Warning: very spooky spoilers for Pet Sematary ahead!
Before walking into the movie theater last week, I was fully aware that Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer's adaptation of Pet Sematary was going to diverge in a few ways from Stephen King's award-winning 1983 horror novel. (The trailer confirmed as much.) Although a movie documenting the Creed family's plight was first released in 1989, the most recent onscreen iteration of the story introduced another generation to the Wendigo and what happens when "some things are better off dead."
In both King's novel and the 2019 reboot, we meet the Creed family: Louis (Jason Clarke), a doctor who moves his wife and two young children — Ellie and Gage — from a bustling city to the small town of Ludlow, ME, so he can begin a new job at the University of Maine's hospital. He and his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), hope they'll be able to slow down and spend more quality time together. However, after moving into a sprawling farmhouse on a crazy-busy road with a creepy pet cemetery on their property, things don't stay peaceful for long. Keep reading to get a look at the biggest differences between King's novel and the 2019 reboot.
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As much as we love Judson Crandall — who's played by John Lithgow in the latest remake — his sweet, arthritic wife, Norma, doesn't make an appearance in the film. As soon as the audience meets Jud for the first time, they quickly learn that Norma passed away a few years prior. While her absence doesn't change the trajectory of the story drastically, she added a warmness to the novel that's missing from the new film.
While we completely understand that not every aspect of a book finds its way onto the big screen, it's safe to say the directors cut out a ton of Louis's and Judson's backstory. Instead of diving into how many nights the father of two spends at his neighbor's house drinking beer and chatting, the movie jumps right into the moment Jud shows him the cemetery. Would I walk through the woods with a creepy man I barely knew? Probably not, but to each their own.
One of the scariest parts of both the book and the film adaption is Zelda's storyline. Rachel's handful of flashbacks — which include her older sister, who was plagued with a deforming case of spinal meningitis — are straight up chilling. And while it's terrifying enough that Zelda chokes and dies in the book, the movie's version where she dies after falling into a dumb-waiter shaft is even more frightening.
The biggest change between the book and the movie was fairly well-known before the reboot ever hit theaters: Ellie is the child who's hit and killed by a truck during her birthday party, rather than her younger brother. Although it's little Gage who comes back from the dead in both the novel and the 1989 film, there's something about an older kid trying to kill you that's just more believable. Just ask Judson Crandall.
As a loyal cat-lover, I never want to see an animal in pain (or worse). However, Church might be the one and only exception after he comes back from the dead with an evil streak. While Louis is able to successfully put down Church using medicine from the hospital in the book, in the 2019 movie, the Creed patriarch can't seem to pull the trigger. Instead, he leaves the cat in an abandoned area of woods, which seems like a good idea until the feline comes back and lures Ellie into the busy road.
No matter how you slice it, every ending to Pet Sematary is disturbing. But the latest rendition might be the the most upsetting of all. In both the novel and the original film, Rachel leaves Ellie — who is still very much alive and well — at her parents' house in Chicago and returns to the family home. Unfortunately, that's not what goes down in the 2019 movie — after Rachel and Louis meet their violent demise (Ellie kills her mom, then Rachel kills Louis), they become an "undead" family and imply that Gage follows suit before the credits start rolling. Shiver.