The Incredible Way Pet Sematary Uses Sound To Amplify Its Scares

The scares in a horror movie seldomly only comes from the terrors on screen. The genre has long used music cues and precise sound design to create a complete sensory experience that has audiences jumping out of their seats and belting out screams. It looks like the upcoming remake of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is no exception.

CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell spoke with Pet Sematary directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer at SXSW, where the film premiered. Check out what Kölsch said about the importance of focusing sound design in the horror epic:

We said going in that the one thing we really wanted to capture was the chapter in the book where they bury the cat - people online have called that Stephen King’s scariest chapter. If you go back and you read it, they are just on a journey through the woods and a swamp. They’re not encountered by anything. Louis maybe thinks he sees something moving in the trees that might be the Wendigo but every single thing in that chapter is all sound. It’s all describing the feeling of this forest through sound. So we went in going, we have to really get a great sound design team because we want to do this chapter and we want to have this journey and we’re not going to want to show anything.

In CinemaBlend’s recent interview with the Pet Sematary filmmakers, they explained the inspiration on the movie’s sound design came straight from the pages of Stephen King’s 1983 novel. Kevin Kölsch maintains that while one chapter in the horror bestseller when Louis and Jud go to bury Winston Church the cat may be regarded as the author’s scariest chapter to date, the contents of the chapter is not visually terrifying scene. It’s all about what they don’t see.

Enter sound design. A simple journey through the woods and swamp in which they fear the Wendigo is all captured through the music notes and noises the sound team worked on the film. It really is amazing how sound can inform audiences into the tension of the scene and terrify audiences, even when what’s happening on screen is as simple as a nervous walk through the woods. As director Dennis Widmeyer said:

What you don’t see is stronger.

Looks like fans of the novel Pet Sematary may find some satisfaction in watching the upcoming remake since the directors paid so much attention to replicating details like these into their iteration of the horror film. Check out the directors talk about sound design below:

There has already been a huge change made from the original novel, as the daughter instead of the son in the Creed family will be killed in an accident and then resurrected in an ancient graveyard. Stephen King has however voiced his understanding of the justification, along with calling the movie “fucking great!

Stephen King’s sentiments about the new Pet Sematary has also been echoed by critics, who have largely praised the movie for being crazy scary, and a great adaptation to the classic horror novel. The 1989 movie hasn’t exactly aged well, and horror is making serious waves right now. Just look at how much Jordan Peele’s Us opening weekend box office record. So this is a welcome story to explore all over again.

This Friday, Pet Sematary will open alongside Shazam!, DC’s next superhero origin story. While the high-flying action flick is expected to win the weekend at around $45 million, Pet Sematary is tracking close behind at $30 million.

So get ready for some serious tension when you see Pet Sematary, thanks to the movie’s sound design. The movie will be the first of two King adaptations to come out in 2019, as IT: Chapter 2 delivers more frights on September 6, 2019.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.