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SYFY WIRE Pet Sematary

The 5 biggest changes the new Pet Sematary movie makes to the book

By Ryan Britt
Pet Sematary 1983 cover

This weekend, a new film adaptation of one of Stephen King's most popular books hits theaters. Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, and Jeté Laurence, Pet Sematary makes a few huge changes from the original novel.

Whereas the 1989 film stayed fairly faithful to King’s original book, this new version literally flips the script in a few very specific ways. Do all the changes result in a scarier story? Only hardcore King fans — and Stephen King himself — know for sure.

Here are the five biggest changes from Pet Sematary the book to the new Pet Sematary movie.

**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers ahead for all versions of Pet Sematary!**

Pet Sematary cat, Church

01. The cat coming back to life sets everything in motion in the book, but the movie speeds it up

Pet Sematary is weird, insofar as that there aren’t actually a ton of pets that come back to life. Still, the untimely death of the family cat — Church — is the incident that sets the whole plot in motion. The difference is that in the movie, it happens pretty quickly, whereas in the book, it happens during a holiday break, while most of the family is gone. Basically, the book makes it way more feasible for Louis to cover-up the fact that Church died in the first place.

Original Pet Sematary kid

02. The backstory of another creepy kid brought back from the dead has been cut

For a movie about people and pets coming back to life, there’s actually not all that many undead resurrections.

In fairness, there aren’t a ton more in the book either, but at one point in the book, Jud tells Louis the story of Timmy Batterman, a kid who was brought back to life through the power of the Little God Swamp. Obviously, when Timmy came back from the dead, he was demonic and crazy as hell. None of this is mentioned in the movie at all.

John Lithgow in Pet Sematary

03. Jud’s wife is alive in the first part of the book

In the movie, Jud’s wife is integral to the backstory of the “sour ground,” insofar as we discover that Jud brought his wife back to life, and she returned evil and demonic. In the book, Jud’s wife — Norma — is still alive, but in bad health. In fact, at one point, Louis actually saves her life with CPR.

This act, in part, is why Jud feels like “helping” Jud later in the story. Obviously, the movie simplified everything by having Norma already dead, and also, part of the spookiness.

Jason Clarke in Pet Sematary

04. Louis views Jud as a father-figure in the book

The movie ditches one important aspect of Louis's backstory in favor of moving the story along. As it stands in the movie, we get the sense that though Louis likes Jud okay, he doesn’t really trust him. But, in the book, Louis really likes Jud, partly because he views Jud like a father figure, a replacement for his own late father.

Ellie in Pet Sematary

05. In the book, it’s Gage, not Ellie that dies and comes back to life 

The entire second half of the film significantly changes the plot of the novel in one specific way: it switches which kid is killed in the road. In the movie, Ellie — Louis’ daughter — is hit by a truck when she sees her cat, Church, back from the dead in the middle of the road. But, in the book, Ellie is actually the only member of the family who survives. Instead, Gage, the younger brother, is the child who dies in the book. And it’s Gage who Louis takes to the Little God Swamp to bring him back from the dead.

This is a pretty significant change, only because the film ends with the implication that all four members of the family will become pseudo-zombies. But, in the book, Ellie is spared. She’s away with her grandparents in Chicago when it all goes down. So basically, the child who is central to the tragically creepy plot of the movie, is, for the most part, fine at the end of the book.