with grief is an option when you can blame your problems on a demonically possessed graveyard.