- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “Pet Sematary.”
- The “Pet Sematary” remake is finally in theatres and it has a lot of changes from the book.
- From a location change to a completely different ending, INSIDER rounds up the biggest departures the movie makes from Stephen King’s classic book.
From a big twist that was first given away in one of the movie’s trailers, to the removal of some big moments from the novel, INSIDER rounds up the most significant changes the new movie makes from the 1983 book.
The Creed family uproot their lives from a different city.
In the books: The Creeds go on a long road trip from Chicago to Maine. Rachel’s parents are also from Chicago.
In the movie: Louis and his family pack their bags from Boston, Massachusetts to move up to Maine when he gets a position at a university.
The location change probably made it a lot easier later in the film when Rachel and Gage go home with her parents to Boston instead of Chicago. In both the book and the movies, Rachel decides to return home to Louis after sensing something is dreadfully off. In the book, this leads to Amy trying to catch a bunch of connecting flights, missing one, and then renting a car to drive home.
The movie cuts the fat and just sees Rachel drive back home, this time with her surviving child.
Ellie, not Gage, is killed when she’s hit by a truck.
In the book: Gage runs out into the street as a truck is barreling down the road. Louis just misses catching him and Gage is fatally hit.
In the movie: Louis tries to get rid of the family’s cat, Church, after it returns from the dead. He tells an upset Ellie the cat has run away. Ellie sees Church in the road during her ninth birthday party and goes to pick him up. As she’s in the road, the truck comes speeding along. This time it breaks. Unfortunately, the trailer on the truck pops off and slides down the road colliding into poor Ellie.
Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer explained their reasoning for changing the child who’s killed, and honestly it makes sense story wise when they explained to Entertainment Weekly they felt it was something that has been seen on screen already.
“Much of how they shot the first [movie] was a doll,” Widmyer told EW. “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.”
Yes, it’s creepy to watch a toddler go after his family. But it does seem a bit unrealistic he could overpower both Jud Crandall and his mother. In the books, a possessed Gage stabs Jud to death with his father’s scalpel and somehow hangs his mother from a rope.
The remake uses a conversation Ellie has in the book with her family about her fear of death and what happens when one dies to perfectly set up the twist in the remake. The nine-year-old is more adept and agile for the task of taking on her family in the new film.
“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. “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.”
Ellie is older in the movie.
In the book: Ellie is five and is just starting kindergarten.
In the movie: Ellie turns nine and dies on her birthday.
Again, ageing Ellie up allowed for the creep factor of the movie to really take hold in this film. The directors told EW it also allowed for 11-year-old actress, Jeté Laurence, who plays Ellie, to embrace the role while fully recognising that every misdeed her undead version committed was make-believe.
The introduction to the Pet Sematary is completely different.
In the book: The Creed family meets Jud as soon as they’re moving into their new home. When he arrives, he pulls a stinger from Gage’s neck. Later, after the family is settled in, Jud takes the Creed family on a walk out to the Pet Sematary himself to show them all the town pets that have been buried there.
In the movie: Ellie and her mother see a group of kids marching in a procession to the Pet Sematary. Ellie later wanders off into the woods to see where they went. While there, she gets a bee sting and meets her neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), who swiftly removes the stinger and tells her about the makeshift cemetery.
Jud’s wife, Norma, is not alive in the movie.
In the book: Jud’s wife is in a good chunk of King’s novel. She’s suffers a heart attack on Halloween and dies a bit later. As a thank you, when Ellie’s cat is later killed around Thanksgiving while Amy and the kids are out of town, Jud takes Louis to the Micmac burial ground to bring the feline back to life.
In the movie: Jud tells Ellie his wife died some time ago. We wind up seeing her near the movie’s end, but as a demon who briefly takes over the undead Ellie to go after her husband.
To be fair, Norma’s not in the original 1989 movie either.
For whatever reason, the name of Jud’s dog is changed up.
In the book: Jud’s dog was named Spot. Biffer was the name of another family’s cocker spaniel, according to Jud, who was run over by a dumpster.
In the movie: Jud says his dog’s name is Biffer as he points to a grave marker.
In the book, Biffer’s gravemarker read, “Biffer, Biffer, A Helluva Sniffer,” which makes it into the remake.
Zelda’s death is unnecessarily a lot more dramatic in the remake.
In the book: Zelda simply dies of spinal meningitis when Amy’s parents are away. They leave Amy to care for Zelda on her own and she dies while Amy is in charge.
In the movie: We never see Zelda die on screen. Instead, we see Amy forgo bringing food to her sister’s room. Instead, she sends it up a dumbwaiter. The viewer simply sees Zelda’s twisted body end up in the dumbwaiter shaft, frightening a young Amu.
It’s never made exactly clear how this even happens. For all we know, Zelda’s horrific death could partially be the hallucination of an overly active imagination of an 8 year old.
The revived Church is violent toward the Creed family.
In the book: When Church returns home, a lot of talk is made over how he doesn’t smell and feel right. Ellie’s turned off by her cat right away. The cat hisses and starts killing animals to eat, but never harms anyone. Louis remarks that while Church resembles the family’s cat, that resemblance only goes as far as looks.
He notices that other neighbours cringe away from the cat and the way he saunters around is less graceful than the usual motions of a cat. Louis is always creeped out by him.
In the movie: After Church comes back, no one questions whether or not he’s cat-like. But everyone notices that he’s much meaner. He scratches Ellie and bites at Louis. Unlike the novel, Louis tries abandoning the cat far from home only to have it find its way back home.
Louis’ relationship with his neighbour Jud seems less genial.
In thebook: Louis instantly feels a fatherly draw to Jud. In practically no time, Louis refers to him as a father figure he respects and reveres greatly. The two spend a lot of time in the book throwing back beers. Eventually, he tells him everything he needs to know about the Micmac burial ground.
In the movie: Louis’ relationship towards Jud comes off as a bit more hostile. Sure, Jud goes over to the Creed home to have dinner, but that’s after he made a friend in his daughter, Ellie. Jud comes off as slightly suspicious here as he skirts telling Louis much about the burial grounds.
In the remake, it’s Jud and Ellie who seem to share more of a relationship. Jud even tells Louis that Ellie is the first person to make him really care about someone since his wife died. Later in the movie, Louis drugs Jud to make sure he doesn’t try and stop him from burying Ellie to bring her back to life. Louis never would have drugged Jud in the book.
Louis’ big fight with his father-in-law doesn’t ever occur.
In the book: This is a huge moment in the book. The confrontation between Louis Creed and his father-in-law makes Gage’s funeral come to a standstill. Amy gets hysterical as her husband and father brawl on the ground, and Gage’s casket gets knocked over.
In the movie: This is just nonexistent. We never even learn whether or not Louis gets along with his in-laws.
The entire end of the movie is a huge departure from the book.
In the book: When Gage comes back to life, Louis isn’t aware of it at first. The toddler sneaks into his father’s room, steals his scalpel, and then ventures across the street to kill both Jud and his mother who shows up at the neighbour’s house.
Louis, hysterical and on edge, kills Church, lights Jud’s house on fire, and then proceeds to take his wife’s corpse and bury it in the Micmac burial ground. At the book’s very end, a possessed Amy returns home to Louis, placing her hand on his shoulder.
In the movie: Ellie returns to her father while he’s awake. Unlike Gage, Ellie, at first appears to still retain her humanity despite clearly being undead (clumps of her hair fall out when brushed and one of her eyes isn’t working perfectly).
It’s not until the following morning that Louis starts to suspect something is off with his daughter. Similar to the book, she then proceeds to kill Jud and her mother; however, it’s Ellie, not Louis, who drags Rachel to the burial ground and brings her back to life. Louis also winds up dead and is brought back to life to presumably wreck havoc on Maine.
This was actually a very satisfying deviation from the book for anyone who was expecting a typical end to the film. Even the original movie changes things up a bit with Rachel. In the 1989 film, she also kills Louis at the film’s end.
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