PET SEMATARY, from Paramount Pictures.

We’ve been abuzz for some time with anticipation and news for the Pet Sematary remake due for release in April. But even a casual Stephen King fan probably noticed some odd tidbits in the various trailers and other teasers that suggest some pretty big changes to King’s original story. Surprise, surprise: There will be spoilers up ahead. (For spoiler-free information, you can check out this article instead.)

Executive producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura dished on his changes in SFX and said that initially, he wanted to surprise fans of the book and original movie with his changes. Maybe there will be some changes left to surprise us, but the last few trailers all but told us outright that main character Louis’s (Jason Clarke) daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) would be the Creed child dying in the new film, not Louis’s toddler, Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie).

Di Bonaventura said that not only did the idea of a rampaging toddler seem silly, it also posed a problem in terms of actually acting the scenes with a resurrected toddler out. Children that young are difficult to direct and physically less capable. Although the original 1989 film worked around these problems creatively with practical effects and careful editing, it’s still easy to see how limitations affected the scenes with resurrected Gage wreaking terror.

Di Bonaventura also said that having Ellie die made the movie a bit heavier, and as the older child understands the concepts of life and death a bit more than a toddler might, it allows “an older child to have the conversation.”

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Although this is another interesting take on the change, this idea seems a bit more suspect–if Ellie dies, there is no maturing child learning about and grappling with the finality of death in a way her father Louis cannot handle personally. In the 1983 book and 1989 film, Ellie asks her father about death, and when Gage dies, she carries around his picture and tries, in some ways, to act like him. We see an older child grappling with this ideas painfully in the original story already.

 

However, Di Bonaventura also added that it makes the story more thought-provoking for adults, in terms of how a family might handle the death of older, more developed child versus a younger child. This is potentially an interesting if somewhat uncomfortable contrast to King’s original tale. Which, to be fair, is already more than a little bit uncomfortable in its own right.

Regardless of however fans feel about the changes, Stephen King himself is happy with the changes, and he’s never one to mince words about his true feelings on adaptations of his work. He believes the changes still remain true to the “beats” of his original story, and likened it to taking different highways to the same city. He also came to the same conclusion that working with an older child would have been easier than working with a younger child for key scenes of zombie-related horror.

Pet Sematary will be released next Friday, on April 5.

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