Film adaptations of beloved books are always put under a microscope. Fans of the book are always quick to throw out that the film could never possibly be as good. Stephen King fans, in particular, have been put through the wringer when it comes to adaptations over the years. While some have a fun '90s nostalgia vibe to them, a lot of the film versions of King's most popular novels can be hard to watch. Overall, the 1989 adaptation of Pet Sematary falls in the beloved category, which is why when another adaptation was announced fans were leery.
Every adaptation has to cut or change things from the book it's adapting, and the 2019 Pet Sematary is no different. It also has to compete with people's love of the original adaptation. In order to keep things fresh, there were quite a few alterations this time around.
Once Gage gets planted in the burial ground in the book, it's a quick dash to the finish line. The boy returns and takes out both Jud and Rachel in quick succession. When Ellie returns in the film, she comes back to the house, gets a bath from Louis, sleeps, wakes up dancing the next morning, and talks about how she doesn't want anyone else around. The film gives Louis more time to realize the mistake he made.
In the film, when the Creeds arrive at their new rural home, they quickly hear the sound of a drum. They turn and see a group of kids wearing some creepy masks, playing a drum, and pushing a dead dog in a wheelbarrow. They don't know it yet, but the kids are taking the dog to be buried in the Pet Sematary. The book never blatantly shows other kids using the cemetery for themselves.
Church's death is the catalyst that truly sets all the bad things in motion. It's also this cat, not the creepily misspelled Pet Sematary sign, that has been the most recognizable image of this story. In the film, Church dies on Halloween, and Jud and Louis sneak out to bury him after Ellie does some trick-or-treating. In the book, Church still dies on a holiday, but it's Thanksgiving, and Louis buries the cat while the rest of his family is away for the holidays.
That doesn't mean Halloween is uneventful. In the books, Norma Crandall suffers a heart attack while Louis and Ellie are over getting candy.
Perhaps the biggest change – and definitely most noticed in the trailer – is the kid whose death sets off the tragic events of the film. In the film, it's the Creeds' daughter Ellie that dies when a speeding Orinoco truck comes barreling down the highway. In the book, it's their young son Gage who dies. The movie tries to subvert the audience's expectation – even though the trailer makes it clear who died – by having Louis chase down Gage while he runs to the road. The driver ends up swerving which leads to Ellie's death.