It sneaks up quietly and then vanishes, leaving some viewers of the new Pet Sematary wondering what exactly they just saw.
Readers of Stephen King‘s 1983 novel will know the answer, and Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive details.
Let’s discuss below the break, as spoiler protection for those still waiting to see the film.
Directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch spoke about this creature with pride when EW visited the Pet Sematary set last summer.
“We have more things in the book than I think the original movie did,” Widmyer revealed. “We even have the Wendigo. The Wendigo is in the movie!”
So, what exactly is the Wendigo?
It appears in the final third of the movie, with a grief-stricken Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) carrying the exhumed body of his 11-year-old daughter beyond the ruins of the Pet Sematary to the ancient resurrection grounds that lie deeper in the woods.
As he passes through Little God Swamp, standing amongst the trees is … something.
Something large. Something watching him.
Then the mist closes around the shape. And it’s gone.
“You’re gonna see it in the distance. But you’re not really ever gonna see it,” Widymer told EW. “It’s a really subjective moment.”
Like the audience, Louis isn’t supposed to be sure what he’s looking at, which is exactly how it plays out in King’s novel when he sees (or thinks he sees) the towering figure of the creature in Little God Swamp.
In the new movie, John Lithgow’s Jud Crandall actually provides the hint at what this being is when he offers Louis the history he has learned about that secret burial ground.
The old timer’s home is full of books about Native American lore, part of a lifetime of research about the woods. As Louis flips through one book he sees the same warning markings that he spotted on the trees, then an illustration of a towering, humanoid figure with the antlers of a deer — or demon.
You can also see another drawing in the upper corner of the image at the top of this story.
Jud tells Louis the native people were the first to discover the ancient resurrection ground.
“They feared that place,” the old man says.”There’s something up there. Something that dates way back. Those woods belong to something else. Something … that brings things back.”
The Wendigo is a folktale originating from Northeastern tribes that share the Algonquin language. It was a human-devouring beast that served as a cautionary tale against snowbound people turning to cannibalism in the throes of starvation.
In various stories, the Wendigo is either created when this abomination happens, or it can possess someone and drive them to feed on the survivors (or the deceased) among them. In King’s novel, this evil presence is what reanimates the dead and sends them back bloodthirsty and hungry for flesh.
The author told EW that the legend helped solidify the story for him, explaining why the risen dead would return malevolent. In the 1989 film, which King wrote himself, something large and unseen topples a tree toward Louis on his way to the burial ground, but you never see it and the Wendigo is never named.
Even during the making of the new movie, the creature was an alluring topic.
While Lithgow and 11-year-old Jeté Laurence were shooting their scene exploring the remains of the Pet Sematary, her character is abruptly escorted away by mom Amy Seimetz, who is none-too-pleased to find her daughter hanging out in the woods with a strange old man.
When the go, Jud turns back toward the deadfall of trees ringing the burial ground, hearing a voice on the wind: “Juddddddson…” it calls to him.
“So, who is saying that anyway?” Laurence asked the older actor during a break in filming.
Lithgow made his face playfully ominous, leaning down to whisper, “The Wennnn-deee-goooo …”
As if saying it too loud might summon it.