Book to Film: Pet Sematary
author: ethan butterfield | a&c editor
Cat scratch fever. / Paramount
“If you go out in the woods today…”
Well, this ended up being a film–heavy week for arts & culture. First, there was the deconstruction of the hype machine, then there was the wonderfully written piece from our Op-Ed editor, Marty, and now, we take a look at the age-old discussion that has had film fans in debate for years: adapting a book for the big screen. The main focus of this piece will be the recent release of Pet Sematary, a film that is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, as well as being a remake of the 1989 movie of the same name.
As any good filmgoer or bookworm knows, the move from book to screen can be a rather tricky one, depending on the source material. For example, trying to adapt a novel like Starship Troopers to the screen was fairly easy. The movie may not have been the same as what it was based on, but at the very least, it tried to do something different from the book and got positive results. Now, when you try to adapt something like Dune to a more cinematic level, a novel that is just as dry as humanly possible, then you’re going to get some mixed results.
Recently, however, the adaptation of novels to the big screen has had some real praise geared toward them, especially that of Stephen King’s works (the man has had so many adaptations, he could make his own universe at this point). Yes, from the remake of The Mist, to the terrifying release of IT, Stephen King’s novels have been box–office success stories. My personal favourite of the recent adaptions was Gerald’s Game which is featured on Netflix. Granted, not a box–office film, but still an adaptation all the same.
The newest box–office story to get some pretty decent press has been Pet Sematary. For those who aren’t sure about the story, it focuses on a doctor by the name of Louis Reed who is appointed to be the director of the University of Maine’s health services that are on campus. Having to move from Chicago to small town Ludlow with his wife Rachel, two children Ellie and Gage, and the cat, Church, Louis’s story only becomes more frightening as the plot progresses (such as a Stephen King novel will do). So, in regard to earlier in the piece, is this a good adaptation, or a misguided one?
Well, I did mention that there was some pretty good press for the film, but there were also some significant changes made to the main story to better suit the film (naturally, also spoilers ahead). Changes like Norma Crandall dying before the picture begins, Jud’s dog returns violent rather than tame, and Zelda’s death is made worse than in the novel. There are others beyond these, but they’re more for watching rather than spoiling. All in all, the changes made for the screen from the story seem like they don’t bring out the best in what the film had to offer, especially considering the movie is sitting at a crisp 59 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Oh well, better luck next time.