Pet Sematary is King’s twelfth book of horror fiction. It contains several of King’s recurrent themes: characters rushing against time and space to avert disaster; prescient children who are usually victims, sometimes victimizers; the presence of indomitable supernatural evil forces; and normal American family life that disintegrates into the paranormal or perverted.
In Pet Sematary, King concentrates on a major theme in the world’s mythologies and in traditional horror literature: burial and resurrection. The story of the resurrection of Lazarus, which King uses as a keynote, confirms Christ’s beneficent miracle working and foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection, a cornerstone of Christian belief. The resurrection of Gage Creed in Pet Sematary, however, is the work of the cannibalizing Wendigo, an evil force that preys on the grief of Louis Creed and pushes him to insane action.
In the course of the novel, King alludes to one particular horrific resurrection taken from literature and myth: the story of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster as told in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and then in various popular films. Dr. Frankenstein’s original purpose in grave robbing and in assembling the monster’s body was to create the “new Adam,” the perfect, beautiful creature who could become the prototype for uncorrupted human generations. Instead, Dr. Frankenstein—like Dr. Creed— creates a lurching, malformed, ugly being who is bent on destruction and dissolution.
At one point, Jud Crandell likens resurrected beings from the Micmac burial ground to the zombies of film, aimlessly and clumsily shambling along. Jud explains, though, that there is a difference. The Micmac zombies, he says, seem to work on “a radio signal that was coming from somewhere else.” That radio signal is the pervasive evil force of the Wendigo, who directs Gage to murder Jud and to cannibalize his mother. The Wendigo inhabits the thoughts of the grieving Ellie, who in a dream sees her father being murdered and the empty grave of her brother. The Wendigo drives Louis to bury Rachel’s mutilated body in the hope of another horrid resurrection. The Wendigo curse plagues the Creed family through the novel’s end. Louis’ final desperate act of burying Rachel’s body results in the continuation of the curse as Rachel returns from the dead to carry forth evil.