Last month’s trailer for the upcoming coming Pet Sematary remake held true to its claim that “they don’t come back the same” when it offered a noteworthy diversion from both Stephen King’s 1983 novel and the 1989 movie of the same name.
While the original story and first film adaptation saw the death and subsequent resurrection of the young Gage Creed, Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch’s new flick instead gives this arc to his older sister Ellie. The character’s tragic passing was a surprising moment in the first full trailer that some fans have argued should’ve been saved for the film itself. But in an interview with Collider, Widmyer got to offer his explanation for why Ellie’s death was revealed in the marketing:
“Yeah, we would not have done that, but we don’t work in marketing. But I will say though, to their credit, that we tested the film in a bunch of different cities, as you always do with studio films, and our score went up after the trailer was revealed. I’m not saying it was because of that. We had made the movie better obviously in between, but I don’t know. There is something to be said about people sort of knowing going in already what to expect and then being ready for it rather than blindsided by it if they’re not into it.”
Widmyer then expanded on this point, observing how fans tend to go into movies with a set of expectations, and don’t always take it well when those expectations are subverted:
“Yeah, it’d be great to live in an alternate reality where it was different and to see how people responded to it, but I don’t know. Let’s say you were into the movie the whole time and you were enjoying the movie, but in your heart of hearts you were waiting for Gage to die. And then in that moment he didn’t die. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna go, ‘Oh my god! Wow, they got me!’ You might just go, ‘F this. I don’t want that,’ you know?”
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The director went on to question whether the death of Ellie is really a “twist” or simply a development in the plot, before arguing that saving her passing as a big surprise may have ultimately taken away from the mood of the moment:
“I mean, people call it a twist. ‘Oh! They spoiled the twist!’ It’s not a twist. I mean, we didn’t spoil how the whole third act of the movie ends and we still haven’t, and they have not done that. If anything, it’s just an escalation. It’s a reveal, so you get to really live in that moment of the emotion and sadness by not thinking that you’re just seeing a surprise, shock moment.”
At this point, Kölsch jumped in to offer a reminder that trailers are ultimately supposed to pitch the content of the film, and keeping Ellie’s death hidden wouldn’t have left the marketing with much material to share:
“When you look at the trailer for the original movie, I mean, it shows that Gage comes back. So it’s a plot point of the movie, so calling it a twist or not wanting to reveal that we switched the child – which we were on that team at first! We were like, ‘Ah, let’s keep this secret. It’s gonna hit them so hard in the movie.’ But then you’re going like, ‘Well then you can’t really pitch what the whole movie’s about in your trailer,’ you know?”
Perhaps there’s a case to be made either way here, but if early reviews are anything to go by, then Pet Sematary should hopefully have plenty more to offer than one moment of tragedy when it arrives in theaters on April 5th.