"Sometimes dead is better." We read it in the novel, and we heard it in the 1989 film—now, we'll see it like never before in the upcoming Pet Sematary reboot. Based on Stephen King's cautionary tale of death and resurrection, the new Pet Sematary is less like a remake of its predecessor, and more a modern-day adaptation of the classic novel—arguably King's scariest. While it’s expected that this year’s reboot will stay as true to the original storyline as possible, there's no doubt that the filmmakers will want to create a new experience for Stephen King readers and horror fanatics everywhere. Let's now take a look at all the changes we're anticipating in the new Pet Sematary.
10 ELLIE CREED IS KILLED
In Stephen King's novel and the following 1989 film, tragedy strikes the Creed household when three-year-old Gage—whose death was actually caused by the dark power of the woods surrounding the Creed's new home in Ludlow, Maine—runs onto the road and is instantly killed by a speeding truck. Probably the most notable change in this year's Pet Sematary adaptation is that it's now Gage's older sister, Ellie Creed (Jeté Laurence), who is hit by the oncoming semi and resurrected by her grief-stricken father, Louis. Co-director of the 2019 film, Dennis Widmyer, explains that while they were nervous about the change, the psychology of an older child—understanding what happened, and having the knowledge to destroy someone both physically and mentally—adds another layer to the plot.
9 MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL THEMES
There's no doubting Stephen King's Pet Sematary and its first film adaptation have several horror clichés and plot holes—like reanimation and a doctor moving his family next to a dangerous highway full of speeding trucks. Perhaps to get around these predictable motifs, the filmmakers of this year's reboot planned to focus more on the overwhelming grief and psychological torment of losing a child—a very surreal aspect of King's novel that was lacking in the first film. Exploring the "dual themes of family and death in a deeper way", as the directors explain, would certainly help justify why anyone would try and resurrect a deceased loved one, even if it really does mean "they don't come back the same". Expect to see more emotion this year.
8 WE GET TO SEE THE WENDIGO
As seen in the second trailer of this year's Pet Sematary, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) explains to his new neighbor, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), that the woods surrounding their homes "belong to something else", something evil. For the most part, Mary Lambert's 1989 film adaptation of Pet Sematary honored its source material but left out one of the novel's most crucial and creepiest components, the Wendigo. If you look closely, the trailer gives a little tease that the mythical creature will make an appearance in the reboot—we get a glimpse of the Wendigo in the book Louis and Jud are reading, and hear it screech as the pair navigate the Ludlow forest at night.
7 KIDS WITH AN OCCULT VIBE
The children of Ludlow used to bury dead animals in the 'Pet Sematary', though we never really got to see this in action in the 1989 film—this year's reboot is likely to cover that. As Jud Crandall explains in the first trailer, there was a myth that the children of Ludlow used to dare each other to traverse the woods at night—"They knew the power of that place; they feared it." In the trailer, you'll notice a funeral procession of children with an occult-like vibe, wearing vintage-looking animal masks—sort of like a death march with beating drums that intensify as the clip gets creepier. For those that haven't read the novel, this fits King's description of the Pet Sematary as having "a crazy sort of profundity, a charm that was not Christian but pagan".
6 OTHERS MIGHT 'COME BACK' TOO
First, it was Ellie's cat, Church, then little brother, Gage, whose resurrected corpses turned evil. In the novel and 1989 film, Jud leads Louis beyond the 'Pet Sematary' to another cemetery—a cursed Indian burial ground that brings the dead back to life, only they don't return quite the same. The trailers for this year's reboot hint that perhaps more than just Ellie Creed and the household cat will be resurrected. "Your child is not the only thing who will come back," we hear Jud tell Louis. Looks like all hell breaks loose at the Creed residence once "the barrier is broken".
5 VICTOR PASCOW'S GHOST WILL BE SCARIER
Anyone familiar with the Stephen King novel or 1989 film adaptation would know that Victor Pascow—a student who was killed by a car on Louis Creed's first day as a university doctor—appears repeatedly as a 'good ghost', often acting as Louis' supernatural conscience. After his death, Victor appears in one of Louis' dreams, warning him about the cursed burial grounds beyond the 'Pet Sematary'—"Don't go beyond, no matter how much you feel you need to, doctor. The barrier was not made to be broken". In the 1989 film, Pascow's ghost alleviates some of the darker horror elements in the story, but we shouldn't expect the same this year. Dennis Widmyer (co-director) explains that the voice speaking through the new Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) is "an ancient voice"—possibly referencing Micmac folklore as the source of the dark power in the burial grounds.
4 ZELDA IS MUCH YOUNGER
Those who read the Stephen King classic would find it hard to forget Rachel Creed's sister, Zelda—a ten-year-old girl with spinal meningitis, whose horrific deterioration and death would torment Rachel well into adulthood. Zelda's portrayal in the first Pet Sematary adaptation was arguably one of the film's creepiest elements—the only difference to the novel was the adult-male actor who played Zelda, lending the character a grotesque, almost unnatural appearance. In the 2019 reboot, thirteen-year-old Alyssa Brooke Levine will play Zelda, suggesting the filmmakers are trying to honor the novel as much as possible. Judging by the trailer, Zelda's return is even more unsettling—we catch a glimpse of the twisted, female figure crawling towards her recoiling sister, Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz).
3 NO MORE HEAVY ACCENTS
It seems Jud Crandall's character in this year's reboot is losing the iconic Maine accent (that landed him a recurring role as the 'old farmer' on South Park). Unlike the 1989 Pet Sematary, we see few characters donning the accent in the trailers for this year's reboot. In the novel, Stephen King writes Jud Crandall's character as having a noticeable, very heavy regional dialect that lends him a strong sense of country and belonging, supporting his role as 'gatekeeper' of the Micmac burial grounds. Oscar-nominated actor, John Lithgow (portraying Jud Crandall in 2019), believes that Jud has evolved into "a more serious character" since the novel and preceding film. Lithgow's decision to lose the accent will bring a new dark and mysterious edge to Jud Crandall.
2 JUD CRANDALL HAS A DARK PAST
Just as well Jud Crandall loses his Maine accent (that is equally as comical as it is unnerving)—his character in the Stephen King classic is not as innocent as he seems, and this year's Pet Sematary will certainly bring out some of Jud's demons. "He is a good man, but he is a good man with troubles in his life," actor John Lithgow tells EW. In the novel and 1989 film, Jud Crandall is the Creed's new, seemingly friendly neighbor who has lived in Ludlow his entire life—as his accent alone suggested. This also meant that Jud was familiar with the dark power of the Indian burial grounds beyond the 'Pet Sematary'.
1 NO MENTION OF TIMMY BATERMAN
The story of Timmy Baterman is arguably one of the most unsettling parts in the novel. Timmy was a 17-year-old boy killed during World War II, and as you guessed it, buried in the cursed Micmac burial grounds by his father. What was most chilling of all was how harmless Timmy seemed at first, but upon interacting with the local residents, how 'wrong' he became—an element lacking in the first film. "He just stood there... dangling at his sides and head pushed forward a little bit," Jud tells Louis in the novel. Timmy's eyes also "looked dead and dusty as marbles", suggesting that Timmy didn't return with his soul. Unfortunately, Timmy doesn't appear in the latest cast list—though hopefully, the filmmakers have a surprise in store for us this April.