The undisputed King of Horror (it’s right there in his name, after all!), author Stephen King has penned too many novels to list and inspired just as many film and TV adaptations based on his works. One of those, the second screen version of his 1983 classic Pet Sematary, is hitting theaters this week! To celebrate, we’ve curated a collection of creepy promotional items from some of Stephen King’s best stories about creepy kids and killer animals!
PET SEMATARY GOODIES FROM THE GRAVE
The first screen version of Pet Sematary was directed by Mary Lambert and hit theaters in 1989. For those unfamiliar with the tale, it follows the Creed family as they move to rural Maine, unaware a Native American burial ground sits on their property. The true power and horror of the site will be revealed when tragedy strikes and father Louis (Dale Midkiff) makes the fateful decision to bury his deceased son Gage (Miko Hughes) there. With the screenplay penned by King himself (he also pops up in a cameo role!), it was a relatively faithful adaptation of his all-time best-selling novel, as the theatrical trailers at the time touted.
The real promotional fun began when the movie arrived on home video. Video stores received Pet Sematary mugs to advertise the release, featuring the famous tagline “Sometimes dead is better.” and an illustration of Church, the pet feline that figures prominently into the story.
Some video stores also gave away “Earl the Dead Cat,” a stuffed cat.. minus the stuffing. Now, you’re probably thinking “Hey! The cat’s name was Church!” and you would be correct. The reason for the name change is that Earl was an existing – and very odd – toy that just happened to be perfect to promote Pet Sematary!
The Pet Sematary 2019 re-imagining, directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, is hitting theaters this week and promises to be a unique and terrifying take on the well-known story. The advertising campaign has been in full-swing, focusing on some new elements like creepy homemade animal masks the local kids wear when they bury their pets in the titular graveyard. Promotional cat masks and flashlights have been spotted, so keep your eyes out for even more promo items!
TERRIFYING TREATS FROM CUJO
If you’re more of a dog-person rather than a cat-lover, don’t fret because Stephen King has just the story to terrify you too! In 1981, his novel Cujo hit shelves and the name instantly became synonymous with pure terror. It follows the titular Saint Bernard, a household pet who is bitten by a bat and contracts rabies. Soon, the once-sweet dog is terrorizing a mother whose car has broken down, leaving her trapped inside with her young son and helpless against Cujo’s relentless attacks.
Publishing house Signet released this paper Cujo mask, featuring the famous snarling snout from the book’s cover art, as a promotional item for the Halloween season to advertise the release of a different Stephen King release, the short story collection Four Past Midnight.
The inevitable film adaptation of Cujo arrived in 1983, directed by Lewis Teague (Alligator, 1980), and starred scream queen Dee Wallace Stone, who had already fended off an altogether different kind of killer canine in 1981’s The Howling. Promotional buttons and t-shirts declaring the wear to be “Cujo-proof” were used to advertise the release.
CHILDREN OF THE VIDEO STORE
Creepy animals are a minor nuisance in Pet Sematary compared to the human kids that come back to terrorize their families. Stephen King is no stranger to creepy kids, having penned the short story Children of the Corn in 1977. It follows a bickering couple driving through rural Nebraska who find themselves in a tiny town full of children who worship a mysterious entity living in the surrounding cornfields.
Children of the Corn may be one of the shorter works in King’s library – it was originally published in Penthouse Magazine and later in his collection Night Shift – but it has spawned a massive film franchise. A film adaptation based on the story arrived in 1984, and to date has been followed by eight sequels and a television remake.
Only the first two films received theatrical releases, but Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest stalked its way into video stores in September 1995. It follows some of the titular tykes as they are transplanted to big-city Chicago from rural Nebraska, allowing them to wreak havoc in an all-new locale. The home video release was accompanied by this awesome inflatable corncob, proving that you may be able to take the children out of the cornfield, but you can’t take the cornfield out of the children.
FIRESTARTER: SO HOT RIGHT NOW
The first Children of the Corn movie had some competition in the creepy kid department when it was released in 1984, which also saw Firestarter hit theaters. Based on the 1980 novel by King about a young girl with pyrokinetic abilities on the run from a sinister government agency seeking to control her. The film adaptation stars a young Drew Barrymore as nine-year-old Charlie, the, well, firestarter that the story is centered around.
Firestarter did not make a huge spark with critics, and even Stephen King himself has had less-than-flattering things to say about it. Nevertheless, promotional items do not discriminate based on film quality, and Firestarter received a fun and clever oven mitt for advertising purposes. The movie remains a cult classic with legions of devoted fans, and King enthusiasts would no doubt love to have one of these in their collection!
CREEPY CARRIE COLLECTIBLES
She may be reaching the upper age limits of the “creepy kid” definition, but teenage Carrie White remains one of Stephen King’s most iconic creations and it would be amiss not to include her! Carrie, the film adaptation of King’s very first novel, arrived in 1976, directed by Brian de Palma and starring Sissy Spacek in the title role, a shy outcast with secret telekinetic abilities. Her classmates are cruel, but they get their comeuppance after they pull a particularly nasty prank on Carrie at the school prom.
Carrie has remained a classic for nearly five decades, and when it received a 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD in 2001, it got an amazing promotional item as well. This bloody corsage, a perfect symbol of Carrie’s perfect prom night gone terribly wrong, was sent to journalists to encourage them to review the new DVD. If you’ve got a taste for terror, you’ll certainly want one of these in your collection!
Do you have any Stephen King promotional items or memorabilia in your collection? Share them with us on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, and keep an eye out for more Stephen King editions of The Collector’s Crypt as It: Chapter Two and Doctor Sleep near release later this year!