Writer Jeff Buhler tipped us off exclusively this morning to the news that he’s come aboard director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Pet Sematary reboot for Paramount as the project’s screenwriter, and we chatted with him regarding the property. Dive in!
Buhler, who is known to genre audiences for scripting 2008’s Clive Barker-inspired Midnight Meat Train and writing and directing that year’s feature Insanitarium (and who is also penning the remake of the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder for LD Entertainment and Ghost House Pictures’ re-launch of The Grudge franchise), said of Pet Sematary, “I’ve been working with Juan Carlos on his rebooted, re-imagined version.”
He added, “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.”
Commenting on the original 1989 horror classic, which was directed by Mary Lambert and based on the novel of the same name by horror legend Stephen King, “The original has a very special place in my heart,” said Buhler. “The film fits perfectly in the time period [in which it was produced], and the source material is one of the Stephen King books that I read as a teenager that made me flip out, and I’ve read it more than once since then. It’s a fantastic book and a fantastic story.”
With the narrative revolving around a family that moves into a new home next to a cemetery with powers that allow the creatures buried in it to come back from the dead, Buhler stated of his approach to the remake, “Now that I’m a father and I have a six-year old and a two-year old, all of the horror within that story that comes from losing a child is suddenly very real and tangible and utterly tragic [to me]. I think the one element that we are trying to bring to this version of Pet Sematary is a sense of truth and honesty in the horror and really take it back to the original material. I think that in the 80’s movie it’s a little campy in places, and we are trying to get away from all of that and really get back to the core of the story, which is that of the family dealing with grief from the loss of their child and the horror of breaking the laws of nature as a result of that. Juan Carlos in particular is very focused on the emotional elements and how they could be represented in a visual context that is compelling.”
“We are being very respectful to the book,” he continued, “and 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.”
“If you look at the core of it, of what’s going on with the family, it’s an absolutely disturbing story,” Buhler offered. “I think the heart of the story has to do with Louis and his relationship with his kids and grappling with that dilemma when kids ask you what happens when you die and what you believe in. It deals with these big questions in such a personal way, and that is classic Stephen King. They are huge ideas, but they are told through a very identifiable, close-knit family unit, and that’s so powerful so we are just immersing ourselves in that – the loss, the grief, and the horrific results of people making really, really bad decisions.”
As for the tone of the script as it pertains to the eventual film’s intended rating, “I try not to get too hung up on that while writing, especially because this isn’t like a Texas Chainsaw where there’s going to be a lot of ripped open abdomens and people chewing on intestines or anything like that,” he said. “It’s already going to exist somewhere on that line between R and PG-17. If the studio feels like they need to market it as PG-17, then it will be the most hardcore PG-17 movie you could get away with. There are a couple of deaths, but with this one the horror is a little more atmospheric. The big concern of course is that you are killing children, which studios are always loathe to do, but it’s a King story and that’s at the center of it so Paramount knows what they are getting into. There’s no question that kids are gonna die.”
“We’ll be done with the first draft by the end of the summer,” Buhler said of the current status of Pet Sematary, which is being produced for Paramount by Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Mark Varhadian.
“Juan Carlos and I have been working very closely from the beginning so I think the process will be very quick. It’s not going to be one of those situations where there’s a script that the studio likes but then they bring on a director who has a bunch of new ideas and then it goes back into the scripting process for another six months. Because we are doing everything with the director from the beginning, hopefully we won’t be far from where we need to be [with the first draft] when we are done.”
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