SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers for the ending of Pet Sematary are in this post! Come back after seeing the 2019 movie, unless you have no plans to see it, in which case read on.
Fans of Stephen King and horror films were treated to Pet Sematary this weekend, which adapts the famed author's most grim and depressing novel. There's already been a lot of discussion over the changes the film made from the book, but the biggest change is definitely its ending. For book readers, it's basically an entirely different ending from the source material, and while I'm sure that fans will be debating whether or not it was for the better, the film's directors have their reasons for making the change.
Okay, big spoilers coming up right now. Last chance to turn away.
Pet Sematary follows the Creed Family, who move to Maine and discover that a cursed Indian burial in the woods behind their house can resurrect the dead. Those brought back are usually pretty murder-y. In the film, 9-year old Ellie Creed is run over by a speeding truck. In his grief, her father Louis buries her behind the pet cemetery, and she basically returns as a murderous demon.
In the books, the resurrected child is 2-year-old Gage, who kills his mother, Rachel, and is put down by Louis, who goes insane and decides to bury Rachel in the woods hoping it'll be better this time. However, in the movie, both Rachel and Louis are killed and resurrected by Ellie, and they become a demon zombie family, with little Gage appearing to be next in line.
That's a significant change, and co-director Kevin Kölsch told Collider that the ending changed organically during filmmaking and it wasn't a change they initially set out to make.
It wasn’t necessarily an idea like, ‘We have to change the ending.’ It was just sort of other things changed within the movie. We changed it from Gage to Ellie, then obviously Ellie then being this character that could now have the awareness to know what’s going on with her and to have conversations about it. It changed the scenes afterward.
There were multiple different versions of the ending that were written and a couple of them were shot. One of them was the original ending in the books, and when they showed both endings to test audiences, the new one got the best response, according to producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura.
A lot of times with endings, you kind of just let the audience tell you what they’re feeling. We got to screen both of them to people and it just seemed like audiences really responded to that one.
In fact, the filmmakers had three different ideas that were ranked by darkness and they ended up picking the darkest one. They never intended for Pet Sematary to have a happy ending, and screenwriter Jeff Buhler said it gave the film an extra punch.
It felt right to have an ending that had a little punch to it and was kind of a wink. Like, ‘We’re in a horror movie people, it’s Friday night, you’re out with your friends, have some fun.'
If you are reading this, you've hopefully already seen Pet Sematary, so share in the comments below what you thought of the ending and if it was better than the book.