Pet Sematary Director Explains Why The Film’s Ending Was Changed

Pet Sematary Jason Clarke looking concerned in the basement, with his zombie daughter behind him

Warning: SPOILERS for Pet Sematary are discussed in this article. If you haven’t seen the film yet and want to stay unspoiled, please bookmark and come back once you’re current.

In the 2019 remake of Pet Sematary, there’s a pretty big change to how the famed Stephen King story ends. It arrives off the back of a lot of smaller changes that build up to the big finale, with the end result being something so pitch black that it hits harder than the entire third act of the 1983 novel. And as it turns out, there was another ending that was shot and audience tested, which would have been even bleaker, according to the film’s directors.

When speaking in a recent interview about the film, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer talked about a lot of material that was cut from Pet Sematary’s final cut. Amidst remarks about deleted content that fleshed out the relationships between Louis and Jud, as well as Louis and his daughter Ellie, an entire alternate ending was shot for the film; an ending that, according to Dennis Widmyer’s remarks below, was pretty hard to cut:

That [alternate] ending we shot first, and then we decided, you know, to have this other ending – so the studio could test two different endings…We [edited] them both and both endings [test] scored pretty equally. They’re both disturbing and dark. [But] I would say that the current ending [in the final film] sends off the audience with a smile on its face, while at the same time though, [they’re saying] ‘That was that was messed up!’ Whereas the other one, I don’t think anyone would be smiling. The other one has more of a bleak, kind of sad tone to it.

While we’ve covered the ending of Pet Sematary’s 2019 in depth, here's the short version: Ellie turns out to be the kid who dies in this version, and she comes back to life with a bit of an agenda. That agenda includes killing and resurrecting her mother, who then kills and resurrects her husband. The final shot of the film sees Ellie and her parents returning home, with Church in tow, in order to retrieve the youngest member of their family, Gage.

It can be understood that the filmmakers and studio heads behind Pet Sematary didn’t want to send fans out of the theater with a sense of horrible unease. The subject matter is pretty grim, no matter which version you partake in, and being completely honest, the implication of that ending’s darkness kind of does put a smile on your face in the way that Widmyer specified while speaking to Slashfilm. But if that’s the ending that turned out to be the lighter of the two, what the hell is the other ending supposed to contain?

Frankly, our guess is that it’s ether a slightly extended ending where we see Gage being carried off by his undead family, or it’s something so horrific we haven’t even thought of it yet. If there’s any justice, this curiosity worthy of killing the cat just might lead to the satisfaction of an alternate Blu-ray cut of the film, including all the other content that was hinted at by the directors. But at the very least, the facts that the deleted material is already being teased as being part of the home video release, with the ending hitting the internet shortly before then, is something that does make us happy about this particularly grizzly scenario.

Pet Sematary is in theaters now, with a home video release hinted at some point in July.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.