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Script to Pieces: The Pet Sematary Remake

pet sematary - Unearthed & Untold

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

We’re living in the middle of a Stephen King renaissance. Two hugely anticipated adaptations, The Dark Tower and the remake of IT, are opening in theaters virtually a month apart. The Mist is being reinterpreted on Spike as a new TV series. With that in mind, there’s no better time to look at some projects that have a more ambiguous future—or might never actually happen at all.

There’s been some question for a few years now as to whether or not we’ll ever actually see the long-promised remake of Pet Sematary. Fans of the book are clamoring for it, feeling that the original film failed to capture the true emotional horror of the novel. While I certainly count myself as a fan of the source material, I actually think that the original feature holds up really well. There are some performances that stumble, but others are great, I think the script is on point and its atmospheric as hell. Most importantly, it’s still scary. I definitely encourage going back and checking it out with an open mind.

The Micmac burial ground in Pet Sematary

Having said that, it doesn’t mean I’m not open to a remake, especially if it offers a fresh take on the concept, which is incredibly fruitful. Over the past few years, several different writers have been attached to the project. Part of what might be slowing it down is that Paramount, who haven’t really been in the horror business for awhile, are still set to back the film as they released the original.

The first known writers to turn in a draft were Face/Off scribes Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. They wrote a script for Alphaville who were set to produce at the time. George Clooney was even in consideration, but it never went into production and eventually fell apart.

After that, the next writer to turn in a draft for the remake was David Kajganich, who had previously penned Blood Creek and Invasion. In 2010, Kajganich spoke in detail about what caused him to leave the project.

“After I turned in my first draft, Paramount went through a top-down regime change and I was given a new executive who had creative ideas I just couldn’t stand behind. They wanted to appeal to younger audiences, so there was talk of making a teenaged Ellie the main character, and etc. It was really heartbreaking, but that’s how the process works sometimes. The studio was gracious enough to let me out of my contract and the project was dormant at the studio until very recently.”

Pet Sematary's Victor Pascow1408 writer Matthew Greenberg was the next to take on the task of turning in a script. He’d already proven that he could handle a great Stephen King adaptation, but this one already had a built in audience. This one seemed to come closest to production, as Juan Carlos Fresnadillo came aboard to direct. Fresnadilla had previously directed 28 Weeks Later.

Alexandre Aja had also previously been in the running to direct, but it’s not clear at which point he was in consideration.

While the notion that the remake might actually be on the horizon excited fans, it also made them nervous to hear rumors that the film was being considered for a PG-13 rating.

I myself am not remotely opposed to PG-13 horror, but if there’s any story that shouldn’t be adapted to fit that rating, it’s this one. Pet Sematary is, by the author’s own admission, the darkest book he’s ever written. It’s a very visceral, gruesome horror story to its core. It would have to undergo a serious overhaul on the story level to be able to fit a softer rating.

That might very well have been the case, though, as Greenburg and Fresnadilla acknowledged that they were open to the possibility of a PG-13 rating, should the project warrant it.

Zelda in Pet Sematary. Jeff Buhler.Either way, that plan also fell apart and, in 2014, writer Jeff Buhler entered as the new screenwriter, with Fresnadillo still attached as director. According to Buhler: “Paramount had a script from Matt Greenburg and then brought Juan Carlos on, and they were looking to do some work on the script, and then I came in. Juan Carlos and I collaborated on a new outline for the film, Paramount loved our pitch, and I’ve been writing the first draft of the script. It’s very exciting.”

Buhler made it very clear that there was a deliberate attempt to separate the remake from the “campy” first film. “We are not tying ourselves to anything in the first two films at all. We are [also] bringing in some fresh elements that speak to the spirit of the story that aren’t in either one.” 

Buhler has remained attached to the project, though there’s been no word on it since early last year, when he noted that they were about to begin casting “some bigger names, so it’s taking some time.”

Hard to say whether or not we’ll still see it at this point, but several versions of the script have passed through Paramount’s doors already. I’m sure each one of them has been staggeringly different.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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