Hey everyone, this is the first contribution by our newest contributor, Mike Harris. We’ll be posting for him until he gets set up with our website. Note: This article has been adapted from a Facebook post, and was edited to fit an article format.
So, what did I think of Pet Sematary?
Putting a blanket spoiler warning on this article, I am going to try and fully summarize and spoil the movie and include a bunch of changes that were made, so if you don’t want to read those then don’t read this.
The movie opens with a shot of the woods, panning up to Judd’s burning house and the Creed home with a car parked out in front of it. The car door is open and there are bloody hand prints on the window. There’s a trail of blood outside of the house as well.
It then cuts to the family moving in. The mood in the car is much different from that of the novel, more lighthearted than the clear frustration and exhaustion in the book. The Creed’s are moving their stuff in, and we get a nice little jumpscare from a truck. Next day we have Luis at work at the college while Rachel is unpacking, her and Ellie hear/see the funeral procession for a dog, Ellie asks what a procession is and Rachel explains that it’s like a parade but not for fun. Rachel tells Ellie to go back inside and watch tv, they’ll take a break from unpacking.
Ellie sneaks off from watching Spongebob to follow the path and ends up at the titular sematary. Rachel notices she’s gone and goes to look for her. Meanwhile Ellie has started to try and climb the deadfall blocking the cemetery off from the rest of the woods. Judd calls out to her to get down from there, she slips and steps on a bee hive and gets stung. He pulls the stinger out, puts some mud on it and introduces himself. Ellie asks what this place is, he tells her, shows her around a bit and points out one of the markers and says he carved that one for his dog. In a change from the book, where his dog was named Spot, the movie instead shifts ownership of Biffer (one helluva sniffer) to Judd for some reason. Rachel catches up to them and is introduced to Judd.
There is no big family walk up to the pet sematary, no major hysterics from Ellie because of it, no huge fight between Rachel and Luis as a result of that. Hell, Luis hasn’t even met Judd yet at this point. We do get Ellie asking about why pets don’t live as long, which does prompt Luis to reference the conversation that they had about metabolism from the novel, citing it as a talk that they had before. Rachel is also present for this entire conversation rather than confronting her husband after. He talks about death being natural, she mentions the afterlife and heaven and Luis sorta butts heads with her on that a bit. Again, they don’t get into a fight over it at all, but he does prompt her to talk about Zelda and she tells him about what happened in full detail rather than this coming later in the story. It turns out that Rachel used the dumbwaiter to send food up to her sister, which she wasn’t supposed to use because it was faulty, this resulted in an accident as Zelda fell down the shaft trying to get her food, resulting in her death.
I can’t exactly recall which of these two scenes came first in the movie, so I do apologize if it’s wrong but I believe I have the order correct.
We finally get the Victor Pascow scene, which does not occur on Luis’s first day at the college. Pascow is black instead of white/tanned, not a big deal or a change I mind, but thought I’d note it as a change all the same. Pascow dies prior to given Luis his message. Luis then has a vision of Pascow sitting up where he mentions his name and something about the pet sematary and all that. Then flashes back when someone comes in and he’s still just laying down.
Ellie goes over to Judd’s house to give him some cookies. He isn’t home. She kinda snoops around, sees a gun in a drawer, also finds a picture of him and Norma. Judd comes home, she asks him about the picture. He tells Ellie that she got sick and died. Ellie invites him over for supper and to meet Church. The family has a meal, they watch Ellie dance, Church likes Judd. This is also the first time we see Luis and Judd interact in the film. In the novel there was much more of a focus on their father/son bond, whereas this movie sorta tries to shift it to a grandfather/granddaughter thing with Judd and Ellie, but it’s only just barely there and feels more like a sorta half-assed way to give Judd a reason to tell Luis about the burial ground.
We also get a pretty trippy take on the not-a-dream sequence with Pascow that was actually pretty cool.
Anyways, like I said, I think that was the right order for those two scenes, apologies if I had them backwards and if I missed any other little scenes around them, it’s late.
Halloween rolls along and while the kids are getting ready to go trick or treating, Judd calls Luis over and shows him a very dead Church. In the novel this happened over Thanksgiving while Ellie, Rachel and Gage are out of town visiting Rachel’s parents who hated Luis in the novel but don’t even really interact with him in the movie. Judd tells Luis they’ll take care of it tonight. Later, Luis talks to Rachel about Church’s demise (she never knew in the novel) and they agree to tell Ellie he ran away. Luis goes with Judd up to the pet sematary and begins to bury Church, while Judd, having a change of heart thinking about Ellie, decides to have Luis accompany him beyond the deadfall and up to the Micmac burial ground, though it’s never called as such in the movie. We don’t really get much of the dialogue that was present in the novel, Judd does mention some of the noise being a loon, but that’s it otherwise. Luis buries Church, asks Judd what they did and Judd just says “buried your daughter’s cat.”
Luis tells Rachel it’s done. The next day they tell Ellie that Church ran away, to which she replies no he didn’t, she saw him at her window. They see muddy paw prints at the window sill. They tell her he may not come back, she says he’s right over there and points to her closet and sure enough Church is right there to their amazement, Luis rationalizing to Rachel that the accident must have just dazed him.
Church has been acting not quite right. Luis talks to Judd about what they did, why the cat is back, Judd tells Luis a bit of info about the place, but not all that much. Luis ends up doing his own research, seeing the Wendigo and looking up things that were mentioned in more detail in the novel (both Heinrad the bull and Timmy Baderman, of all things, being just newspaper clippings here), this may have come a touch later, again was a long drive from the theater and it’s late do please forgive me if some things are out of order here.
Ellie has a bit of a falling out with Church after he scratches her arm as she struggles to brush his hair out. This may have been before Luis talked to Judd, can’t recall for sure.
There’s also a scene with Rachel having a Zelda nightmare, I think that came before some of this stuff too. She goes into the bathroom, having heard what she believes to be the sound of her sister in the walls, the medicine cabinet briefly turns into an empty dumbwaiter shaft and we have a jumpscare as Zelda’s body falls through it. It’s a cheap scare, but it worked.
Rachel is not in a good place, she says moving there was a mistake, she wants to leave. He says Ellie’s birthday is coming up, they can invite friends from Boston, everything will be fine.
Ellie’s doodling, Luis admires her drawings and then sees one of a stick figure man with a peculiar head wound. Luis questions her on it and she shrugs, saying that Gage drew that one. Luis goes to find his son, but Church scares the absolute shit out of Gage, Luis attempts to put him down for good, but a dosage of those sad kitty eyes Luis instead takes the cat to the edge of town and leaves him there.
Ellie’s a bit bummed at her birthday party, what with Church finally having “run away” and she feels responsible because she had kicked him out of her room. Luis gives her a present, a cat doll that meows. We actually get a little Cujo reference here as you can hear someone (I think Judd) mention a rabid Saint Bernard. The kids are all playing hide and seek, they blindfold Luis and spin him around and run off to hide. Ellie heads towards the road where she happens to see Church making his way back home. She runs out to him. Gage sees Ellie out in the road and runs out towards her just as a truck is making its way towards the Creed house. Luis sees Gage running into the street, runs after him and in what would have been a fake out had the trailer not spoiled this particular change, he manages to get to Gage in time. The truck breaks, swerves, it’s tanker overturns and slides down the road and gives Ellie a surprisingly bloodless death as Luis rounds the corner to see his wife on the road in mourning and he runs over and cradles his daughter’s lifeless body on the side of the road.
We have our funeral scene, it’s sad. We have sequences of the family grieving, Luis and Rachel in bed with Rachel clutching the bloody cat doll that Ellie was holding. A short time later Luis sends her and Gage off to Rachel’s parents’s house.
Luis goes over to have some drinks with Judd. Judd apologizes for showing Luis that place, very clearly knowing what Luis plans to do. He talks about having brought his dog back, but that it came back different and his dad put it down (a second time) after it went after his mom. Luis drugs Judd, who passes out shortly thereafter.
We then get a notably shorter, less intense and less emotionally impactful exhumation, with Luis literally just hopping over a short stone wall and digging up Ellie’s coffin and opening it.
Luis takes her body up to the burial ground. We get the Wendigo encounter as well, though it’s just a traditional were-deer looking Wendigo in the background rather than the haunting giant invisible presence with a pair of glowing eyes far in the sky that we had in the novel. There’s also no scary ass face in the distance as he walks, which is a shame because that was a freaky scene in the novel.
He buries her, apologizes and heads home to prepare for her to return. He wakes up, eventually notices her footprints and she ends up popping up behind him after he goes back inside. Something is clearly off with her, her eye is incredibly lazy, she’s very..dead in demeanor. In what I think was actually a nice callback to Judd’s line from the novel about washing Spot being like “washing meat”, we get a scene where Luis gives Ellie a bath and it is super uncomfortable. He brushes her hair and brushes over the staples in the back of her skull. She asks what it is and he tells her it’s just a tangle. He puts her to bed and she starts asking questions. Talks about remembering her birthday and then blackness. Ultimately she asks if she is dead and he says no, she’s right here. Then she asks if he’ll stay with her in bed and he agrees to, but he is clearly very very uncomfortable with the situation.
The next day Luis awakens to Ellie dancing downstairs, now wearing her burial dress again. She begins to violently knock things over, then smashes a picture of herself, prompting Luis to yell at her.
Meanwhile Rachel is freaking out at her parent’s house. Gage is talking about Pascow, who he is now seeing visions of. She is unable to get a hold of Luis at all and decides to head home, but first she calls Judd. Judd heads over to confront Luis, who assures him everything is fine and he has to go because he is waiting for Rachel to call, not knowing that Judd already knows she had been trying to call him. Judd tells him it’s not too late to undo something if he’s already done something, which Ellie overhears. While walking home, Judd sees Ellie staring at him from an upstairs window at the Creed house. We get a shot of Ellie taking the scalpel from Luis’s bag.
Judd gets home, locks all of his doors and grabs his gun. He hears a noise upstairs and goes to check on it. He sees a smashed picture of his dog on the floor, pushes aside a bed and sees..nothing. He heads down the stairs and is startled by Church from behind him, shortly after Ellie brutally cuts out his Achilles tendon. She taunts him, her face morphing into Norma’s and going on about what he did to her and how they are suffering on the other side and how he will join them soon. He attempts to fight back, yells at her, but is ultimately stabbed multiple times to his death.
Rachel is on her way home with Gage, stuck in heavy traffic 20 miles outside of Derry.
I’m going to try and be as accurate as I can here. Some bits may be a little out of place again, but you’ll get the idea.
She eventually gets home and is relieved to see Luis alive and well. She embraces him with Gage saying this is all that she needs. Ellie shows up and Rachel is horrified and confused. Luis tries to explain things, but Rachel is clearly not comfortable with the situation. Ellie embraces her but Rachel refuses to hug her back and heads upstairs. Ellie says Rachel doesn’t want her there, but that’s ok because she doesn’t want her there either.
Luis eventually goes to check on Judd, meanwhile Ellie attempts to murder Rachel. She ends up getting stabbed multiple times. Rachel then drops Gage out to Luis outside. Ellie confronts Rachel, who at some point had another Zelda nightmare/vision during all of this (though that might have been at her parent’s house now that I think about it). Anyways, Rachel says she’s not her daughter, that Ellie is dead. Ellie says “then join her” or something like that and stabs the knife deep into her and kills her. Luis locks Gage in the car and tells him to stay there and not open it for anyone, not even Ellie. I THINK he ended up knocked out at some point (I really do apologize for my memory kinda sucking on some of these small specifics), because Ellie ends up dragging Rachel’s body up into the woods and to the burial ground. Luis chases after them, being confronted in the pet sematary by Ellie saying that it is too late, that Rachel is already eating dirt. They fight and Luis eventually overpowers his daughter, about to decapitate her with a shovel and he says that he just wanted them to be a family and that they can’t. Ellie pulls a Church and fakes innocence saying yes they can. Just as he’s about to kill her, one of the markers is shoved out through his chest from behind, revealing a reanimated Rachel.
The movie then cuts back to the opening sequence with Judd’s burning house and the car, this time with the door still closed, at the Creed house. Gage sees the reanimated Ellie, Rachel and Luis along with Church walking up to the car with a can of gasoline from having started the fire at Judd’s place. Luis stands outside of the door where Gage is. The movie cuts to black as we hear the sound of the key fob unlocking the car. The credits roll with a cover of The Ramones’ Pet Sematary, this time performed by a female lead group I’ve never heard of before.
Do note that since the car in the very opening shot has an open door with bloody hand prints on the window it is very safe to say that yes, they did get to Gage at the end.
So yeah, very dark and bleak ending, even compared to the novel.
Like I said, there is a lot that was changed. It does keep the basic story in tact, but a lot of things were either delayed or moved around, there were some really odd small details that were made different, there were some HUGE changes. The movie also really does feel like more focus was put on the reanimated corpse horror than the themes of death, loss, grief and what it can drive one to do. The pacing was also really kind off to me, I dunno. Overall I did enjoy the movie, it was a solid film, it just really was kinda like fanfiction using the same basic premise though.