Pet Sematary 2019 has a reference to Derry, the fictional Maine town that appears across Stephen King's writing but made famous by IT. Far from just a wink to one of the author's most famous works, this sees movies based on King begin to properly embrace the shared universe aspect of his books.
A readaptation of King's 1983 novel (the previous movie released in 1989), Pet Sematary is set on the outskirts of Ludlow, Maine and presents a lot of classic elements of the author, from articulated trucks to century-spanning spirits. The film follows the Creed family who gets ensnared with the Wendigo after the death of their cat Church, then daughter Ellie (toddler Gage in the book). It's a rather self-contained story - the new movie doesn't even go that far into Ludlow itself - although has some big universe teases.
On the way back to Ludlow, Rachel (Amy Seimetz) gets stuck in a traffic jam on the outskirts, at which point a road sign for Derry can be seen. Derry is best known as the town menaced every 27 years by IT in the form of Pennywise the Clown, but predates that 1986 novel by a few years, with references in stories as diverse as The Body (the inspiration for Stand By Me) to The Running Man (nothing like the movie) and appearances in subsequent books.
The IT reference in Pet Sematary comes from the source, but that it happens so innocuously is a key step in the evolution of Stephen King on film. There have been almost 50 movies based on his books (depending on how you count) that have managed to translate much of what makes the writing so popular, defining New England horror as a legitimate genre. But one thing that most Stephen King movies have avoided is how everything is supposed to exist in a proper, connected universe; places and sometimes people intersect in surprising ways that reward King superfans with a tapestry of stories to explore (that doesn't get in the way for newcomers).
2017's The Dark Tower did attempt to introduce this idea similar to how the book series connected various threads together, but that wound up being a marketing ploy using photos of The Overlook than it was anything of substance in the hastily-edited film itself. Last year's Castle Rock TV show on Hulu managed to tie things together much more successfully, with a mixture of meta casting and sharp writing constructing a world teeming with references, but that was still very much targeted at the King faithful.
Pet Sematary's IT reference takes this to a much bigger scale. Pennywise is a true cultural icon after IT made $700 million at the box office, and Pet Sematary is similarly poised for impressive returns. Of course, the reference doesn't go much further than that: a reference. It's not indicative of a connection between the new movie and IT: Chapter Two due out later this year, mainly thanks to book rights, with different studios owning different stories: Pet Sematary is a Paramount release, IT a New Line production for Warner Bros.
But that isn't the point. There should be no expectation for IT and the Wendigo to cross paths - their similar modus operandi never yields a direct connection. In contrast to how every Easter egg in a Marvel movie is deemed to tease something big in the future, in Stephen King's mythology it's fun background. To see Derry get a casual namedrop in Pet Sematary, a film totally unrelated, is the big deal.
- IT Chapter Two (2019) release date: Sep 06, 2019