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In 1983, legendary horror author Stephen King published a novel titled Pet Sematary (spelled as such to reflect an important plot detail). Six years later, director Mary Lambert’s adaptation of the novel hit theaters. Now, three decades after that film, a second adaption — this one by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer — is playing in theaters across the country. Here are six ways in which the two adaptations are different from one another, with spoilers ahead.
Critical consensus far favors the new film
Film reviewers far prefer the Kölsch and Widmyer adaptations to the Lambert one. The modern-day adaptation has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88% across 41 reviews, whereas the 1989 film has a mere 50% score across 30 reviews. Likewise, the 2019 film’s Metacritic score of 71 topples the 1989 fim’s score of 38.
A different Creed child dies in each film
King’s novel focuses on the horrors that befall the Creed family. In both the novel and the 1989 film, the family’s youngest child, Gage, is killed by a monster truck. For the 2019 film, Kölsch and Widmyer change this plot detail. Instead, the family’s eldest sibling, Ellie, loses her life at the hands of this truck. In both films, this early death paves the path for the horrors that follow. Although many King fans see the killing of Ellie rather than Gage as a poor choice, critics have noted this switch as key to the 2019 film’s scare factor.
There’s no Timmy Baterman in the new film
In King’s novel and Lambert’s film, the character Timmy Baterman helps explain the terrors that the titular “pet sematary” is inflicting on the Creeds. However, in the 2019 film, this character is not at all present. His narrative is shelved in favor of focusing more on the Creed family and all the nightmares they endure at the hands of the “pet sematary.”
Zelda is a child again
Key to all versions of Pet Sematary is Rachel Creed’s sister, Zelda. In the book and the 2019 film, Zelda died at just 10 years old from spinal meningitis. Her death lingers over Rachel, since her parents left the two home alone at the time of Zelda’s death, and she thus blames herself for Zelda’s death. However, in Lambert’s 1989 film, Zelda is portrayed by the actor Andrew Hubatsek, an adult male.
The 2019 film trailer is full of spoilers
Much to the chagrin of Kölsch and Widmyer, the trailer for their film contains serious spoilers. Were it up to them, the official trailer for the film wouldn’t have revealed their choice to change the Creed child who dies from Gage to Ellie. Widmyer also expressed concern that the trailer might mislead audiences into thinking that its many kids in masks would prove far more significant to the movie’s plot than they actually are. Lambert, at least on the record, never expressed similar concerns for her film.
Church is more pivotal to the 2019 film’s plot
In King’s novel and Lambert’s film, the Creed family cat, Church, is used simply to demonstrate the resurrection powers of the “pet sematary.” However, in the 2019 film, Church is portrayed as the main force behind the terrors tearing the Creed family apart. Kölsch and Widmyer manage to depict Church this way without having him do much that would be out of the ordinary for an average cat.
Pet Sematary is out today. Will you be seeing it? What’s your favorite version of the story? Let us know in the comments!