Stephen King's horror tragedy Pet Sematary has a new movie adaptation from directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, but the story has some major changes from the original novel and Mary Lambert's 1989 film adaptation. While the first half of the movie mostly sticks to plot beats from the book, things take a sharp right turn into new territory after a horrifying death at the movie's midpoint.
Pet Sematary stars Jason Clark as Louis Creed, a doctor who moves his family from Boston to rural Maine, buying a house with property that extends into the woods behind it. Those woods include a pet cemetery maintained by the children of the town, who have an unnerving ritual of wearing animal masks and walking in procession to the cemetery when one of their pets dies.
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Together with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), their two children, Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), and the family cat, Church, Louis tries to relax into his new life. However, when Church is hit by a truck and Louis' neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), takes him to a strange burial ground beyond the pet cemetery, it marks the downfall of the Creed family. Here's how the 2019 take on Pet Sematary differs from King's novel and Lambert's film.
- This Page: Changes to Jud Crandall's Role in Pet Sematary
- Page 2: Changes to Zelda's Death, Church's Return, and Which Child Dies
- Page 3: Changes to the Ending of Pet Sematary
Norma Crandall is Dead Before the Movie Begins
In the 2019 adaptation of Pet Sematary, Jud says that he felt compelled to take Louis up to the burial ground to bring Church back because he felt sorry for Ellie, and also because the dark power of the place compelled him to share its secret. While these reasons are also present in the book, there was originally another major reason why Jud helped Louis with his dead cat problem: as a way to repay him for saving his wife. In King's novel, Norma Crandall is still alive and suffers a heart attack that she survives thanks to Louis' quick actions. Later, Jud blames himself for starting the chain of events that led to Gage's death, lamenting, "You saved Norma's life, and I wanted to do something for you, and that place turned my good wish to its own evil purpose." Norma dies later in the novel, but (most likely for the purposes of trimming down the story), she's already dead at the start of both the movie adaptations.
Jud's Pet Dog Turns Violent
There's one major change to Jud Crandall's backstory in Kölsch and Widmyer's book that casts his later actions in a much more unfavorable light. After Church comes back to life, filthy and mean, Louis demands to know more about the burial ground. Jud reveals that it has been used many times over the years, and that when he was a boy he took his own dog up there after it died from an infected barbed wire wound. Jud explains that his dog came back bad, and that his father was forced to kill it again after it attacked Jud's mother.
In the book, ud's decision to take Louis up to the burial ground makes more sense, because the dog that Jud brought back to life as a boy didn't turn violent. That's not to say that it came back exactly the same; Jud admits that the dog was never the same after its resurrection and behaved stupid and slow, without the same spark of life as before. However, the dog never attacked anyone and lived on for years after its resurrection, before eventually dying of old age. Jud also reveals that many other people have buried their pets there over the years, and that only one - a bull called Hanratty, who is referenced in newspaper clippings in the movie - ever turned mean. In Lambert's film, the dog comes back snapping, growling, and "not quite the same," but still lives a full life before eventually dying peacefully in the night.