Maybe it Shouldn't Be a Party: Kids, Keds, and Death in Stephen King's Stand by me and Pet Sematary.
Weinstock, Jeffrey, Department of English Language and Literature
Copyright 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan. Intellectual Property Rights owned by Jeffrey Weinstock. This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been reviewed or edited. The definitive version of this extract may be found in the work The Films of Stephen King: from Carrie to Secret window by Tony Magistrale which can be purchased from http://www.palgrave.com
King, Stephen, 1947-; Horror films; Stand By Me (motion picture); Pet Sematary (motion picture); Film criticism
What connects the film versions of Stephen King's Stand By Me (1986) and Pet Sematary (1990) most poignantly-if not most immediately-is the sneaker. In Stand By Me, four boys venture out of the stagnant town of Castle Rock, Oregon to view the dead body of an adolescent boy who has been struck and killed by a train and discover that he has been knocked out of his Keds. In Pet Sematary, it is not a train that is the engine of destruction, but a truck. The son of physician Louis Creed, Gage, wanders into the road with its endless parade of semis that runs past their rural Maine home and, like Ray Brower, is knocked out of his diminutive tennis shoes. Each film arguably crystallizes around the "punctum" of the sneaker and the presence or absence of the sneaker to the viewer condenses each film's attitude toward death and mourning. In Stand By Me, the mute presence of the body combined with the fact of the missing sneakers lays bare for the boys-and the viewer-the inevitability of both loss of childhood and loss of life. In contrast, by emphasizing the tiny shoe, a potent symbol of childhood, while obscuring the corpse, Pet Sematary averts its gaze from death and fixates on a symbol of life thereby instanciating the film's strange cinematic foot fetish in which loss is disavowed. What Pet Sematary ultimately evades is the agonizing realization that Stand By Me affirms-that chance rather than fate governs the course of human events and that death is final.
Magistrale, Tony, ed.: The Films of Stephen King: from Carrie to Secret Window, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008