Why the Pet Sematary Trailer Is So Effectively Unsettling

Pet Sematary poster-feature

Yesterday, the first trailer for the Pet Sematary was released, showcasing the latest adaptation of Stephen King's classic 1983 horror novel of the same name. Even at a little over two minutes long, the first-look trailer is packed with elements foreshadowing later events in the sinister story while steadily building a creeping sense of dread through its especially ominous imagery.

Taking place in King's native Maine, the trailer begins with the Creed family moving to a small town nestled deep in the woods; their new picturesque house located right next to particularly busy highway. As the young family admires their new home, a jump scare provided by a speeding truck sets the tone with startling efficiency, while also teasing tragedies to come.

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From there, viewers enter the surrounding forest itself, the trailer interspersing images of beautiful, green trees with scenes of a delightfully creepy funeral march by the neighborhood children. With dead pets in tow, the procession features the children solemnly carrying their departed animal companions while wearing terrifying animal masks, carrying makeshift crosses made from woodland sticks, and beating a solitary drum while walking towards the titular cemetery; its name misspelled as a result of juvenile illiteracy, and scrawled into a nearby tree.

As the Creed family and elderly neighbor Jud witnesses the eerie ritual, images of bloody, escalating horror are cross-cut into the proceedings from sanguine footprints to undead animals, still caked in that black Maine soil. Jud warns the Creeds, "Those woods belong to something else. The ground is bad. Maybe it’s just some crazy folktale, but there is something in the woods. Something that brings things back. Sometimes dead is better."

RELATED: First Look At Stephen King’s Pet Sematary Remake

Much of the trailer's imagery, including the funeral procession, is straight from the original novel. The opening of both set an almost surreal tone before spiraling into violent, unrelenting horror as the Creeds discover an ancient evil permeates throughout the very soil.

The idea of cursed earth, something totemic and primal predating modern civilization, is a staple in horror genre, and King's original novel catapulted the concept into the American mainstream consciousness at the same time as horror contemporaries including the 1982 film Poltergeist and 1979's The Amityville Horror. In these stories, anyone who sets foot on the designated property are regarded as trespassers by the paranormal and subject to their wrath. Similarly, all these stories feature a young family targeted, highlighting the vulnerability of children from their parents' mistakes with King drawing from his own experiences as a young father when crafting both Pet Sematary and his 1977 novel The Shining.

RELATED: Pet Sematary Remake Kicks Off Production

Pet Sematary

Thematically, if the other iconic King novel It is all about confronting childhood fears and traumas, at its core, Pet Sematary and its subsequent cinematic adaptations are about humanity's inability to confront death. Rachel, the Creed family matriarch, refuses to discuss the very nature of mortality with her children leading to arguments with her husband Louis. As the family endures tragic loss, rather than mourn and confront tragedy emotionally, the eponymous boneyard's dark powers provide its own sinister alternative to death; a thematic blend of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's hubris in attempting to overcome mortality and W.W. Jacob's The Monkey's Paw showing the twisted price of defying destiny.

Pet Sematary is also King at his most bleakly terrifying: Death is virtually its own character throughout the text and film adaptations, its presence constant and foreboding. While death continues to exact its inevitable, terrible price on the Creed family, Rachel and Louis descend into grief-fueled madness with increasing cost on their downward spiral. No lessons are learned, no uplifting ending in the face of supernaturally-tinged horror. And judging by the first trailer for the upcoming adaptation, the new horror film will similarly embrace the darkness of its literary inspiration.

An adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, Pet Sematary is directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch (Starry Eyes). The film stars Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, and John Lithgow and is scheduled to be released on April 5, 2019.

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