STEPHEN KING’S ‘PET SEMATARY.’ (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stephen-king-in-a-cameo-in-the-movie-version-of-pet-cemetery

PET SEMATARY. (1989) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING DALE MIDKIFF, DENISE CROSBY, MIKO HUGHES, BLAZE BERDAHL AND FRED GWYNNE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes dead is better…

With a re-make of this film in cinemas fairly soon, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit it. It’s based on one of horror maestro Stephen King’s best books, and I hope I’m not alone in thinking this. It’d be right up there with THE SHINING, a tale of madness and ghostly visitations set in an isolated hotel that’s closed to the public in the winter, and SALEM’S LOT, possibly the best vampire novel of modern times. (Yes, yes, I’m aware of the works of Pablo Neruda, by which I mean Anne Rice…!)

CARRIE, the maestro’s first book, was also a terrific read and made a great film, starring Sissy Spacek as the telekinetic high school outsider who wreaks a terrible revenge on the teenagers who’ve made her life a misery, and who could blame her? They were proper little bitches to her, lol. They had it coming.

There are loads of other brilliant Stephen King books, short stories and novellas that were made into films too, like MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, THE LANGOLIERS, BAG OF BONES (a personal favourite starring the swoonsome pairing of Pierce 007 Brosnan and Melissa George from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY), THE DARK HALF, THINNER, CUJO, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, IT, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN, THE STAND (which I adored), THE MIST (with the saddest ending of any horror film ever, bar none) and probably a few more which I’ve forgotten. You can remind me if you like!

He’s had a career to be super-proud of, anyway, the King, probably the most commercially successful career of any writer who ever lived, God bless him. If anything ever happens to him, and we hope nothing will (I’m personally hoping he might be immortal!), he’ll be leaving behind millions of devastated fans, that’s for sure. Yes, we have plenty of talented horror scribes writing away today, and that’s great, but there can never be another Stephen King.

Anyway, PET SEMATARY is the story of a small family from Chicago who move to a lovely big house in a small American town in Maine. The Dad, Louis Creed, is going to work as the town’s doctor. His wife Rachel is strangely uptight, but then she had a really rough childhood.

She still keeps in touch with her parents, whom she seems to love, but her childhood experiences with her sick sister Zelda were truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s jolly decent of her to still maintain a relationship with her parents after the way they left her alone, at her age, with the dying girl. It was irresponsible of them at best, and cruel beyond belief at worst.

Louis and Rachel have two children, Ellie and Gage. Ellie is a little girl who’s got a bit of a ‘shining’ thing going on, or even a ‘shinning,’ if you’re a fan of THE SIMPSONS. She has disturbing, distressing dreams that accurately predict the future, although her parents don’t take her seriously at first. There’s also the aforementioned Gage, their adorable little baby son, and a cat rather coolly called Winston Churchill. That’s the Creed family, anyway.

Now, they don’t seem to realise that they’ve purchased a property that has no fencing around it and that gives on to the most dangerous road in the whole of the Western hemisphere. Trucks and lorries tear up and down this road day and night, and nearly the whole of the town’s population of cats and dogs has ended up as roadkill beneath the wheels of these diesel-guzzling monsters.

The Creeds’ new neighbour, the lovely old widower Judd Crandall, leads them down a worn woodland path on their property to a clearing known as the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s a place of burial for all the beloved pets of the town’s children.

I presume they were all killed prematurely trying to cross that damned road, lol. Anyway, it’s at least handy to know that there’s a place to bury old Church the kitty if he ever decides to get to the root of the old joke, why did the chicken cross the road…? It’s meant to be a place of peace and rest but it’s a wee bit creepy too.

Things get much creepier when Church in fact does get run over while Rachel, Ellie and Gage are away at Rachel’s parents for Thanksgiving, leaving Louis in charge of the house. Well, that’s what you get for leaving a man to hold the fort. Remember that auld fella from FATHER TED who tried to make a cup of tea and he ended up breaking his leg? That’s the kind of thing you’re up against.

Old Judd Crandall decides that this is the time to let a stunned Louis into a secret he’s known about for years, a secret about the strange little place in the woods the kids call the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s the original ‘Indian burial ground’ horror story. 

What happens after Louis becomes privy to the secret of Pet Sematary is so nightmarish, I won’t ruin it for you by dropping spoilers. Suffice it to say that Louis actually feels he’s in a nightmare from this point onwards, a nightmare from which he can’t wake up.

Stephen King makes his usual cameo appearance as the minister who presides over the funeral of the poor miserable Missy, and very handsome he looks too, with a full healthy head of thick black hair. What’s your favourite Stephen King cameo? The one in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE where he says to his wife of the cash machine that’s behaving erratically: ‘Honey, the machine just called me an asshole…!’ Yeah, mine too!

The ghastly supernatural appearances of the decidedly dead Victor Pascow seem to make little sense at first but gradually his true purpose becomes all too clear. I love the bit where Louis wakes up in his bed after having a nightmare where he’s following a mutilated Victor through the woods and, when he wakes up, his legs and feet are covered in muck and debris. I love Victor’s dire warnings about how ‘the barrier’ shouldn’t be ‘crossed’ because ‘the ground is sour.’ It’s blood-chilling stuff.

The terrible story of poor old Timmy Baterman is a great addition to the movie also. The film as a whole, like the old cautionary story of ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ proves without a doubt the truth of the adage: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ And Judd Crandall (played by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster from THE MUNSTERS) is right too, dead right, when he intones to Louis in sombre tones that ‘Sometimes dead is better.’

The thing is, will Louis take his wise old neighbour’s advice? Louis Creed is young and hot-headed and he still thinks he knows what’s best for his family. He doesn’t respect the old adages, which are there for a reason, to guard us against the urges of our less-than-better natures. He’ll have to learn the hard way so, and learn he must.

Oh and, by the way, before I watched this movie I didn’t realise that the word ‘Sematary’ was a deliberate childish mis-spelling on the part of Stephen King, I thought it was how the Yanks spelled the word. D’oh…!

Do try to watch or re-watch this old gem before you catch the re-make in the cinema next month, just to give you something to compare the newbie to. And always remember to be careful what you wish for, just like poor Louis Creed isn’t careful. And why be careful? Because you just might get it, that’s why…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN’- THE BOOK. (1816) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

mary shelley frankie

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN.’ (1816) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

2018, a full two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote her first and most celebrated novel, was what I now refer to as my Frankenstein year. In April, I got to see James Whale’s fabulous horror movie FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and its sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), on the big screen as part of a one-day James Whale festival, which was fantastic as I’d loved those two films for such a long time.

Then, in October, as part of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Halloween Horrorthon, I saw Hammer Horror’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) on the big screen also. This was preceded by a brilliant ninety-minute lecture on FRANKENSTEIN, THE FIRST 200 YEARS by film historian and well-known FRANKENSTEIN expert Sir Christopher Frayling, whose book of the same name I purchased on the break and got him to sign for me.

He wrote the words ‘It’s alive…!’ under his signature! I felt so special. I later found out that he’d signed everyone’s books with the same phrase but whatever, it was all good, lol. I read the book and enjoyed every page, then I went and found the 1910 Thomas Edison film version of FRANKENSTEIN on Youtube and watched this too. It’s less than a quarter of an hour long but it’s freakishly memorable, with a pretty terrifying-looking Monster.

Anyway, after this wonderful experience I had no choice but to read the book behind all the films for the first time ever. I started reading it on November the nineteenth and I finished it on December the first.

I’d been told that it was difficult to read and even boring at times, but I didn’t find it so, except when the Creature went on for nearly fifty pages about how marvellous and saintly and sweet his precious cottagers were. Personally, I could take ’em or leave ’em, these irritating paragons of woodland virtue and candidates for the bloody sainthood…!

I shall attempt now to synopsise the plot for y’all in as simple and easy-to-remember a fashion as possible, as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s. Having gone to the trouble finally of reading the book, I don’t want to ever forget it. It’s literally too good to be forgotten. This is to be my written record of this most exceptional year and this most exceptional Gothic novel.

The framing story involves an Englishman called Robert Walton writing to his married sister back in England of his expeditions to the polar ice-caps of the world. Whilst up there in the cold and snow, he and his crew rescue an exhausted solitary male who’s about to expire out on the ice.

The traumatised and lonely poor man is one Victor Frankenstein from Geneva in Switzerland, who is pursuing to the ends of the Earth a Creature of whom Robert Walton and his crew realise that they may already have caught a glimpse, out on the ice all alone just like his pursuer, Victor Frankenstein. This is Victor Frankenstein’s story.

After a positively charmed and privileged early life (‘No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself.’), Victor goes off to college after the death of his beloved Mother and resolves to make the best of these important years. He’s a whizz at Science and Chemistry and whatnot and very quickly impresses his tutors with his hard work and willingness to apply himself. He quickly works out where his real interests lie.

‘It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.’

Long story short, he discovers that he has a burning urge to create life himself from the no-longer-living bits and pieces of cadavers. He gets the idea from all the ‘natural philiosophers’ he’s been reading up on and now sees as his idols.

For two whole years he works day and night on his personal project (‘I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.’), pretty much to the exclusion of all else. Finally, he is successful. ‘On a dreary night of November… I saw the dull yellow eye of the Creature open.’

The awful thing about all this exhaustive labour is that, when Victor beholds the hideousness of the thing he has created, he’s so horrified that he runs away in terror and leaves the poor just-birthed Creature to fend for itself in the wilds for several long months. In this respect, Victor, I feel, has only got himself to blame for the nightmare which ensues.

Victor eventually travels home to Geneva, where he learns that his younger brother William has been brutally murdered by a stranger. A servant and friend of the house, a sweet and kind-hearted young lady called Justine, is to be executed for his murder.

Victor’s widowed father and Victor’s Cousin Elizabeth, in reality an adopted daughter of the family and Victor’s betrothed and, indeed, beloved, are utterly distraught. Justine could not be capable of such a monstrous, cold-blooded act of hatred and disdain, they feel sure of this.

Victor learns the truth of the matter from his recently-turned-up-again Creature but, alas, it’s too late to save Justine from the gallows. From this point on, if he didn’t already feel this way, Victor is living in a nightmare from which he can’t wake up. There is no waking up. He feels like he murdered William and Justine, ‘the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts,’ with his own hands.

The Creature tells Victor what he’s been up to this past couple of years, but it’s not an amiable catch-up between friends in a Starbucks over a skinny latte and a poppyseed muffin. The Creature Victor deliberately imbued with life has lived a miserable existence thus far. He’s been hiding out, lonely, cold, hungry and isolated from everything that is good in life.

After telling Victor how he was forcibly rejected by the sickly-sweet-and-saccharine cottagers to whose life he’s been an outside observer for some time, he informs his maker in no uncertain terms (and he’s right!) that it’s his, Victor’s, fault that he’s so wretched, alone and miserable.

‘Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.’ The poor wee Creature!

I don’t know about you guys, but I blame Victor entirely for the miserable life in which the Creature finds himself trapped. How dare Victor give him life and then abandon him to a horrible fate just because he’s ugly?

Surely it’s Victor’s responsibility to put things right? That’s certainly what the Creature thinks, anyway. Finally Victor comes round to this way of thinking. ‘For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.’ Darn tootin.’ Quite honestly, it’s about bloody time he honoured his responsibilities to the Creature he himself created.

So what is it exactly that the Creature wants? Well, he jolly well wants a girlfriend, a girlfriend like himself, made in the same mould as himself. ‘I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create.’ Sounds perfectly fair to me.

Victor reluctantly agrees to make the Creature a hot girlfriend, lol. The Creature warns him that he’ll be keeping an eye on the proceedings from a discreet distance so Victor isn’t even to dream of welching on the deal. ‘I shall be with you on your wedding night,’ he famously- and ominously- threatens his maker.

So off Victor goes to an isolated spot in England to start work on a lady friend for his Monster. ‘To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return.’ Then:

‘I now also began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling on the head.’

Halfway through the sickening, grisly operation, however, he decides he can’t possibly risk bringing another dangerous, malevolent and mankind-hating Creature into the world (‘To create another like the fiend I had first made would be an act of the basest and most atrocious selfishness.’) and he downs tools, in plain sight of the Monster whose murderous rage will now know no bounds.

The horror just keeps on being ratcheted up. The murders of Victor’s best mate Henry Clerval and of the beautiful bride Elizabeth Lavenza on her wedding night to Victor, just like the Creature foretold, and then the death of Victor’s father, probably from stress and worry, now take place. (‘He could not live under the horrors that were accumulated around him: the springs of existence suddenly gave way.’) These dreadful killings extinguish for all time the last rays of light and goodness and happiness from Victor’s life.

‘The cup of life was poisoned forever; and although the sun shone upon me as upon the happy and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me.’

He resolves now to chase his foul Creature to the ends of the Earth, if needs be, and there kill him and avenge his beloved dead. Only then can Victor, exhausted and heartbroken, find peace in death himself.

After a long and arduous chase, fraught with terrible perils that leave Victor clinging onto life by only the most tenuous of threads, he meets Robert Walton’s ship in the very midst of the polar ice-caps.

There he tells the spellbound sea-captain the story of his life, his life’s work and his life’s miseries before he expires, his revenge mission unsatisfied. So much for: ‘But revenge kept me alive; I dared not die and leave my adversary in being.’

A conversation between Robert Walton and the Creature over Victor’s death-bed (‘Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome and appalling hideousness.’) apprises us of the Monster’s lonely and heart-rending final intentions.

He regrets what he has done to Victor (‘But now crime has degraded me beneath the merest animal.’) and now he’s going off alone to die in the ice-caps. ‘I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.’ Then finally: ‘He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.’ It’s a truly heart-breaking ending.

I’m thrilled that I’ve finally read the horror story written by Mary Shelley (Godwin as was) during that fateful wet summer of 1816, when she stayed in the Villa Diodati with her husband-to-be Percy Shelley, their friend Lord Byron and Mary’s half-sister Jane ‘Claire’ Clairmont, one of Byron’s groupies who was already pregnant with his child when she arrived at the Villa. Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori, whose story ‘THE VAMPYRE’ can still be read today, was also present at the Villa Diodati.

What a summer. What a back-story. What a personal triumph for the eighteen-year-old Mary, to write something so powerful that had such amazing longevity! I really hope that, wherever she is today, she knows how successful and popular her little horror novel turned out to be. It probably wouldn’t make up for all the personal tragedies she suffered in her short enough lifetime, but it might help to ease the pain a little.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor