pet sematary plot change

Fans of Pet Sematary were surprised when the most recent trailer for the upcoming remake revealed a major plot change. Some people (like me!) were fine with it, but others felt it diverged too sharply from Stephen King‘s source material. But what about King himself? What does the Master of Horror think about such a departure? According to Pet Sematary star Jason Clarke, King is a-okay with the Pet Sematary plot change, which is a bit surprising, since King has spent the last 39 years complaining about the source material changes from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Spoilers for all-things Pet Sematary follow, especially if you haven’t watched the most recent trailer.

Anyone who has read Stephen King’s terrifying novel, or seen the 1989 film adaptation, knows that the plot of Pet Sematary involves a toddler being run down in the road by a truck, only to be brought back to life as a murderous zombie via a cursed burial ground. The toddler is Gage Creed, and his father – Louis Creed – does the deed of burying the corpse, even though he knows it’s probably a bad idea. The undead Gage then returns and goes on a killing spree. However, the upcoming Pet Sematary remake makes a major change: it’s not Gage who is killed by the truck and then brought back from the dead – it’s his older sister, Ellie. In King’s novel (and the 1989 film), Ellie survives, and is actually safe out of town when all the murdering starts.

Jason Clarke, who plays Louis Creed in the upcoming film, was recently asked by Flickering Myth about the big plot change. Clarke offered a kind-of-defense for the alteration, saying:

“It’s pretty easy to justify [the change]. You can’t play that movie with a three-year-old boy. You end up with a doll or some animated thing. So you’re going to get a much deeper, richer story by swapping for a seven-year-old or nine-year-old girl.”

This does make sense – I’d much rather see something believable on screen than a terrible-looking CGI killer toddler. Clarke also added that he’s not really concerned if the change angers some fans:

“As an actor, ultimately, you don’t care…It’s like saying ‘how do you approach playing a real person?’. You have to serve what’s on the page and what the director wants and what happens on the day. You don’t have any choice.”

But what of Stephen King? How did he feel about the change? “Stephen King didn’t have an issue with it,” Clarke said.

King is somewhat wishy-washy when it comes to movies that change his books. Sometimes, he’s magnanimous about. Other times, he’s particularly peeved. The most prominent example of this latter reaction is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of The Shining. Kubrick changed a lot from King’s book, and King has never really gotten over it. The author was so annoyed that he eventually penned a miniseries remake of The Shining that stuck very close to the book. And guess what? It turned out to be kind of awful, and nowhere near as good as Kubrick’s film.

I’m glad King is fine with this change, but even if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Pet Sematary is my favorite King novel, and yet I’m perfectly happy with this change. For one thing, it’s going to make a story I know by heart seem somewhat new – and that’s exciting.

Pet Sematary opens on April 5, 2019.

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