pet sematary deleted scenes

The ending of the new Pet Sematary is unapologetically dark – just like the novel of Stephen King’s novel, and the 1989 film adaptation from Mary Lambert. But the ending you now see in theaters wasn’t the original ending that was shot.

In a new, exclusive and spoiler-filled interview, Pet Sematary directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer broke down some of the details of the Pet Sematary alternate ending. In addition to that, the filmmakers told me about several Pet Sematary deleted scenes that will be resurrected from the cutting room floor to live again on the Blu-ray release.

pet sematary mask kids

The Story Behind the Creepy Kids Wearing Animal Masks 

One of the most memorable pieces of imagery from this Pet Sematary is a funeral procession of children wearing spooky, Wicker Man-like animal masks. Early in the movie, the kids are toting a dead dog off to the pet sematary in an eerie manner, immediately establishing an ominous tone. They only show up in this brief moment, but if you watch the trailers released for Pet Sematary, you might catch several quick shots of the kids elsewhere. There’s a fast cut of them standing around in a semi-circle. There’s another shot of them traveling through the woods late at night, when we only ever see them during the day in the movie. And there are even a few quick shots of some of the kids inside one of the two houses used in the film.

If you were to go by these trailers, it looks as if there’s an entire subplot involving the animal mask kids up to nefarious deeds. But according to Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, it’s all just smoke and mirrors. “That’s marketing,” Kölsch tells me, laughing.

“Yeah, that’s all marketing,” adds Widmyer. “That was not us. I mean, we had the scene early in movie with the procession, and that was only ever the only shot of the kids you know but, [the studio] liked the imagery of that. This is how they do it on studio films, they send marketing departments down, and they actually have their own camera unit, and they take your actors and go shoot things that are just specifically for trailers, and marketing spots.”

“The first time we saw the trailer was the first time we saw that footage ourselves,” Kölsch says, laughing again. “We were like…’Wait, what is that?'”

“We were a little concerned that that might confuse audiences, but it really doesn’t seem like it has,” Widmyer continues.

pet sematary tv spot

Zelda

Besides Church the Cat, Zelda might be the most popular, and recognizable, character in Pet Sematary lore. The twisted, ghoulish, dead sister of lead character Rachel Creed was a particularly creepy element of the 1989 film, and the Zelda in the 2019 Pet Sematary is similarly scary, but also different. While we see a fair amount of Zelda through terrifying visions that haunt Rachel, there was a good amount more that ended up cut out of the final film.

Towards the end of Pet Sematary, Rachel returns to her parent’s house in Boston. Once there, she has more visions of Zelda. After all, she’s now in the house that Zelda died in. But Widmyer tells me that ultimately, when it came time to put together the final cut, they wanted to keep Zelda – or at least her ghost – confined to a specific location. “We wanted to really focus the Zelda scenes more to the house in Maine [that the Creed family moves into],” Widmyer says. Originally, they had a scene where Rachel visits Zelda’s old bedroom to see if she can face her fears. A similar scene appears in the ’89 movie.

“We [didn’t] want to just shoehorn in any Zelda things for the sake of it,” says Kölsch. “We wanted to make sure that you know there was a reason for [Rachel] having her Zelda [visions].”

That reason? The haunted woods, and cursed burial ground that rest behind the Creed house. King stresses in the novel that the burial ground has a kind of power, and that its influence might be able to extend beyond the burial ground itself. “Living on the outskirts of these woods, they’re kind of being infected by it,” Kölsch continues. Rachel states that her thoughts of Zelda have increased ever since the Creeds move into their house, and there lies the explanation.

In addition to this, there were a few more scenes where Rachel and her parents (who barely appear in the final cut) talk about Zelda, and the trauma her death inflicted on Rachel as a child.

norma crandall

Norma Crandall

In the Pet Sematary novel, Jud Crandall has an ailing wife named Norma who, while not a main character, plays a significant part in the proceedings – until her death. Norma didn’t make it into the 1989 adaptation, but she does pop up in the new film – sort of. Instead of the real Norma, the resurrected Ellie Creed conjures up a vision of Norma to taunt poor Jud, just before he’s killed. During this scene, “Norma” drops some dialogue about something Jud did to her when she was alive, but the comment goes by unremarked upon. Whatever Norma is referencing there is revealed in a few deleted scenes.

“There’s more Norma stuff in the movie,” Widmyer says.

“You get more of Jud’s backstory, and his relationship with the burial ground,” Kölsch adds.

pet sematary set visit

Jud and Louis

King’s novel builds up a warm, paternal relationship between Jud and Louis. Louis takes a shine to his new elderly neighbor, and thinks of him as the man who should’ve been his father. The two spend nearly every night hanging out on Jud’s porch, tipping back beers and shooting the breeze. During these nights, Jud tends to spill details regarding the history of Ludlow, the town the Creeds have just moved to.

But none of this is in the 2019 movie. In fact, Louis and Jud’s relationship in the new film is downplayed. The two are on friendly terms, but they’re nowhere near as close as they come across in the novel. If you were hoping for more of this in the 2019 movie, you’re in luck: it will be on the Blu-ray release.

“There is this more Jud/Louis time,” says Widmyer. “When you think of Jud and Louis ,you think of them sitting on the patio drinking beer, so you’ll get that scene…[a scene] where [Louis] and Jud bond some more, early in the first act of movie. [It’s] a nice scene between Jason [Clarke] and John Lithgow.”

louis and ellie

Louis and Ellie

Scenes of horror are all well and good, but what one thing that can help make a horror movie even more memorable is quieter character moments. Moments where we get to really know the characters, and learn to care about them. One deleted scene, which features Louis and daughter Ellie, sounds like it does just that.

“There’s a really, really sweet scene that we hated cutting” Widmyer tells me. “But there was a lot of stuff that happened on the first night [the Creeds move into their new house]. And we want to move the pace of that first night a little more. But there’s a great scene there of Louis and Ellie talking about the move, and her fears about starting a new school, and his fears about being a doctor at university now instead of a hospital. And it establishes the cubby hole that then pays off later on [in the movie] So that’s a really good scene. And church is in it, too. One of Church’s cutest moments in the movie.”

A character moment and more Church being cute? I’d like to see this immediately.

Amy Seimetz interview

The Pet Sematary Alternate Ending

There are a lot of rumors floating around about Pet Sematary alternate endings. While the script for the film went through several drafts, many of which had different outcomes, there were only two endings shot. The first ending was the one in the final script. But that’s not the ending that made it into the final film. According to the directors, this first, unused ending is elaborate – it’s not just a quick change. In Widmyer’s words, it’s a “pretty fleshed-out ending, it’s not just something tacked on.”

So how did Pet Sematary end up with its current ending?

“That [alternate] ending we shot first,” Widmyer says, “and then we decided, you know, to have this other ending – so the studio could test two different endings…We [edited] them both and both endings [test] scored pretty equally.”

Both endings were dark – in keeping with Pet Sematary tradition. But one was noticeably darker than the other.

“They’re both disturbing and dark,” Widmyer continues. “[But] I would say that the current ending [in the final film] sends off the audience with a smile on its face, while at the same time though, [they’re saying] ‘That was that was messed up!’ Whereas the other one, I don’t think anyone would be smiling. The other one has more of a bleak, kind of sad tone to it.”

Kölsch and Widmyer would prefer to keep the specifics of the alternate ending a secret for now, but I can tell you that it involves a “family moment” that will likely leave the viewer in a rather dark place. I enjoy the ending that’s not playing in theaters, and I will confess that while it’s dark, it does leave me with a bit of a smile on my face. At the same time, though, I can’t help but pine for this bleaker ending. King’s novel ends on an incredibly bleak, unhappy note, and what Kölsch and Widmyer shot seems to be more in line – at least in tone – with that.

If you’re pining for all the details about this alternate ending, you might not have to wait too long. According to Widmyer, Paramount is planning to release the alternate ending online before the Blu-ray comes out, as a way of advertising the upcoming home video release – likely arriving in July.

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Pet Sematary is now playing in theaters. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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