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Warning: SPOILERS for Pet Sematary are in play. If you want to remain unspoiled, head out and come back once you’re all caught up.
But now, directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have not only talked why the ending was changed, but we also have some further details on what the original scripted ending entailed. To start, here’s Kölsch’s remarks on why that other ending was selected:
Everybody liked the original scripted ending. But both endings were tested [with preview audiences] and what came back is [the theatrical ending] was clearer to people and it was what people seemed to resonate with and it left them with fewer questions — I don’t mean questions in a good ambiguity way but questions in that people didn’t understand everything that happened.
The theatrical ending that Pet Sematary eventually went with saw the entire Creed clan, except for young Gage, zombified through the magic of the Micmac burial ground. But he didn’t look too far off from the same fate himself, as the reanimated Louis Creed, played by Jason Clarke, unlocked the car he successfully hid his son in; right before the film cuts to black.
While radically reinventing the ending to Stephen King’s 1983 best-seller, apparently killing off the Creed family was the clearer path of action for Pet Sematary to take in ending its spooky narrative. And with the audience clearly latching on faster to that particular chain of events, it was the one that went to theaters, scoring a $112.4 million worldwide gross on a $21 million budget.
However, that’s not what writers Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler had in their original script for Pet Sematary. That ending hewed a little closer to that of the King novel and 1989 film adaptation, as a clip provided by EW shows Louis actually burying his wife in the infamous, titular cemetery. With his daughter by his side, he promises to love her forever, knowing full well what he’s about to do is going to make him regret ever saying that in the first place.
Even in the face of choosing the newer, more shocking ending over the more traditional, slow burn of an ending, co-director Mark Widmyer shared later in that same interview that both endings had a place in his heart, as well as that of Dennis Kölsch, delineating the difference between the two endings in these specific terms:
[The alternate ending is] the ending that really should be tested a week after you screen a film when you’ve had more time to sit and process it. The theatrical ending is the big loud slam dunk ending where it goes out on a bang. There’s an immediacy to it that’s satisfying. The [original ending] is haunting, it’s lingering, it stays with you.
No matter which ending of Pet Sematary you prefer, both are present on the home video release of the film, which will be out in the not too distant future. And there’s plenty more to that alternate ending than what’s been described above, as that clip is only a teaser to the entire original finale.
But whichever ending you choose to observe as your own personal favorite, just make sure any household pets are out of the room while you’re enjoying the movie. Be kind to them, and they’ll be kind to you.
Pet Sematary can haunt your home, if you choose it to do so, on Digital HD as of June 25, with physical releases on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD following not to far behind on July 9.