Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, ‘Pet Sematary‘ is a 2019 horror film that follows the Creed family’s horrifying experiences in the motley town of Ludlow, Maine, after they uncover the dark secrets buried in the local cemetery for pets. Paramount+’s ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ is a prequel to the 2019 film that explores the backstory of Jud Crandell and the origins of the supernatural forces that haunt Ludlow. Given the franchise’s focus on a deadly cemetery that can revive the dead only to have drastic consequences, viewers must be curious to learn about its inspiration. If you are wondering whether ‘Pet Sematary’ is based on real events, here is everything you need to know!
Is Pet Sematary Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Pet Sematary’ is not based on a true story. The 2019 film is an adaptation of the popular novel of the same name written by Stephen King. The book was first published in 1983 and has received critical acclaim. It was first adapted into a feature film in 1989 by director Mary Lambert with a screenplay written by King himself. It was a commercial success and received a sequel titled ‘Pet Sematary Two,’ which was not based on any of King’s works and featured an original story.
Stephen King conceived the original novel in 1979 while a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine. The house King rented during this period was adjacent to a road known for animal accidents. When his daughter’s pet cat died after being struck by a truck and was buried, King developed the concept of the cat returning from the dead to haunt the family.
At the same time, King’s youngest son, Owen, wandered too close to a busy road, which sparked some more ideas for the story. King furthered the idea by imagining what would happen if the family’s youngest son were to die and be revived. King’s novel also draws some inspiration from W. W. Jacobs’ 1902 short story titled ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ which features a similar plot.
The second adaptation debuted in 2019 with Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer directing a screenplay adapted by Jeff Buhler, based on the original novel. It was followed by a 2023 prequel film exploring the origins of the character Jud Crandall. The film is also an original story loosely inspired by a section of King’s novel that focuses on the tragedy of Timmy Baterman. In the 2019 film, Timmy’s story is mentioned by an older Jud as he warns Louis Creed against using the ancient cemetery to revive his deceased family.
The films in the ‘Pet Sematary’ franchise primarily revolve around an old cemetery that has the power to revive the dead. However, those revived are fundamentally changed and consumed by an evil spirit. King’s novel links the cemetery’s supernatural powers to the Miꞌkmaq Tribe and their burial rituals. As a result, like most of King’s works, the stories in the franchise have a strong presence of supernatural elements such as spirits and ghosts. However, the franchise uses these elements to convey the primary theme of death and grief.
The original story, the 2019 adaptation, and the 2023 prequel explore the human reaction to grief by posing the question of what someone would do to spend another day with their loved ones. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, King spoke about the story’s message. “It does have a meaning. I mean, that line “Sometimes dead is better” that’s not about suicide or anything like that. It’s about anybody who’s ever had to deal with a lingering illness or a relative that won’t let go. Sometimes the desire to live is just a biological thing, and it’s better when it’s over,” King stated.
Ultimately, the ‘Pet Sematary’ films are not based on any particular real events or true stories. The films are inspired by author Stephen King’s eponymous novel and adapt the story with varying degrees of faithfulness with some additional fictional elements. While King’s original idea for the story was devised from a real incident, the author turned it into a scary and horrifying exploration of dealing with death and grief by incorporating several supernatural elements.