Pet Sematary is a book that author Stephen King called his “worst” because of how much is scared him. And it is a terrifying story, dealing with the monstrosity that is grief. While it was adapted into a film by Mary Lambert in 1989, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have adapted it again, in a move that made horror fans wary and begged the question: why do we need this film? But this recent adaptation, offering callbacks and homages to the original film while also creating a fresh take on a classic horror story, establishes a more terrifying tale that examines the deep psychological trauma of grief and the horrifying actions people wrapped in grief are capable of.
The film begins with the Creed family moving from Boston to the sleepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) has taken a position as a campus doctor with the goal of slowing down and spending more time with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter, Ellie (Jete Laurence), and baby son, Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie). Shortly after they move in, Rachel and Ellie discover a pet cemetery in the woods behind their house. They learn from their neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), that the children of Ludlow have buried their pets there for generations, making a sort of twisted ritual out of it. But something sinister lurks around the cemetery, a force that seems to feed on grief.
Happy Women in Horror Month! As I’m sure many others would agree, the horror genre can often feel incredibly male-dominated. Violence against women within these films is usually prominent, and in a world obsessed with inflicting this same violence in reality, being able to reclaim such a powerful tool as the horror movie is a very great thing. Besides which, this is a genre which naturally links itself to feminist thought. Traditional aspects of horror such as vampire lore, the final girl, slasher film tropes and the revenge plot all revolve around feminist themes, and it is not surprising that much academic discussion in this area concerns gender. In any case, after watching as many female-directed examples as I can find, I’ve firmly decided that women make the best horror movies. Take a look at the nine films below, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Dark, stylish and atmospheric, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is the Iranian vampire Western we never knew we needed. A sparse narrative cloaked in monochromatic tones illustrates themes of gendered violence, as the eponymous Girl hunts down villainous men. Vampire movies and feminist discourse have always gone hand in hand – the symbolic neck bite forming a transferal of agency – and Amirpour exploits this natural kinship whilst adding her own original mark to the genre. For ‘A Girl’ is a quiet, brooding movie, moving from character to character at a pace that some may find too sluggish. But this hesitance to over-embellish in a field that can so often be flamboyant is what gives the film its strength; the small moments form something so much greater, and it is the overall mood of the piece, rather than one scene or another, that marks it as a classic for feminist horror.