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Pet Sematary: One Book, Two Films, a Few Thoughts

Pet Sematary. What a journey this story has been on, an evolution in a sense.

 

Back in 1983 Stephen King’s book entered the world.

Cover of Stephen King’s 1983 horror novel Pet Sematary

 

King says it’s the scariest book he’s written, because ‘what if’ is the scariest thing, especially when you’re a parent and the ‘what if’ is the death of your child.

When a truck strikes down small, baby-faced Gage, Louis can fix it, he can bring back his son because he knows a secret, a terrible secret.

A tale of grief, of desperation, of being haunted by the past, of your mistakes, the book gives us a deep look into Louis’ mind. That’s its strength, the way we watch Louis waver about his decision until he crosses the line and can’t go back.

The journey to the burial grounds is fantastic. The friendship between Louis and Jud is real. Sadness drips from the pages as tragedy strikes more than once, as terrible events of the past resurface. And horror at what Louis does one night in a cemetery.

In 1989 the film version was released. Directed by Mary Lambert and written by Stephen King, it follows the book pretty darn good. With King writing it, why wouldn’t it?

Movie poster for the 1989 horror film Pet Sematary

Change happens when a story goes from book to movie. Certain elements are cut, such as the story of Jud and his wife and Rachel’s parents role. We’re not as much in Louis’ head as much as we are in the book, but the movie does a good job. And creepy? I’ve never forgotten Gage’s giggle as he goes on his killing spree with a scalpel clutched in his chubby fingers.

The cemetery scene isn’t as tense as the book. The journey to the burial grounds not so terrifying. But it was a good movie, memorable.

 

So why remake it?

I don’t mind remakes. Seems to be happening a lot lately. But there needs to be a reason, something needs to be added to the world, something that worms its way into your head and changes your view.

Which brings us to the 2019 version of Pet Sematary, written by Jeff Buhler and directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer.

Remakes have hurt me in the past *cough*Poltergeist*cough*, but a couple of highly trusted horror friends told me to see it. So I did.

Poster for the 2019 horror movie Pet Sematary

Cue my happiness at my decision. Same story with a twist, and a couple of turns that delighted me. Changes that added to the story, and just enough nods to the original movie to fill my heart with glee.

Better than the original movie, the journey to the burial ground oozed with fabulous atmosphere like the book. Also in this version, the past was more haunting, the ghosts more present and creepy.

The story, the emotions of Louis remained, just as good as the original. The friendship of Louis and Jud stayed just as strong. Nothing lost to cool effects or added jump scares, the tale of family and love and loss held fast.

For me, it was a remake done right.

*Spoiler alert!!!* If you have not seen the 2019 Pet Sematary and do not want to know what happens…STOP NOW. JUST SEE IT.

 

 

Is it safe?

First, the road scene, the truck, Gage toddling off towards his doom…just like the book, just like the first movie.

Then nope. Not Gage. He’s fine. The truck leaves Ellie dead in the road.

WHAT? I sat forward in my seat. Interested. What will this do to the story? WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?

WHAT ABOUT THE CREEPY TODDLER KILLING PEOPLE AS HE GIGGLED THAT WAS MY FAVORITE?

But wait…

What about having an older child return from the dead? When Ellie comes back, there’s a dialogue that we didn’t get with Gage, who went bad and started killing. But Ellie…ah, Ellie. She knew she died and could say all the thoughts in her mind. How disturbing and brilliant!

Her descent into evilness became a treat to watch.

As in the original movie, Jud looks at the dark space lurking under the bed, and I expected a glint of light off a scalpel as it slices through Jud’s ankle. BUT NO!

The case with the syringe pulled up all sorts of memories of the original movie, and yet this film took a different path.

AND THE END. Poor unsuspecting Gage sits in the car, and his doom approaches.

LOVE LOVE LOVE

Unexpected and creepy.

I love the book and its deeper point of view, as we sink into Louis’ thoughts and feelings. Movies have trouble capturing that. But these two movies do a good job and the second one is a grand addition to the world of Pet Sematary.

Cheers and nightmares!

Kathy

 

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