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While any novel being adapted for the screen is going to lose some pieces that are deemed unnecessary for the film to flow, Pet Sematary gave up a lot of real estate when it came to the story of its iconic next door neighbor Jud Crandall. It doesn’t hurt the film’s narrative, though viewers familiar with the source novel or even the 1989 adaptation might miss those parts of the story they remember pertaining to the big lesson Jud learned when dealing with the titular burial ground. Those fans might be consoled by the fact those pieces of the story are not only fresh in producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura’s mind, he’s open to adapting them into their own story.
Naturally, it feels like this whole conversation started with the fact that the 2019 adaptation’s radically different ending leaves some room for a sequel to Pet Sematary; and that notion is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Regardless, while making the rounds with the press, Di Bonaventura expressed that going forward isn’t the direction that intrigues him most with this particular story. Speaking to that point in one interview, he laid out his thoughts as follows:
I generally don’t start thinking about [sequels] until they’re a success. I think if there’s anything here, there’s a prequel. I think if you look at the book, we didn’t cover all that stuff that happens before the Creed family moves in. So, I think there’s a movie there, and I think I’d be particularly interested in doing that, because, again, it’s the source material and you are going toward something that also has a lot of crazy, creepy feelings about it.
With Pet Sematary’s 2019 refresh already grossing almost double its production costs, there’s a case to be made for the film’s commercial viability. Not only does it have the Stephen King brand name working in its favor, but the film’s story is also one of the more popular titles out of King’s catalog. What’s more, the story of Jud Grandall’s youth and the local experiences with the old Micmac burial ground are ripe for fans -- old and new -- to see brought to the big screen.
Lorenzo Di Bonaventura’s remarks to Consequence of Sound during his time at this year’s SXSW festival pretty much sum up why he’d want to explore this particular avenue of franchise extension, and, in my opinion, his reasoning’s sound. But what about the story material? Well, fans of the novel know that Jud’s story about how various pets, and eventually war vet Timmy Baterman, were buried in that stony, supernatural soil turned out. But there’s so much to that particular story that a prequel film could easily inhabit that earlier era, and would only require a bit of padding out to make a unique narrative.
Pet Sematary isn’t even the first Stephen King property to find itself looking towards the prequel treatment as of late, as Season 2 of Hulu’s Castle Rock anthology is going to follow young Annie Wilkes from Misery, and her path to unstable evil. The big difference here is that Jud Crandall’s backstory, as well as that of the town that he inhabits, provides an advantage to expanding the world that the story of Pet Sematary inhabits.
This universe is already built to accommodate this prequel, as Pet Sematary does sneak in references to these past events. Most notably, when Jason Clarke’s Louis Creed is researching Ludlow’s rather colorful history, he comes across a newspaper story discussing Timmy Baterman, now updated to be a veteran of the Vietnam War, rather than his service taking place during World War II in the original novel’s time frame.
Strangely enough, it sounds like some of the storied past of Pet Sematary almost made it into the finished product of directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s reboot, as Lorenzo Di Bonaventura shared the following details, courtesy of an interview with /Film:
Do we get to meet young Jud? There’s a lot of opportunity I think that we don’t have to make up out of whole cloth. As fans of the book, I know for me I’ve increasingly liked the idea that that’s how we would approach it. ... Yeah, and one of the things we did try to get in is we tried to get the Micmacs in. At one point we had written an opening scene where you see them flee and you’re left with some information but not too much information about the why of it. Less about establishing what it is they’re running [from] and more establishing what is the thing that’s freaking them out.
It's certainly not lost on Di Bonaventura that Jud Crandall’s story has a lot of potential, should the decision makers at Paramount find themselves in the mood to further resurrect their legacy property. Though given the studio’s recent attempts to bring back some of previous hits through sequels, like Coming To America 2, and reboots, like the smash hit Bumblebee, this has to have been a thought that already crossed several minds before Pet Sematary even opened.
Whether or not this story becomes the next entry in Pet Sematary’s canon remains to be seen, as the film’s only been out for a little over a week. The next couple of weekends will undoubtedly be crucial to such a prospect, and if the numbers add up, it looks like there’s some room to scare up some more box office horror in the sleepy town of Ludlow, Maine. After all, old Jud was right when he said that sometimes dead is better. At the same time, why let the dead rest, when they’re having such a good time?
Pet Sematary is in theaters now, but if you’re looking for more box office excitement, our 2019 release schedule is the place you should be to find it. Though if you’re dead set on seeking out more Stephen King adaptations, we have a special guide to projects strictly from the author’s pen that are currently on track for release and production.