[The following contains spoilers for Pet Sematary]
The directors of the new Pet Sematary remake explain why they made one big, startling change to Stephen King's story. Published in 1983, Pet Sematary weaves a tale of supernatural horror as it follows what happens to the Creed family after they move to rural Maine and stumble upon a burial ground for pets that possesses the power to bring the dead back to life. The best-selling book was first adapted into a film in 1989.
Now, 30 years after Pet Sematary terrified audiences with its spiraling tale of horror, another movie version of King's story is set to hit screens. Jason Clarke stars this time as Louis Creed, the big city doctor who uproots his family and moves them to the wilds of Maine, a decision that winds up having the most horrific of consequences as the family's young son Gage is run over by a truck, only to be buried in the supernatural "pet sematary" and brought back to a semblance of life that is actually worse than death. John Lithgow portrays Jud Crandall, the kindly old neighbor who tries to warn the Creeds that "sometimes dead is better."
Early trailers and stills from the new Pet Sematary show that many elements of King's story have been retained, but the newest trailer has actually spoiled one big alteration directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer made to the original. In both the book and the first film, Gage indeed dies and is brought back, but is now evil and murderous. However, in the new version, the decision was made to have the family's 8-year-old daughter Ellie suffer Gage's fate instead. In an interview with EW, the film's directors and producer explained why they decided to make this key change to the story. As it turns out, they were trying in part to avoid parallels with other movies that have featured killer kids - and dolls. Widmyer said:
“Much of how they shot the first [movie] was a doll. 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 …”
Indeed, when the original Pet Sematary came out, many remarks were made about the similarities between the murderous young Gage and the killer doll Chucky from Child's Play, which was released the year before. Another reason for the change from Gage to Ellie? The simple practicalities of making a small child - Gage is about 3-years-old in the story - say and do the horrific things the character has to say and do. “Gage is so young, you can’t really do that much with him,” explained producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. However, changing it up and giving Gage's role to the older Ellie, played by Jeté Laurence, freed the film's directors up to go deeper into the psychological element of the story. As Widmyer explained, an older child "would understand what happened to her on the road. She would understand that she’s dead," adding more layers to the horror.
All in all, the makers of Pet Sematary have a solid rationale for changing up this one key element of the story. If the changes work as they suggest they should, an already horrific story may have been rendered even more unspeakably gut-wrenching. However, it remains to be seen how King purists will react to the decision to change up one of the writer's most popular works.
- Pet Sematary (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019