“Pet Sematary” ending — how dark was the directors’ original conclusion?

Pet Sematary dir. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer 2019

The Pet Sematary ending was originally quite different, reveal directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.

Pet Sematary arrived recently, courtesy of directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Holidays). This is the second cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's terrifying 1983 novel, the first being Mary Lambert's 1989 film of the same name. With the recent success of Andy Muschietti's recent It reimagining, it looked like it was the perfect time to work on a new vision for King's Pet Sematary, as - much like the 1990 It TV miniseries - the previous screen rendition hasn't exactly aged very well. 

When the trailer was released, King and genre fans, in general, were really impressed with Kölsch and Widmyer's proposed vision for the novel. The footage we were given access to teased a sinister and eerie atmosphere, with some particularly creepy visuals to boot. It seemed immediately obvious that the legacy of the book would benefit from a fresh, modern adaptation to attract new audiences to pick up King's text and immerse themselves in his nightmarish tale of grief. Sadly, it didn't really benefit at all. 

When the directors' 101-minute vision was condensed into a vague trailer, it felt striking, nightmarish and bold. However, when stretched across a feature, there's very little to sustain interest. One of the film's biggest stumblings is its final act; honestly, even in consideration of the rest of the narrative, the conclusion felt underwhelming. There's no frightening reveal or tense climax, it simply feels cold and procedural. When the final shot rolls around, you can't help but question how it took an entire 100 minutes to get there. 

Yet, it seems that the ending was in fact quite different at one point. According to Cinemablend, the directors expressed their thoughts on the alternative ending while in conversation with SlashFilm: "That [alternate] ending we shot first, and then we decided, you know, to have this other ending – so the studio could test two different endings…We [edited] them both and both endings [test] scored pretty equally," says Widmyer, impressed.

"They’re both disturbing and dark. I would say that the current ending sends off the audience with a smile on its face, while at the same time though, [they’re saying] ‘That was that was messed up!’ Whereas the other one, I don’t think anyone would be smiling. The other one has more of a bleak, kind of sad tone to it." Although it's not safe to be sure, it's likely the fate of Gage - Ellie's younger brother - was left far less ambiguous. Hopefully, the forthcoming home-video release will have boast some satisfying bonus features, among them, the alternative ending. 

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