Pet Sematary – the novel and the film versions

March 25th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Stephen King’s terrifying novel, Pet Sematary was written back in 1983 and King then collaborated on the script with Mary Lambert directing a big screen adaptation in 1989. To celebrate the 30th anniversary release of the original Pet Sematary (1989) film, we’re looking into the key differences between the novel and the movie adaptations. With the latest film version out on March 29th  – how do they differ, and which is better?

Ellie or Gage Creed

In Stephen King’s terrifying novel and the 1989 version of Pet Sematary, the youngest Creed, Gage, is killed by a monster truck. This is a crucial element to the narrative as the loss of their son is the catalyst for the haunting events that unfold later. However, in Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s 2019 version of Pet Sematary, Gage’s older sister Ellie is the one to be hit by the truck. 

In many ways this has a marked effect on the storyline, as Dennis Widmyer explained in a recent interview: changing the death to be that of the older child adds more psychological layers to the narrative. Ellie Creed understands what she becomes whereas Gage in the novel and the 1989 version is unaware, making it more unsettling and haunting. 

Zelda, Rachel Creed’s Sister 

Rachel Creed’s sister is a significant and haunting character in all versions of the Pet Sematary story, yet she is portrayed in different ways. In both Stephen King’s novel and the upcoming film adaptation, Zelda is described and portrayed as a 10-year-old girl with spinal meningitis. However in the 1989 version, Zelda is played by an adult male actor, which is debatably one of the most hair-raising elements in the film. Either way, Zelda’s horrific deterioration and lonely death is one of the most terrifying elements of the story.

Timmy

Timmy Baterman is a 17-year-old boy killed during World War II and then affected by the curse of the Micmac burial after his father laid him there. Timmy appeared ‘normal’ at first, but then we soon find out that Timmy didn’t return from the dead with a soul. Timmy’s tale is only alluded to in the novel and the 1989 adaptation, although it’s not mentioned in the upcoming adaptation. Instead we get to know the protagonists a little better.

Regional Accents 

A smaller yet crucial difference in terms of being true to the novel is the loss of the Maine accent. Stephen King clearly details in the novel that the Creed’s neighbour and keeper of the Micmac burial ground, Jud Crandall, has a very heavy Maine accent.  However, in the 2019 version, Oscar-nominated actor John Lithgow (Jud) whom does not take on the Maine accent. He recently stated in an interview that he believes Jud has evolved into “a more serious character” since the novel, casting a distinct slur on regional accents.  

THE 2019 VERSION IS IN CINEMAS ON 29 MARCH 2019 

PET SEMATARY (1989) is on 4K ULTRA HD AND BLU-RAY™ MARCH 25.

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