Pet Sematary trailer decoded: Here are the creepiest moments in the Stephen King film
Pet Sematary reveals first trailer
It plays like a bad dream. The trailer for the new version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (out April 5) orients you in familiar surroundings — then bombards you with flashes of distressing imagery. Masked children in the woods. A gruesome specter in the shadows. Bloody handprints everywhere. Here’s a look at the creepier moments in the new film.
Before things get weird, directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) build a foundation of normalcy. The Creed family arrives at their new home in the Maine woods. While mom Rachel (Amy Seimetz) stretches, daughter Ellie (Jete Laurence) and dad Louis (Jason Clarke) admire their new backyard of deep, dark woods.
The first jump scare is not supernatural. It’s the roar of an Orinco oil truck, surging down the quiet road behind them. Rachel hugs her little toddler Gage tight.
There are many dangers here. Some of them are ancient and unknowable. Some have 18 wheels.
Clarke’s Louis is an emergency room doctor, starting a new job, and like many in the field of medicine, he doesn’t place much stock in the mystical. He plays god every day. Life or death confronts him constantly. He thinks if he can only understand something, he can control it. The word for that is hubris.
Louis forms a bond with the lonesome old neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), who is a man of legends and stories and myths. Jud knows every secret of the woods beyond his home. His hubris is thinking others can be trusted with the hard lessons he has learned about the burial ground beyond the one where kids put their pets to rest.
In King’s novel, the misspelled Pet Sematary is a prelude to the one that lies much deeper in the woods. This burial ground is where that impulse to reclaim a lost loved one washes up against a deadfall of sharp, broken trees — keeping people, especially the innocent, from wandering further.
King tells us the Pet Sematary is the handiwork of children, but in the new movie we actually see those local youngsters at work. Here, a procession of them in homemade animal masks marches a wheelbarrow carrying a deceased dog to that goodbye place.
There are a couple instances of this ritual on display. The kids sometimes get up to their unsettling activities at night. The drummer in the cat mask is carrying a small, dead being on a pillow.
They also apparently creep into each other's homes as they gather for these unusual burials.
Grown-ups do the same. Here, we see Jud leading Louis to the resurrection grounds. There is no pillow or wheelbarrow this time. The family cat, Winston Churchill, is being ferried to his resting place in a plastic garbage bag.
Not-so-spoiler warning: Church won't rest there for long. Here we see the reanimated cat displaying a newfound viciousness toward his beloved Ellie.
Gage is too little to understand any of this, but sometimes even the youngest children can sense inherent danger. In this shot, the toddler looks over his mother's shoulder with wide eyes.
He sees a figure in the shadows. Something horrific and hurt. It looks like a zombie, but this is actually just a spirit — and a good one, at that. He is trying to speak to the Creeds from the beyond, to guide them away from the malevolent burial ground.
His name is Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) and he was struck by a car and mortally wounded on Dr. Creed's first day at his new job. The doctor tried to save his life, so Victor's spirit returns to plead with him, Jacob Marley-style, to resist the urge to bring others back from the dead.
Louis dreams that Victor's spirit leads him down the path to the Pet Sematary, telling him not to travel beyond the deadfall barrier. Nature toppled those trees to keep people away. When Louis awakens, he throws back the covers to see this. It wasn't a dream at all.
Without giving away too much, it's fair to assume that characters other than the cat meet untimtely ends in Pet Sematary. If you've read the book, you know exactly whose car this is — and why there may be bloody handprints on it.
Jud is a tragic figure. A loner who rediscovers companionship by becoming a surrogate father and grandfather to the Creeds. But his zeal to keep them happy, at first by bringing back their cat, ultimately leads to far more unspeakable lose.
There are some inexplicable shots in the trailer. Images meant to evoke dread, without explanation. Who is this mystery woman who has left her iron burning? In the 1989 movie, King (who wrote that screenplay) added the character of a housekeeper named Missy Dandridge, who dies by suicide because of her chronic illness. The novel featured Jud's wife, Norma, in failing health. This could be either of them. (It's probably not Zelda, Rachel's deceased younger sister, who will be played in this film at around 12-years-old.)
Some of the most chilling moments of the new trailer come from juxtaposition, like this image of Rachel exploring a dark room with a dumbwaiter. Nope, nothing wrong here.
This shot is not an image of the dead returning to life. It appears to be Louis himself returning from the resurrection grounds. He's alone, no Jud this time. (Readers know what this means.) Louis has been through hell — and not quite back again.
The new version of Pet Sematary opens on April 5.