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Film / Pet Sematary (2019)

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"It's that goddamn place. It feeds on your grief, gets into your mind."
Louis: There’s a place in the woods. That place I was telling you about. I couldn’t understand it until I buried Church up there. That cat was dead until I buried him in the ground and it brought him back.
Rachel: He wasn’t the same after that.

A doctor and his family decide to leave the big city for the country. Upon arriving there, they discover a pet cemetery that exists above an ancient burial ground. When his daughter dies from an accident, the doctor decides to bury her in the pet cemetery, which causes supernatural consequences.

Pet Sematary is based on a novel with the same name, written by Stephen King. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), it is unrelated to the 1989 adaptation, though it does contain a cover of The Ramones' song from that film. The film's cast includes Jason Clarke as Louis Creed, Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed, and John Lithgow as Judd Crandall.

A prequel, directed by Lindsey Beer, and titled Pet Sematary: Bloodlines premiered in Paramount+ in October 2023. Set in 1969, it features young Judd Crandall (Jackson White) and his first run-in with the ancient evil that lurks in Ludlow. It also stars Pam Grier, Natalie Alyn Lind, Jack Mulhern, and Forrest Goodluck.

Pet Sematary contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Ellie mentions to Jud that her cat, Church, is named after "a man from a long time ago," Winston Churchill. Jud smiles and says he knows Churchill.
  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • It is Ellie that is killed and brought back instead of Gage.
    • The line "Let God have his own cat" is changed to "Let God have his own kid".
  • Adaptation Expansion: There are a group of mysterious children wearing animal masks, who weren't in the novel or the original film.
  • Adaptational Badass: Jud here is armed with a pistol rather than a mere knife. After getting his Achilles heel sliced open, he was durable enough to endure falling down a flight of stairs. Rather than attempting to scream in horror after being disarmed by the ambush as he is killed like in the novel and original film, Jud instead remains Defiant to the End and still attempts to retrieve his gun as he is stabbed to death.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Coupled with being Demoted to Extra and Out of Focus, Rachel's dad Irwin Goldman is nowhere near the Obnoxious In-Laws depiction like in the original movie and book and never seemed to be hostile nor tried to beat up Louis out of blaming him for his grandchild's death at the funeral. The worst thing he's ever done in the film is seemingly glare at Louis out of blame at the funeral. Though it's likely that due to Irwin being present at the time of Ellie's death, he did witness Louis managing to save Gage from death that caused Irwin to have respect for his son-in-law for his noble efforts.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Where the novel stated that most animals revived just come back 'off' rather than explicitly bad, Jud explicitly states that everything he's heard of that was brought back to life came back mean and cruel, and also acknowledges that the place has the power to twist minds so that they tell themselves it might work out better this time. This is explicitly demonstrated in Church, who far from the stinking, mean, slightly dull cat of the novel or the hissing glowing eyed feline of the 1989 film, is actively malicious. It's implied that Church lured Ellie out into the path of the truck in revenge for Louis abandoning him outside of town.
  • Adapted Out: Jud is a widower from the beginning in this version, so Norma doesn't appear except when the undead Ellie briefly takes her form to torment Jud. Also, a flashback with his dog Biffer was cut from the finished movie.
  • Age Lift: Instead of being 6 years old like in the novel and original film, Ellie is now 9.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: In this version's ending, Louis is killed by the revived Rachel and Ellie and buried in the Micmac burial ground by them, becoming undead as well.
  • Arc Words: "Sometimes, dead is better."
  • Bait-and-Switch: Gage goes on the road when a tanker truck speeds in, just like in the book and first movie... and he gets rescued in time by Louis. But the driver swerves the truck to avoid hitting them, which causes the tanker to fall over, killing Ellie.
    • Just like before, Jud is searching his house for the Undead Child. He walks into a bedroom and there's close-ups on his ankle from below the bed...then he kicks the bed away and there's nobody underneath it. Of course this is still the scene he dies in, it just happens after that fake-out.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Victor Pascow.
  • Body Horror: Zelda, and Rachel's nightmare of taking on her appearance.
    • Ellie's corpse has been stapled and put back together for a funeral, which we see up close when she returns from the dead.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Downplayed as while the film is still gory like Victor Pascow's mutilated brain-exposed state being worse for wear and Jud's achilles heel being sliced open, it is nowhere near as visceral as the original film. When Ellie is killed by the tanker, unlike the shot of Gage's bloody sneaker (which is implied to be his severed foot) in the 1989 film, the aftermath was less a bloody affair and Ellie's lifeless corpse was seen with no mutilations shown, while the only evidence of Ellie's blood was the stuffed animal birthday present being covered in dried blood held onto by a grieving Rachel as well as one of the railings on the tanker having an edge splashed with blood. Instead of having his mouth sliced open then get his throat torn out followed by his lower mouth and chin being eaten away, Jud here is stabbed to death in a Gory Discretion Shot and is left a bloody mess with most of his face still intact. Also, Rachel still keeps both her eyes and her face intact after getting killed then reanimated. While in the original film Rachel endured an Eye Scream, it's left in a partially skeletal and pus-oozing state of Facial Horror. This film seemed to focus more on suspense over Gorn and shock value in contrast to the 1989 film.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: In this adaptation, Ellie manages to kill and revive both of her parents. In the end they, along with their equally zombified cat, are seen approaching the family car, where Gage is the last survivor. The sound of the car door unlocking is the last thing heard before a cover version of the Ramones plays and the credits roll. We do not see what happens to Gage, but it is clear that the intent of his zombie family is to have him die, so they can resurrect him as well..
  • Came Back Wrong: What the film is about - happens to the cat, followed by Ellie, Rachel, Louis and as implied, Gage, not to mention Jud's dog, and quite possibly Norma.
  • Cats Are Mean: Church, upon his resurrection, is no longer Ellie's sweet, beloved kitty, and is now an undead, wrathful beast that ends up luring her to her death.
  • Censored Child Death: Just like the in original, the actual truck impact is not seen.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ellie finds Jud's gun early in the film. Jud uses it towards the end to try to kill undead Ellie.
  • Creepy Child: Undead Ellie. Even before turning homicidal, she does things like ballet dancing in the dirty dress she was buried in while deliberately destroying items on the tabletops before she points out to Louis how he can't keep her a secret from Rachel. It's ambiguous whether it was actually her or a Monster from Beyond the Veil, but the latter would make it even creepier when she's asking the Hollywood Atheist Louis things like where she's "back" from.
  • Cute Is Evil: When Louis is about to re-kill Church, he flashes Puppy-Dog Eyes. This persuades Louis to abandon him instead. Used again in the climax, where Louis is about to re-kill Ellie, and she reverts to what she looked like before the accident.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Played straight with Pascow who looks horrifically mutilated beyond belief but is persistent in warning Louis about not using the burial ground throughout the film. Averted with every other undead character though.
  • Death by Adaptation: Ellie takes Gage's place as the child who is killed by a semi-truck and then comes back as an Undead Child to terrorize her family and Jud. Louis also actually shown to be killed in this version, yet at the same time, he becomes undead as well.
  • Death of a Child: While Gage doesn't die, Ellie does. In the ending, it's implied Gage will still get killed then come back wrong like in the novel.
  • Decomposite Character: Gage's role as the Creed child who is killed and resurrected as a monster is given to Ellie.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Ellie right before the trailer plows into her.
  • Demonic Possession: Like the novel, the Wendigo is a spirit described as being the source of the curse of the Sematary and the reason things buried on the burial ground Came Back Wrong.
  • Defiant to the End: Jud. His response to Undead!Ellie’s threats to kill him? “You can come and fuckin’ try.”
    • Rachel, denying that the being in front of her is actually Ellie as she's being stabbed to death.
  • Demoted to Extra: Timmy Baterman, a significant character in the novel and first film, is only briefly referenced on-screen.
  • Died on Their Birthday: During her ninth birthday party, Ellie is hit and killed by a derailed tanker truck, after she had spotted Church and ran out into the street.
  • Downer Ending: Not only do Jud and Rachel die as in the original novel, but Louis is killed by the just-revived Rachel, and the film ends with the reanimated family coming to collect Gage from the car where Louis left him, implicitly to kill and reanimate him. We do not see what exactly happens next, but considering that the Cold Open shows us the aftermath of the final scene, namely a small bloody hand-print on the car window with a trail of blood leading up to the front porch, it's not looking good for poor Gage.
    • The alternate ending is less overtly bleak, but still manages to be even darker. Louis is unable to kill Ellie, and he defies Rachel's wishes not to be brought back to life and buries her in the burial ground anyway. The last few minutes of the film show a mentally broken Louis and a distraught Gage in the house as an undead Ellie, Rachel and Church (complete with a nod to the book's ending with Rachel touching Louis's shoulder and saying "Darling.") file in; not to kill their living relatives, but to be a family. Forever.
  • Evil Overlooker: Church is looming over the characters as seen in the poster above.
  • Exact Words: When Rachel asks if they own the Pet Sematary, Jud looks momentarily disturbed and then carefully says that it's "part of the property"—which is not a yes.
  • The Family That Slays Together: By the film's end, most of the Creeds have been buried in the cemetery and resurrected as monstrous killers, with the ending indicating Gage will join them soon.
  • Gender Flip: In this version of the film, Ellie is the one killed in a hit and run instead of Gage.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Wendigo is mentioned like the evil force that cursed the cemetery, but does not appear personally aside from a very brief glimpse from afar before being shrouded by fog.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Louis, causing friction between him and Rachel when they're trying to give Ellie 'the talk' about death.
  • Hope Spot: A particularly dark example. Louis is just about to bash Ellie's head in with a shovel, only to then be impaled through the heart by the just-revived Rachel.
  • Ironic Birthday: Inverted. Ellie’s death happens during her 9th birthday party.
  • Mad Eye: Zombie Ellie's right eye is visibly damaged and won't stay focused without her conscious control, which is a common feature of severe blunt force head trauma.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: It is debatable if they are actually malevolent, but the kids in the animal masks who stage the funeral procession are creepy as hell. And, according to Louis' newspaper search, this is a ritual that has been going on for a very long time.
  • Mama Bear: In the worst possible way: as Louis is about to kill a zombified Ellie, a zombified Rachel impales him to death. Great for Ellie, not so much for Gage. Or Louis.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Louis is bringing Ellie to the pet cemetery, eagle-eyed viewers can briefly spot what appears to be the Wendigo in the woods in the background.
  • Moment Killer: Louis and Rachel are starting to get amorous on the bed when they hear a noise and turn around to find that the (undead) cat Church has just dropped a badly mutilated, but still living, bird on the bed.
  • Monster from Beyond the Veil: Just like in the original, whatever is buried in the burial ground Comes Back Wrong. When a dying Rachel denies that Ellie is her daughter, Ellie tells her to go be with her then, implying those who are brought back are something else inhabiting the bodies.
  • Mythology Gag: Quite a few.
    • After Louis has a nightmare about Victor's warnings, Gage appears to pretend to scare Louis in a monster pose to wake him up in the morning, a nod to Gage having become an actual monster in the original book and 1989 film.
    • When Louis does research on his MacBook about reanimation incidents in Ludlow, he comes across articles about Hanratty the bull and military vet Timmy Baterman (who in this remake is updated to a The Vietnam Vet instead of a WWII vet due to the remake being set in The New '10s than The '80s).
    • In the middle of the movie, Louis was preparing to give Church a lethal injection like in the climax of the original film and book, but then changed his mind.
    • When Ellie pays a visit to Jud at his house, he checks upstairs and he stands near a bed. The camera lingers on his ankle from under the bed, misleading viewers to think he is going to be ambushed from under the bed like in the original movie and book, but Jud here was more wary and kicks away the bed only to find no one underneath.
    • Also similar the original film and book is the ending, where one of the undead parents checks up on a still living family member. Except instead of Louis encountering an undead Rachel, it's Gage encountering an undead Louis.
    • The driver of the tanker that kills Ellie is distracted by a cellphone call from a contact named Sheena. The driver of the tanker in the 1989 film is distracted by listening and happily singing along to Sheena is a Punk Rocker Now by the Ramones.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Louis using the burial ground to bring Church back to life indirectly leads to Ellie’s death as well as his and the rest of his family’s.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Jud's trademark thick Maine accent is nowhere to be seen.
  • Noodle Incident: When confronting Jud, Ellie makes reference to Norma never forgiving him for what he did, which could be a reference to his sin in the original book or just the revived Ellie screwing with him.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the trailer, we're not given a clear look at Ellie's face after she's brought back.
    • Unlike in the novel and original movie, we never see Gage die. We only see his zombified family beckoning him to unlock the car, and the Cold Open of a bloody mess in the front yard with a child-sized bloody handprint on the car window.
  • Not His Sled: Gage is not the Undead Child who came back to terrorize his family; Ellie is.
  • Offing the Offspring: inverted, in both the theatrical ending and alternative ending, it is heavily implied that Gage will die by the hands of his reanimated family, in order to join them as a resurrected family.
  • Oh, Crap!: As Louis lies next to Undead!Ellie in her bed and she starts showing more and more Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, the look on his face indicates that he realized that he may have made a horrible mistake.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Jason Clarke's American accent as Louis is...questionable, and in a couple of scenes he slips out of it entirely.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The undead (save for Victor Pascow) are of the Revenant Zombie variety by way of possession. Those who come back have access to their old memories (and may retain their original personality for a short time, though it's quite possible that it's just a ploy to get people to let their guard down), but the revived are not the person/animal they used to be. Ellie's personality starts off similar to her old self, even indulging in physical comfort from her father, but by morning she is all but a mockery of what the Ellie of old used to be. When stalking Jud, Ellie's personality is subsumed completely by The Wendigo, who shapeshifts into Norma Crandall to torment Jud just before killing him.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Much like the original novel and 1989 film, a child is killed in a vehicular accident.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Ellie rather than Gage is killed, as one of the directors explained that the first movie plus several others had done pretty much everything it's possible to do with a three-year-old Creepy Child, and making it an eight-year-old opens up a lot more possibilities.
  • Race Lift: Pascow is black, unlike the original film.
  • Red Right Hand: When Louis bathes Ellie and is brushing her hair, he finds where her scalp was stapled together by the mortician. Which, of course, signifies that this is not Ellie good as new but her corpse walking and talking. Her right eye is also visibly affected from the accident, and she is visibly cyanotic.
  • Shout-Out: One trailer shows a hand shooting up from the ground to grab someone, reminiscent of a certain other Stephen King movie.
    • Rachel gets stuck in traffic twenty miles outside of Derry.
    • Cujo has a very quick shout-out during the birthday sequence in which Jud can be heard talking about a St Bernard.
    • Cat's Eye is also stealth referenced during the scene where Church attempts to suffocate Gage. Cats stealing breath was a plot point in one of the segments of that film - only in that case the cat was trying to prevent it.
    • Louis speaks of "...working the Graveyard Shift".
    • Ellie is hit by a tanker's trailer, like Johnny in The Dead Zone.
    • Rachel flees into the bathroom with her young son to escape a homicidal family member who starts beating at the door and lowers the son from the window to save him at her own expense, similar to Wendy in The Shining.
    • Rachel watches in horror as blood flows out of the dumbwaiter - just as the blood flowing out of the elevators in The Shining.
    • Before wandering off into the Pet Sematary and first meeting Jud, Ellie was watching a particular episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants with a Back from the Dead theme. Notably, the show, including this episode, features Clancy Brown (who previously played The Sheriff who happens to be an Abusive Dad named Gus in Pet Sematary Two) as the voice of Mr. Krabs. Also doubles as Product Placement due to the cartoon being owned by Paramount, who distributes this film.
  • Shovel Strike: During the fight in the Pet Sematary, Louis attempts to behead Ellie with a shovel.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Louis spikes Jud's whiskey to knock him out and prevent him from interfering with Louis' plan to steal Ellie's body from her grave.
  • Spared By Adaptation:
    • Gage doesn't get run over by a truck in this version. In fact, he's even the only member of the Creeds family to be still fully alive at the end of the movie (though it's heavily implied the rest of the family will kill him and resurrect him soon after).
    • Church nor the Undead Child are never killed the second time due to the latter having planned ahead and reanimated one of her victims to take down her assailant. This also technically happens to Louis, if not staying dead could be counted as such.
  • Spoiler Cover: The poster (seen above) gives away that it's Ellie who is killed and resurrected, not Gage.
  • Tagline: "Sometimes, dead is better."
  • There Are No Police: The cops never show up to inform the family that their daughter's grave has been robbed; their appearance might have reduced the death toll.
  • Trailers Always Lie: At first, the teaser seems to indicate that it will follow the storyline of the original film and novel (including Gage getting killed and then coming back wrong with Louis screaming his name along with the shot of the semi driving under the camera's view). Then comes the second trailer, which reveals Gage is not the one who is killed by the semi, Ellie is.
  • Unholy Ground: The burial ground resurrects everything buried in it as a vicious revenant.
  • Villainous Rescue: Undead Rachel killing Louis to save Undead Ellie is shot and treated like a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Wendigo: Like the novel but unlike the 1989 film, the wendigo is mentioned to be the force haunting the titular cemetery. It doesn't actually appear (aside from an illustration Louis sees) but it can be heard howling and moving around in the forest.
    • Its form can be seen off in the trees VERY briefly during the scene where Louis goes to bury Ellie before becoming shrouded in fog.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: The "Sematary" patches together those who are buried there, but they always retain a degree of the wounds that killed them. Church's body was made whole after getting pulped by a passing truck, but his fur stays sticky, matted, and falls out in patches no matter how hard someone tries to clean him up, and he apparently stinks of rot. Ellie's scalp is all but stapled to her head and the flesh remains unfused, resulting in her hair falling out at the site of the lacerations. Also, her right eye remains dilated and droops slightly when she isn't focused on anything (which is a sign of nerve damage due to blunt force trauma}, and she is noticeably cyanotic.

"I thought we could be a family. I wanted to be a family. But we can’t."