Aside from casting updates, few details have clawed their way out of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s remake of Pet Sematary, Stephen King’s infamous tale of the death-addled Creed family, their persistent kitty, and the Indian burial ground in the woods behind their house. That changed today thanks to Entertainment Weekly, who’ve returned from a set visit with plenty of details (and, likely, a bit of a hitch in their step).
The biggest takeaway is that several key characters will manifest much differently here than they did in Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation. Zelda, the deformed sister of the put-upon Rachel Creed (and, arguably, the most pants-shittingly scary part of Lambert’s movie), will hew closer to the book’s depiction, with her being played not by an adult, but rather a 10-year old girl. Doomed jogger Victor Pascow, meanwhile, will carry more heft here than he did in Lambert’s version, which depicted him as a corny, blood-splattered spirit. “We have this very normal student, but the voice that’s speaking through him is an ancient voice trying to warn him,” Widmyer said of the character.
And then there’s neighbor Judd “Sometimes Dead Is Better” Crandall, who was memorably played by Fred Gwynne in Lambert’s version but will here come to life via the venerable John Lithgow. Lithgow’s Judd, according to the actor, will be a sadder, more isolated figure than that of the chummy Gwynne.
“He’s a loner, and he’s chosen to be alone,” Lithgow said. “His life changed. He was a man whose entire life was wrapped up with his marriage, his wife. And they didn’t have children, but they wanted children. In the script there’s this very simple and sweet line, ‘It didn’t work out for Norma and me. We wanted to keep ourselves to ourselves.’ You just know that was a really, really deep relationship. And the loss of that relationship has defined his life ever since.”
Despite the changes, the filmmakers seem to have a strong grasp on the story’s themes, some of the most unsettling in King’s oeuvre (the author wrote in the book’s 2000 introduction that he initially didn’t want to publish it). “This book is about death and talking about death and grief, and the pet cemetery is the first stage of that,” Widmyer said. “It’s almost like by not communicating about death, the chain reaction of the entire movie happens.”
Kölsch added,“Whenever you’re down, it’s kind of like, ‘If I go one more time I can just break even!’ That happens a lot in Pet Sematary. Instead of just accepting the loss, they’re always trying to double down — and it just keeps costing more life.”
Head over to EW to also check out some on-set photos, which feature the majority of the cast (both human and feline) and a first look at the sematary (sorry, cemetery) itself.