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SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Pet Sematary. If you haven’t seen the film yet, read on at your own risk.
Stephen King adaptations have been popular in Hollywood for decades, but there have been few times in the last 50 years when his name has carried as much heat as it does right now. Andres Muschietti’s IT really helped kickstart the wave in the fall of 2017, and in the time since we’ve seen some impressive stuff come out – including movies like Gerald’s Game and 1922, and television shows like Castle Rock. The most recent title to contribute to the trend is Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary – but more than just adapting one of King’s most iconic books, the new film also pays tribute to the author’s incredible legacy.
How so? In addition to featuring specific callbacks to the novel on which its based, Pet Sematary is also littered with Easter eggs big and small that will put a smile on the face of any Stephen King fan. As proof, we’ve highlighted five of them below, and we’ll start with one that is featured toward the very beginning of the movie…
Lewis Is Tired Of Working Late Hours
When the Creed family moves to Ludlow, Maine, it’s seen by Lewis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) as an opportunity for a fresh start. After all, the former has a great new job at the local university, working normal hours at campus infirmary instead of at a big, busy hospital. Lewis even makes a specific point about how happy he is that he’s no longer working the “Graveyard Shift” – and while in context he means assigned work in the small hours of the morning, it’s a bit of dialogue in the film that also happens to be a callback to one of Stephen King’s early short stories.
First published in Cavalier magazine in 1970 before being collected in the 1978 short story collection Night Shift, Graveyard Shift is a quick horror tale about a group of middle class workers hired for a cleanup job in a decrepit textile mill. It's pretty horrible work, as there is a heavy infestation of rats that plague the job, but the tiny rodents turn out to be the least of the team’s worries. This is because the creatures have actually managed to evolve while trapped in the building, turning into huge, monstrous, mutated creatures. Obviously we don’t see any of that featured in Pet Sematary, but the nod is clearly there.
The Rabid St. Bernard Story
Typically you wouldn’t think that a story about a violent, rabid dog would be appropriate fodder for a child’s birthday party, and yet it’s that kind of tale that Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) chooses to share off-screen with an unidentified party guest during Ellie’s big day. It’s conversation basically included as background noise, and you’ll only catch it if you’re really listening to it. But those who do will easily catch the reference that is being tossed out, as it’s clear that the canine in question here is none other than the notorious Cujo, and an allusion to Stephen King’s hit 1981 novel.
In the book, Cujo is a St. Bernard who has the unfortunate fate of being bitten on the nose by a rabid bat while running around chasing rabbits, causing him to contract the disease and go feral. This turns out to be extremely bad for every person that encounters him, including a mother and son who he winds up trapping in a car on a viciously hot day. The story was previously adapted as a film in 1983, so it already has its own cinematic legacy, but now Pet Sematary has done its part to extended it.
A Familiar Pair In Rachel’s Parents House
Thanks to her history with her sister, Rachel doesn’t feel a great deal of comfort when she goes home to stay with her parents for a spell following the death of her daughter. It’s a place of genuine nightmares for her, as she is haunted by memories of her sick, cruel sibling and the nature of her horrific death. Those memories alone make the whole place feel sickeningly inhospitable, but definitely not helping matters is the fact that there is also what appears to be a painting of the Grady Sisters from The Shining hanging on the wall.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg, but if you know to look for it you can easily spot the famous blue dresses in a portrait that Rachel steps past while walking through her parents’ house at night. Surely included because their sisterly relationship mirrors that of Rachel and Zelda’s, the Gradys are the daughters of the former caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Delbert Grady, and were murdered by their father when he was driven to madness. It’s not the only reference to The Shining in Pet Sematary (we’ll get there in a minute), but it’s definitely the best hidden one.
An Ominous Sign
There are many classic author trademarks found in the works of Stephen King, but one of the most blatant is his frequent use of his home state as a setting. King clearly loves Maine, and as a result a significant number of his stories take place within its borders. There are some locations he uses more frequently than others, such as Castle Rock, Jerusalem’s Lot, and even Ludlow, but arguably the most sinister of them all is the township of Derry – which gets a very brief shout out late in Pet Sematary via a highway road sign.
Those who recognize the name of the town probably felt a chill when the sign appears, as Derry is best known as the setting of IT, and is basically the town equivalent of a haunted house – festering with an evil that lives below the surface. Truly, though, this is an Easter egg that actually applies not just to the story of Pennywise The Dancing Clown, but to many of Stephen King’s works, as the municipality has also been featured in books including 1994’s Insomnia, 2001’s Dreamcatcher, and 2011’s 11/22/63.
Ellie Smashes The Bathroom Door
Remember how I said I would get back to The Shining? Well, here we are. This bit comes from the third act of Pet Sematary after Dead Ellie (Jeté Laurence) decides that she doesn’t want her mother to be alive anymore. The vicious nine year old starts attacking Rachel, and it’s shown that a bathroom door isn’t much of a defense against her. It’s a high tension moment, but it’s also easy to see the similarity between it and the part in The Shining when Wendy Torrance is trying to protect herself from her psychotic husband, Jack.
While Stephen King might not be a fan of the movie, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining made this particular moment from the book iconic, and it was hard not to watch the ending of Pet Sematary and immediately conjure it to mind. It’s possible that there just aren’t that many ways to feature a character trying to break through a bathroom door, but we’re betting on the reference being intentional.