Anyone who was around in the 80’s and 90’s knows that the Stephen King peak of popularity was in its prime. Every book he released was a smash hit bestseller, and almost every one likewise had a film or mini-series adaptation. Though, what many seem to forget is just how utterly abysmal those adaptions were, for the most part. With the exception of the highly acclaimed The Shining, almost every other adaption was funnier than it was scary. Lest we forget, the Tommy Knockers series that featured a woman shooting green rays out of a lipstick, making two police officers vanish.
Let’s also never forget Maximum Overdrive, released in 1986, that was directed by none other than King himself. The movie flies in the face of fans that claim that King’s books just aren’t adapted very well, given that the makers don’t understand the material. Maximum Overdrive falls into the category of so bad it’s funny. Though, King later claimed that he was snorting so much cocaine during the shoot that he barely knew what he was doing. It shows.
So, can King books be turned into decent movies, beyond the odd exception? With an It remake released in 2017 and being met with mostly positive reactions, the answer seems to be yes. But is the new Pet Sematary continuing the trend of good King films, or going in the opposite direction?
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Pet Sematary – The Book
Some have claimed that Pet Sematary, (purposely misspelled and causing spellcheck annoyances for writers and editors everywhere), was King’s best work. But the thing now being said more than ever, in regards to King’s work, is that perhaps his writing was just more than a little overhyped, and never really as good as has been made out. Though of course the near-ravenous fan base will strongly disagree.
Released in 1983, the book tells the story of a couple, Louis and Ellie Creed who lose their child Gage, and later bring him back to life via the titular cemetery. An ancient cemetery where buried pets are mysteriously revived. As with all work by King, the book is far more focused on real human character and emotion than actual outright horror.
The exploration of the loss of human life and how it impacts those left behind occupies most of the focus of the book. Specifically; how Louis and Ellie deal with the loss of a child, which is to say; not very well at all. To the point that Louis buries Gage in the Pet Sematary in the hopes of bringing him back to life. Gage does, of course, return to life, but as a terrible, sub-human monster. The story begs the question as to whether Louis would rather have his child back less than human, than deal with the emotional trauma of loss.
Needless to say, as to whether the book is or isn’t King’s best work is up for debate, but there is no question that it is a disturbing book, even if many are saying it’s a touch drawn out, and has a less than satisfying ending, in hindsight.
Mixed To Average Reviews
The new film is one of 70-odd theatrical adaptations, and stars Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and John Lithgow. It has been met with a mixed reception, with an average score of 6 out of 10. General consensus is that although the movie achieves an excellent tension and horror atmosphere, it devolves into a jump scare festival that eventually becomes more annoying than scary. Which is certainly not what would be called an accurate representation of a deeply psychological book. Other deviations from the plot of the book were met with a mixed response; with some saying the changes were smart, and others indignant that any changes had been made at all.
Of course, the 2017 It remake was likewise jam-packed with jump scares, and likewise deviated heavily from the book, but did not receive the same criticism. Either way, most audience members seem to agree that this version is better than the one released in 1989, which means it’s probably worth a look, especially if you own a cat…