Be aware there are spoilers for Pet Sematary.
If you’ve seen the new spin on Pet Sematary, you know the filmmakers weren’t afraid to stay true to the dark and dreary nature of Stephen King‘s infamously ghoulish horror tale. However, even though they were willing to go just as dark as King, they also embraced the freedom to take some major swings away from the story of the source material. This time around, it’s not Gage but Ellie who dies in this tragic version of the tale, a new spin that lets the mysterious evil behind the living dead peek through the girl’s once vibrant personality.
The Ellie/Gage switcheroo has a major impact on the film as a whole, a sort of butterfly effect on the film’s plot, and it all manifests in the film’s ending — which fans of the book will note is very different from the original ending. In this version, Ellie kills Rachel (taunting her mother during her final moments) and drags her corpse to the graveyard, where she comes back from the dead just in time to stop Louis from putting Ellie down for good. The reanimated Rachel stabs her husband through the back and buries him in the sour soil. The film’s final moments see the reanimated trio walking back from the graveyard, slowly making their way towards poor young Gage, the sole survivor of the Creed family.
But it turns out, the original scripted version was a bit closer to the source material. In the book’s ending, Gage kills Rachel and Louis finally puts Gage out of his undead misery but deludes himself into believing Rachel will come back OK if he buries her quicker. After doing the deed, Louis waits in the Kitchen alone until the undead Rachel finally walks up behind him, saying only, “Darling.”
Speaking with the filmmakers after their SXSW debut, they explained that they explored countless endings for the film. “Any permutation you can imagine, we discussed,” said screenwriter Jeff Buhler, “and many of them were written.” Ultimately, they ended up shooting two of them — the original scripted ending and the one we got in the film.
Producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura described,
There was a version of it where mom and daughter are both back from the dead. And there’s a shot of [Louis] with Gage in his lap. Both of them are normal. It’s like a family portrait. And then, mom walks in. She’s clearly out there in another world. And daughter comes in, and daughter says, ‘Hi, mommy. I love you.’ And then the camera’s on them like a family portrait. And then it just pulls back, the little kid’s crying, and [Louis] just looks like he’s been run over by a bus.”
Obviously, that’s not an identical match to the book’s ending, but it would have maintained the tone of Louis’ utter helplessness in the aftermath of the horror he set in motion. So why did they go with the alt? Buhler explained, “It felt right to have an ending that had a little punch to it and was kind of a wink, like, ‘We’re in a horror movie, people, it’s Friday night, you’re out with your friends, have some fun’ so it felt good to do that.”
Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer also chimed in. “I would say that’s a sadder ending whereas this one’s a more fun ending, but both endings fulfill the themes in the movie and kind of have this inevitable doom to them,” said Widmyer. Kölsch explained that the new ending came from one of their many rounds of what-if conversations, and though they thought it was too crazy at first, the more they thought about it, the more the idea stuck.
They ended up shooting both endings and ultimately made their decision when they tested both for audiences. The creative team loved both endings and so did the audience. In fact, both versions of the ending tested about the same, but ultimately it was the alternate ending that got the best response. “I would have to say, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had, said DiBonaventura.
The good news for fans is it sounds like we’ll eventually get to see both endings play out — everyone I talked to sounded certain that the original ending will end up on the eventual Blu-ray release. “We loved both of them. That one will be on the Blu-ray and that one could slot into the movie perfectly the way this one can,” said Widmyer. “We get to have our cake and eat it too.”
For more on how the film’s ending came together be sure to check out our full ending break down with the cast and crew, and for more on Pet Sematary, check out the links below:
- ‘Pet Sematary’ Stars Jason Clarke & Amy Seimetz on the Wonderful Passion of Horror Fans
- ‘Pet Sematary’ Directors Reveal Which Scene They Knew They Couldn’t Change
- ‘Pet Sematary’ Directors on Why the Trailers Spoiled One of the Movie’s Big Twists
- ‘Pet Sematary’ Review: Another Excellent Stephen King Adaptation to Add to the List