'Pet Sematary': A Reminder That Zombie Cats Make Terrible Pets

You’re mad at me. I can tell. But hear me out. Remember how we were going to talk about the original, hairy, musky Joy of Sex? And it was going to be ACE? Well, apparently, when you’re in Canada and you attempt to get a used copy of said august tome sent to you, it doesn’t really work. People keep sending you the new version, EVEN CLAIMING IT TO BE THE 1972 CLASSIC, which, whatever, I know how to have sex, right? It’s pretty endemic in the culture at this point. I want to see sort of unattractive people bringing their 1970s A-game to the table. That’s what I want. And that’s what YOU want, and you’re the most important people in the world.

So finally, I said, screw this, and I decided to talk about Pet Sematary while we wait. Which I love, obvi.

Important Disclaimer: Stephen King is not trashy. Stephen King is kind of great, and I have a useless thesis on the intersection of medieval and Renaissance English drama, which suggests that for at least four months several years ago I was mildly qualified to make value judgments. Except Marjorie Garber hated it. Whatever. I’ve moved on, obviously. I never dwell on it. I don’t even know why I brought it up!

Read On Writing or something. He’s awesome. I don’t even know why I’m trying to talk him up, like he needs the help. Stephen King is doing just fine, thanks for asking. You want to read The Man Without Qualities instead, mazel tov.

But Pet Sematary is totally bordering on trashy, we can all admit that, and it’s so scary. Really, really scary. I don’t even want to talk about freaking Zelda in the book OR the film adaptation, because AHHHHH, right? (They’re doing a remake. Just an FYI.) King apparently tried to keep this book in the can, probably because it’s trashy, but his publishers made him fork it over, because his brain is basically a machine that mints money for a dying industry. Even that really horrible one he wrote after getting hit by the minivan, with the shit-weasels (Dreamcatcher). Not Duma Key, which is sort of about being hit by the minivan and actually good.

Pet Sematary. Mistakes are made, guys. Mistakes are made. Louis Creed, our hero, has shit-for-brains. It’s not that he tried to bring his kid back from the dead. We all get that. I mean, to be fair, we have several thousand years of don’t bring your kid back from the dead, it’s not worth it, in both the written and oral traditions of all known cultures, but Pet Sematary is responsible for at least 30% of that, and The Deathly Hallows for another 10%, and Stephen King’s own short stories for 10%, and Louis Creed was not able to benefit from any of those cautionary tales. Or from Dawn Summers trying to bring back Joyce. It was the ‘80s — maybe Louis was sincerely innocent of Zombie Law.

But the cat. He brings back the cat. Had he ever met a cat? I have a cat, and I love her, but any idiot could tell you that the battle between good and evil rages between her ears every single day, and one would have to assume that exposure, however slight, to the forces of death, would tip the balance fairly decidedly towards Evil. Of course Church is coming back wrong. Just get a kitten.

It’s not Louis I blame, though. It’s Jud. The folksy neighbor? The one who knows about the burial ground? The one who tells him about the burial ground as a favor? Thanks, buddy! Sure glad we didn’t wind up with a boring story about how Louis’ daughter cried for a few days and then got used to her new, non-zombie kitten.

Considering this particular book is reportedly a little on the autobiographical side (the Kings moved near a busy road, their daughter’s cat got hit by a car, their toddler son had a close run-in, local pet cemetery, etc.), I would love to have been a fly on the wall at Stephen King’s next Thanksgiving with his wife’s family. “Hi guys, what’s for supper! I loathe you all.” Tell me there’s not some serious subtext there.

Well, now, let’s toss this mother open. You should feel free to discuss the gushy merits of Stephen King’s oeuvre as a whole, and not strictly confine yourself to the trashy delights of Pet Sematary. This is a safe space. We’ll be back with the original Joy of Sex sometime before the heat death of the universe. Or not! Prove me wrong with better conduct, used book purveyors.

Some questions to get us started:

• Do you remember how, in It, the children all have sex with Beverly, and that actually happens?
• If you brought your cat back from the dead, how would he or she try to destroy you? Be specific.
• Does the Indian-Burial-Ground conceit just annoy the holy shit out of actual Native Americans, or what?
• No, seriously, what the hell kind of parents leave their little daughter with her messed-up dying sister? That’s cold.
• Do you have kids? Would you take them to the Micmac burial ground and hope for the best? Be honest. Not that anything bad will happen to your kids. Ever.
• Who’s more obsessed with dead kids: John Irving or Stephen King?

Nicole Cliffe is the proprietress of Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews. She is also summering over at The Hairpin through August.