The Dove Take:
New version of Stephen King’s story gorily portrays the damage of a man seeking to fix brokenness with a broken “solution.” As Christians, how should we approach a film like this, especially when it’s associated with one of America’s most popular modern authors?
Dr. Louis Creed and his wife Rachel relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.
Louis Creed doesn’t believe in the afterlife. He’s focused on the present, which may be why he and his family have moved. Less stress at his job. Less financial expense. More time with his wife Rachel, daughter Ellie, and son Gage. There also happens to be a lot of property. Acres of forest, including a “Pet Sematary” (as the sign says). And there’s that horrible place behind it. If you bury something there, it’ll apparently return, but it won’t be the same. Like the Creed family’s sweet cat. It had passed away. But after a quick burial in that place, it seems to be back. Now it’s vicious and nasty. But it seems to be back.
There’s an accident. Kind and loving Ellie passes away. And then Louis buries her and …
You can guess. “Ellie” returns, but evil.
Pet Sematary could be interpreted as a man trying to fix brokenness with a broken solution. (Louis tries to fix death with something that causes more death.) We see this idea daily. It can be present in our lives. People may seek to solve brokenness (or feel “better”) through sin, or well-intentioned, broken “solutions.” It’s tragic. While Pet Sematary is not a positive film nor Dove-approved, it illustrates a truth: Broken solutions do not fix brokenness well.
Scary films can compel the audience to talk to the characters, like “Run!” But when Louis Creed says, “Let God take His own … kid,” one may feel compelled to quote John 3:16-17. Louis’s line is wrong, unfortunately uninformed, and misses the love of the Gospel. The Gospel is the news everyone needs for brokenness.
What does all this add up to? Pet Sematary is not Dove-recommended. Not at all. It’s dark, violent and gory. It’s also popular. The theater where I saw the film was one of the fullest regular showings I’ve been to as a reviewer. So, as Christians, we could disregard the film. We could disregard that it’ll make millions of dollars. We could disregard Stephen King as one of the most popular authors of our era. We could disregard the audiences, calling them bloodthirsty viewers. And we could choose to disregard, and disengage from, the conversation.
But these might be flawed “solutions” to the situation. Instead, we could recognize that this film is popular and that it may portray a tragic principle (without even having to watch it). As followers of Jesus Christ, how best should we remain educated and engaged regarding art and stories that impact culture, without compromising our relationship with God, and what we believe? This question is significant. This question, like so many others, is challenging. But I’m confident in the One Who has the perfect solutions.