[Warning: Spoilers for the upcoming Pet Sematary film below, though, if you watched the trailer, you’ve already been spoiled.]
Stephen King’s feelings about Pet Sematary are no secret. Many editions of the book include an introduction in which the horror author tells of its inception, from the death of the family cat to the pet cemetery behind his Orrington, Maine home to his decision to, for a while at least, leave it unpublished. Pet Sematary was never a book with which King was pleased, but his problem isn’t with his writing so much as the story’s pitch-black tendrils, which trail into a darkness that, even for a King novel, is dire. It tells the story of a graveyard that can reanimate the dead, and the appeal that has for a grieving man who’s recently lost a child. “[I]t just spirals down into darkness,” he writes in that introduction. “It seems to be saying that nothing works and nothing is worth it, and I don’t really believe that.”
That hasn’t stopped the story from becoming a favorite among Constant Readers, but, despite writing the screenplay for the 1989 film adaptation, King remains unimpressed. In a new interview about the book and its film adaptations with Entertainment Weekly, he says, if not for his need to escape a shitty contract, “it would still be in a drawer somewhere.”
“I listened to it last year when I was down here in Florida walking on the beach with the dog,” he says. “Michael C. Hall [of Dexter and Six Feet Under] did the audiobook. I was curious about it. You know, I hadn’t been near it in 20, 25 years. So I listened to it, and thought, ‘My God, this is just awful. It’s just as dark as can be.’”
He continues, “I just had the greatest time writing the book until I was done with it. And I read it over, and I said to myself, ‘This is awful. This is really fucking terrible.’ Not that it was badly written, necessarily. But all that stuff about the death of kids. It was close to me, because of my kids.”
When asked how he feels about readers glomming onto it, he offers a pretty sick burn. “Well, I laugh about that. P.T. Barnum said something like, ‘Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people,’” he cracks. “I think that death really is a mystery, and people get kind of a kick out of seeing the veil lifted.” Later, he adds, “But I do think too that people come because there’s the allure of the forbidden. There’s the idea that this thing is really, really scary. You want to see if you can stand up to it, you know, by going on the biggest roller coaster in the amusement park.”
He nevertheless heaps praise on Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s upcoming remake, saying he’s cool with the filmmakers’ bold choice to have pre-teen Ellie die and reanimate instead of baby Gage.
It’s something different. They did a good job. Boy, I saw all the stuff that came online when people realized that it was Ellie rather than Gage that got run over in the road, and I’m thinking like, ‘Man, these people…’ It’s so nuts. You can take Route 301 and go to Tampa, or you could take Route 17 and go to Tampa. But both times, you’re gonna come out at Tampa! [Laughs] You know what I’m saying? It didn’t change anything for me. I thought, “Okay, I understand why they did it, because it’s maybe easier to work with a zombie when she’s a little girl, [rather] than a toddler.’
He’s not wrong. There’s only one Miko Hughes. That kid was lightning in a bottle.
Anyways, Pet Sematary claws through the dirt on April 5.