“Something up in those woods… it brings things back.”
As the title cards in the new Pet Sematary trailer remind us (in the original cover font for Stephen King’s 1984 book, no less): They don’t. Come back. The same.
For newcomers to the story looking for a scare on April 5, this new footage offers a collage of context-free jolts. King’s Constant Readers and fans of the 1989 movie will see a few familiar faces among the flashes.
There’s one we’ve seen before. One we haven’t. And one who remains a mystery.
First, there’s Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed), the jogger hit and killed in a roadside accident, who returns as an ominous angel to warn the doctor who tried to save him, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), to keep away from that burial ground that brings the dead back to life.
Then we glimpse a figure with an exposed, gnarled back, crawling across the floor of a hallway toward Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz), the mother of Ellie and Gage.
There’s no mistaking this frightening shape — Zelda, Rachel’s sister, who suffered horribly from spinal meningitis.
Rachel simultaneously loved and feared her sister, terrified by the disease that was knotting and twisting her body.
In the 1989 film, the character was a cackling and demented ghoul played by a grown man (Andrew Hubatsek). In the new movie, Starry Eyes filmmakers Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer decided the character should return to her original form in the King novel as a young girl, played now by then-13-year-old Alyssa Brooke Levine.
“In the book she’s 10, actually,” Widmyer told EW when we visited the set last summer. “We went more accurate with that.”
They said the Zelda in the earlier movie remains one of the most disturbing elements of that film, and if you can’t beat it, try something different. Original director Mary Lambert turned Rachel’s memories of Zelda into a fever dream, with skewed camera angles, distorted music, and a taunting version of the ailing girl.
“It exists in sort of a hyperreality, like she’s wearing a Victorian nightgown,” Widmyer said. “It’s big and scary and awesome, but we tried to think about the reality of the Zelda situation, what that would do to a family, and sort of wasting away in this bedroom, and a younger sister being frightened of her older sister’s debilitating illness, and the resentment that would form there. The idea of her wasting away and what it probably did to the family, that on its own is pretty scary.”
The grounded nature of that horror would actually be scarier than a supernatural version of it, he added.
In the novel, Zelda was far from a cheap scare. King’s book derived its strength from building on perhaps the worst fears of every parent: losing a child, either quickly or in slow motion, and being unable to do anything to change or stop it.
“[We explore] what that room would feel like as a layer of dust went on everything,” Widmyer said. “How the parents kind of give up, and what that would do to someone. And then how that would be seen from an 8-year-old’s point of view. Going in that room to bring food to her? How scary that would be.”
The Rachel we see in the hall is fully grown, though, so are we witnessing a kind of vision? That brings us to the other mysterious figure in this teaser: the woman with the scissors.
She’s clearly undead, but who is she? In the 1989 movie, scripted by King himself, a housekeeper named Missy Dandridge takes her own life, leading the Creeds to confront a death close to the family (which dredges up memories of Zelda.)
In the book, Jud Crandall, the kindly old neighbor who knows the secrets of the woods (played this time by John Lithgow) has a wife, Norma, whose death leads to the same conversations. However, Jud knows that human beings should never be resurrected in the burial grounds, so he doesn’t even try that.
He seems to be under attack by her, but this could also be a distortion in his mind.
Or perhaps it’s a vision, too. The supernatural power within the woods does have the ability to distort perception and reality.
We’ll find out more April 5.