This year’s Pet Sematary was one of the latest horror films based on a Stephen King novel and the second adaptation of the story after the 1989 adaptation. While neither adaptation is perfect, I found that the 2019 version left me slightly bored, especially when it came to the theatrical ending.
**Spoilers for 2019’s Pet Sematary.**
In King’s original text, it’s Louis and Rachel’s young son Gage, not their pre-teen daughter Ellie, who is killed by getting hit by a car. Gage is resurrected by being buried in the Pet Sematary, becomes evil, and kills his mother and their complicit neighbor, Jud. Louis kills Gage again by giving the boy a lethal injection of chemicals. He then sees Rachel’s dead body and decides to take her to the Pet Sematary, hoping that burying her faster will change the result. The book ends with Rachel’s reanimated corpse behind him, placing a cold hand on his shoulder while her voice rasps, “Darling.”
The ending is dark, ambiguous, and one of King’s finest.
In the remake, Ellie is killed, rather than Gage, mostly so that they can have an evil character who can actually act. However, it ends with Ellie stabbing her mother, but then bringing her to the Pet Sematary so that she can be resurrected and they can be a creepy little zombie family. Louis is also killed and reanimated, and the movie ends with them coming to reclaim Gage, who was left in the car for safety.
When I saw this in the theaters with my King-reader friend, we both shared looks of “wtf was that?” It wasn’t just that they changed things from the book, but that the ending was, in some way … a happy ending felt so unsatisfying.
However, in anticipation of the upcoming Blu-ray release, an alternative ending was debuted with EW.
In this alternate scene—the part of it we’ve gotten to see so far (the full scene will be on the Blu-ray)—Louis is burying Rachel semi-alive, playing off the character’s own fears of death and claustrophobia.
The film’s director, Kevin Kölsch, explained why the change was made,
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.
Co-director Dennis Widmyer added,
[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.
The full version of that alternate ending, and several other deleted scenes, will be included on the digital and Blu-ray releases. The digital release drops on June 25, while the Blu-ray arrives July 9.
(via SlashFilm, image: Paramount Pictures)
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