Feline Friday: Church (Pet Sematary)

Feline Friday is my chance to celebrate famous cats across the arts, whether their origins are in gaming, film, anime, literature or anywhere else.

If you have a request for a future feline, please let me know on Twitter.

Winston Churchill

First Appearance: Pet Sematary (1983)

A few days ago, I took a look at Pet Sematary Two as part of my ongoing challenge to track down a horror movie that legitimately frightened me.

If you haven’t read the article yet (how dare you, I need that precious ad revenue to feed my children), allow me to confirm that the shoddy sequel not only failed to impress, it actually set the standard for least scary horror movie.

For a license so lauded, I thought it best to partially repair the damage by reflecting on Stephen King’s original book, and the infamous feline that terrorises within.

The charmingly dubbed Winston Churchill is the Creed family cat, a friendly and curious fella whose untimely demise when encountering a truck sets off a chain of events from which the town may never recover.

IRL, my man was a handsome mofo | Courtesy of church_aka_leo

Louis Creed is the first to make the grisly discovery of Church’s squished remains, and he goes into a bit of a panic mode about how to break the news to his daughter.

“Hey, remember your pet cat?” he might ask over dinner.

“Remember? What do you mean remember, daddy?” she’d return, bewildered.

“Excellent, you’ve forgotten him already,” he would conclude with a look of relief. “Now pass the potatoes.”

Old Louis is a bit of an outside the box thinker however, and recalls the nearby Pet Sematary, where his kindly neighbour warns him that anything buried in the accursed ground returns from the dead.

It’s a bit of a can’t-miss opportunity, until it proves to very much miss, and disastrously so. The once good-natured Church has turned into a right prick since being reanimated, now a zombified killing machine with a bad temper and an even worse odour.

Unfortunately, Louis doesn’t take a hint from this oopsie and later elects to bury his son, Gage, in the same cemetery when he too falls victim to the highway. Louis is able to dispatch of both Church and Gage through a lethal dose of morphine, but alas, reasons that the third time might be the charm when he pops his wife into the dirt. It doesn’t end well.

“OH LONG JOHNSON” | Paramount Pictures

Seeing as Gage is the main event of Pet Sematary, Church serves as little more than a narrative precursor, and yet, his presence as a hissing, snarling threat has left a lasting impression on readers and moviegoers alike.

Though his breed is never quite narrowed down in King’s novel, Church is most famously recognised as a British blue in the 1989 cinematic interpretation. Apparently, this is at the behest of the flick’s director, Mary Lambert, who figured that the grey coat resembles something that a plush toy might have.

As she explained in an interview with Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg, “I was thinking that sort of subliminally when the cat comes back to life, it’s kind of like a toy that comes to life.”

That being said, the original novel cover’s artwork by Linda Fennimore featured a shrieking longhaired cat. With this in mind, and considering the story is set in Maine, the team behind 2019’s reimagining opted instead for a Maine Coone.

The unmistakable look of “you haven’t fed me yet” | Paramount Pictures

This was a great idea on paper (and paperback), but as it turns out, trying to assemble enough cats with similar-looking coats and suitable handlers proved quite the undertaking. Complicating matters further, they each had their own set of talents and temperaments, both of which would have to be taken into account whenever using them on-set.

However you prefer your Church, the fact of the matter is that the menacing meow-meow has carved out his place in the all-time echelon of horror fiends.

Needless to say, Pet Sematary Two’s canine offering is not fit to even hold Church’s lunch. Kudos to Jeff’s tiny little kitten, Tiger, for at least being adorable.

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