‘Pet Sematary’: An Unfaithful Adaptation Still Faithful

While the movie may not be an accurate depiction of the book, it’s still a faithful adaptation in that it captures the same emotional beats.

Adaptations Horror Pop Culture

Last night, I watched the 2019 film Pet Sematary. Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed and his wife and children as they move from Boston to rural Maine, where they soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When Church, the family house cat, is struck and killed by a passing truck, Louis turns to his neighbor Jud Crandall, who takes him deep into the woods past the Pet Sematary to another burial site far more and tells him to bury the cat here instead. The next day, the Creed’s find Church back from the dead, and this sets off a chain of events that unleash an ancient evil.


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For those of you who may be unaware, Pet Sematary was originally a novel written by Stephen King and published in 1983. In it, (SPOILER ALERT!) Louis Creed’s two-year-old son Gage suffers the same fate as Church, and Louis, grief-stricken, exhumes his body from his grave and inters him in the burial ground, where he is resurrected, yet fundamentally “wronged”, malicious now in both his words and actions, and he finds one of Louis’ scalpels and kills both Jud and later his mother Racheal. In the end, Louis kills both Gage and Church with lethal injections, then takes his wife’s corpse back up to the burial site, thinking that if he buries the body faster than he did Gage’s, she will retain her soul.



The movie version, however, did things a little differently. Instead of Gage being killed by the truck, it’s Ellie who is killed, Louis’ five-year-old daughter, and subsequently resurrected. Also, while it is left ambiguous whether or not the resurrected corpse of Racheal that returns to Louis in the book is uncorrupted by the sour wickedness of the burial site (even though it’s heavily implied that she is), in the movie, she, Louis and Ellie all end up as walking corpses, who, in the last scene, we see menacingly approach Gage who Louis left in the car.



While this may not be an accurate depiction of the book, it’s still a faithful adaptation in that it captures the same emotional beats. For example, take Sherlock Holmes. There have been many adaptations of the character, yet the 2018 film Holmes & Watson, which featured the titular character as a bumbling fool whose abilities are greatly exaggerated by the press rather than an actually competent detective. Along with a style of humor seemingly targeted toward children, the movie failed as an adaptation because it didn’t focus on what what made the franchise so beloved in the first place.

While Pet Sematary didn’t portray the events exactly as they are in the novel, it still delivered the same haunting atmosphere and forlorn ending as the original text.

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