The Creepy Painting In Pet Sematary Has A Morbid Hidden Meaning – SlashFilm


Creed family matriarch Rachel (played in the 1989 movie by Denise Crosby) has a terrifying backstory. As a child, she had to care for her disabled sister Zelda, who was afflicted with spinal meningitis. Zelda died while Rachel was watching her, and the latter confesses that she was relieved to be free of her sister, whose helplessness and pain had made her cruel and vindictive.

When Rachel goes back to her childhood home, where Zelda died, after Gage’s death, there’s a painting of a child in a gown and a top hat, with a cat by their feet. The painting symbolizes Gage and Church; when he returns from the grave Gage himself even wears the same outfit. Lambert explained that this piece of set dressing was modeled on real nineteenth-century American paintings of children who died in infancy, commissioned by their grieving parents.

“So many children died at an early age, and they wouldn’t have any photographs of them, or pictures, so they would dress them. A lot of those pictures are of dead children that have been dressed so their parents can remember them. That’s why they’re so creepy, those portraits of 2, 3, (4), 5-year-old children dressed in weird little outfits and really stiff. That was my inspiration for how Gage comes back, because that’s a form of bringing somebody back from the dead.”

It’s fitting that the painting hangs in the Goldman family home since they lost a child that they try not to remember. Lambert further confirmed the painting was crafted specifically for the film; certain costume designs (from the revenant Gage’s top hat to Zelda’s blue gown) are meant to reflect it. While the novel is still the best version of “Pet Sematary” (it’s the kind of story where you need to live in the characters’ heads for full impact), the painting and its associated motifs show how a visual medium like film can add new dimensions to a horror story.

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