Halloween: Scary book picks from EW staffers

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Anthony Breznican says: Lots of horror stories deal in death; it’s the best and bravest that also deal in grief. The deep, desperate heartbreak of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary elevates that 1983 novel to one of his most frightening, disturbing, but also meaningful works. The misspelled title refers to a place in the woods where generations of children have buried their beloved and departed pets. It’s a slightly weird, but peaceful place, where innocent minds build memorials to their first experience with death and loss. Beyond it, however, is another burial ground, far more secret and sinister, where the earth doesn’t reclaim the deceased, but spits them back out on the earth to walk again.

In less sophisticated hands, this would be a standard zombie story, but the reason King’s works endure beyond the best-seller list is his ability to reach down into our psyches and grab hold of the thing that makes us say, “Oh, please God, no, no no.” When Louis Creed’s three-year-old son is struck by a truck and killed, we know this is what he’s saying because it’s what we’re saying. And when that strange place beyond the Pet Sematary becomes not just a temptation, but a necessity, a salvation from this mind-fracturing grief, we are  pushing with him as he digs that shovel into the ground. When life is so unfair, how can you not try to cheat it back?

We know, as Louis does, that there really is no defying death. As a child, it’s easier to do — you feel so far away from it. The Pet Sematary in the woods is a manifestation of that. But as one grows older, faces it more and more, even sometimes — horribly — in the loss of a child, we fear and fight it more. In this novel, King lays bear the reason death terrifies us. It is inevitable. And final.

NEXT: Ken Tucker on “the scariest guy in America”


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