‘Pet Sematary’ Filmmakers Explain Their Changes to Stephen King’s Horror Classic

     February 7, 2019

pet-sematary-changes-explainedIf you haven’t watched the new Pet Sematary trailer, you should probably do so before reading on. However, if you don’t want spoilers of any kind, I’d avoid both the trailer and our subsequent write-up, because both give away quite a bit of plot content for the latest adaptation of Stephen King‘s classic horror tome. Final warning.

So as you probably noticed in that first trailer, there are some changes coming with regards to King’s 1983 novel and Mary Lambert‘s less-than-stellar cult classic 1989 movie adaptation. The new version will swap the tragic death of young Gage Creed for that of 8-year-old Ellie, played by Jeté Laurence (The Snowman). That should signal to fans of the book and the first movie that this is a new adaptation, to expect the unexpected, but the rest of the trailer reinforces the fact that this version may just be the most faithful when it comes to other aspects.

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Image via Paramount

EW had a chat with a trio of filmmakers behind the rebooted Pet Sematary feature in order to explain the reasoning behind some of those changes. Here’s what producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura had to say about one of the big changes in the story, the death of Ellie:

“Trust me, we were nervous about it. I feel this way about anything that you remake or update. If we gave you what you had before, we didn’t do the subject matter much good. I’m very protective of movies too, but I want a new experience each time, and feel like filmmakers have really thought about the choice. That was one, we thought, ‘All right, let’s make this choice.’”

He also commented on Ellie’s age making things easier on them, from both practical and storytelling standpoints:

“Gage is so young, you can’t really do that much with him. So this way, we’re able to really get underneath our affected child. We’re able to get into the psychological horror of a child [coming back] because of her age.”

Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) also talked about the storytelling possibilities that a zombified 8-year-old girl present, rather than a 3-year-old boy:

“Much of how they shot the first [movie] was a doll,” Widmyer said. “It’s creepy and it’s effective. But we’ve now seen Child’s Play and we’ve seen the little kid trying to kill, and it’s effective when done right, but …”

 

“There are things that we put back in that, if people didn’t read the book, they’re going to think they are things that we’ve changed [from the 1989 film],” said Kölsch. “‘Why’d they make her say these lines?’ But if you read the book, these are things that are taken right out of it that just didn’t make it into the original movie because they probably couldn’t have a 3-year-old do it.”

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Image via Paramount

That last comment is in reference to King’s use of psychological torment through the unnaturally resurrected Creed kid (and others brought back by the sour ground), whose body is possessed by a malevolent and vile spirit. But that doesn’t mean that Ellie’s own spirit isn’t there, fighting its way to the surface:

“There was something about an 8-year-old and the psychology that she would have,” said Widmyer. “She would understand what happened to her on the road. She would understand that she’s dead. She would know how to not only physically kill a person, but psychologically destroy them as well. It just gave another layer to it.”

As a fan of King’s original story and the sub-par adaptation, I’m down with this major change to the story. Not only does it bring a fresh approach to Pet Sematary by delivering something readers and audiences haven’t seen before, it keeps the core horror at the heart of King’s tale, hewing even closer to the demonic origins of the title place of power. And from this early glimpse at the film, we’re also teased about other story elements that will remain intact: The history of the Native American tribes’ awareness of the land’s power, the relationship between the Creeds and Crandalls, the ill-fated foreshadowing of Church the cat, and, of course, Rachel’s horrific memories of her sister, Zelda. It also looks like we’ll get to see Louis’ work as a doctor come into play in ways we might not expect, though it remains to be seen if Ol’ Timmy Baterman will appear again.

Sometimes, when it comes to Hollywood reboots, dead is definitely better, but in the case of Pet Sematary, I couldn’t possibly be more excited to check it out on April 5th.

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