We've seen quite a few decent adaptations of Stephen King's work in recent years, if It, 1922 and Gerald's Game are any indication.
The latest addition to the long list of King adaptions is Pet Sematary, an updated treatment of perhaps King's most downbeat and nihilistic novel.
Let's do a Pet Sematary crash course for those of you who are unaware. You can expect spoilers below.
The story follows the Creeds, husband Louis, wife Rachel, daughter Ellie and infant son Gage, who move back to Maine after Louis accepts a position as the campus doctor for the local university. Their new home is situated next to a highway regularly traversed by long haul trucks that over the years have claimed the lives of pets unfortunate enough to venture out onto the road.
After the Creeds befriend an elderly neighbor, the retired Judd Crandall, they learn about the existence of a pet cemetery (stylized as "sematary") in the woods behind their property. The landfall in the woods beyond the cemetery is said to hold a mysterious power, namely the ability to raise the dead.
Visions of Victor Pascow, a university student who dies in an accident on the first day of the semester and appears to know of the evil in the woods, plague Louis regularly. Soon after, the Creeds' house cat, Church, is run over and killed by one of the trucks while Rachel and the children are in Chicago, and Louis chooses to revive the cat rather than shatter his daughter's world.
"Sometimes dead is better," the crotchety Crandall warns Louis Creed, recounting sordid tales of undead animals and humans, their once vibrant personalities replaced by a primal urge to kill and destroy.
While a trailer for the film, due to be released on April 5, debuted in October, it managed to withhold one crucial detail: Which one of the Creed children dies. In the book and in the 1989 film, that child is Gage, who rises from the grave, more bloodthirsty beast than hapless child, after his grief-stricken father fails to heed Crandall and Pascow's warnings, exhumes his son, and reburies him in tainted ground.
In the new film adaptation, that child is Ellie.
(We apologize in advance for the tendency of film distributors to release trailers that appear to spoil entire films.)
Pet Sematary (2019) - Trailer 2 - Paramount Pictureswww.youtube.com
The decision to kill off the Creeds' eldest child has been met with a rather mixed reception. For one, the death of Gage Creed made thematic sense, given that he was his father's favorite.
Both the book and the original film also provide plenty of evidence that married life for Louis and Rachel, one characterized by lapses in communication and the resurfacing of Rachel's personal childhood trauma, is not as blissful as it might appear. The death of their youngest child, therefore, served as a sign that innocence was not only lost, but that the disintegration of their marriage could not be forestalled.
Fans were clearly hoping to witness a child performance as memorable as the one Miko Hughes, who played Gage in the original production, gave at the time.
(Hughes was three years old at the time of filming.)
Artistic liberties are artistic liberties, however. The presence of a child cult is not in the source material either, so we're bound to be in for a wild and sickening (if not entirely faithful) ride into the abyss.
King regards Pet Sematary as both his darkest and most personal novel. He felt he'd gone too far with the subject matter and decided not to have it published, only submitting it to Doubleday after realizing he'd need a final book to fulfill the terms of his contract.
It shouldn't surprise you that the book is based, in part, on King's personal experiences. In 1978, King accepted a position at the University of Maine at Orono.
He and his wife, novelist Tabitha King, rented a home next to a highway known for claiming the lives of the neighborhood pets. The neighborhood children had created a pet cemetery in a field nearby.
King's daughter, Naomi, lost her cat to one of the highway's trucks, and his infant son, Owen, was nearly killed after venturing too close to the road.
For those of you who can stomach it, here's the scene that traumatized so very many childhoods.
Pet Sementary(1981) - Gage's Death & Funeral Scene(with subtitles)www.youtube.com
We're very sorry.