Since last year, talk about True Detective – HBO’s new police procedural series – has been sporadic, and details slim, but the release of the show’s first trailer should change that. Elliptical and brief though it may be, the clip nonetheless says a great deal about the program’s tone and the direction the story will take as it unfolds across eight episodes. True Detective looks like it’ll be graphically violent, unsparingly bleak,  and littered with superb performances.

Of course, it’ll be defined most by the turns of its two leading men, real-life chums Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, here respectively playing detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle. True Detective puts both lawmen on the trail of a serial killer in Louisiana, a multi-timeline journey that stretches out over the course of almost a decade; specifics about the case aren’t available at the moment, as HBO is doing a great job of keeping information from slipping loose, but the above bit definitely hints at a crime of an immensely disturbing and maybe even cultish bent.

What, exactly, that means for True Detective remains to be seen. At first blush, the imagery here makes True Detective look like a harrowing blend of Zodiac and The Wicker Man, but that’s just an impression left by passing family resemblance; at the moment, there’s no telling what’s really going on in the narrative beyond the “dark side of the badge” theme that’s so much a staple of fictional cop dramas.

The pervasive, grimy Southern Gothic atmosphere in the footage can be attributed to the involvement of filmmaker Cary Fukunaga, of Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre fame. His work is frequently shaped by its moodiness, and it looks like he’s brought that same aesthetic quality to True Detectives. His visuals alone convey the idea that this isn’t going to be a happy story with a happy ending.

The more arresting presence, however, may well be McConaughey, who has been on a hot streak for the last few years thanks to his roles in films like Magic Mike and Killer Joe, which probably served as great preparation for his work in True Detective. Rust Cohle is a bad man, after all, and McConaughey knows exactly how to bring characters like him to life. (He’ll be playing a couple more bad men of different persuasions later this year in Dallas Buyers’ Club and The Wolf of Wall Street.)

But that’s not to count out Harrelson – who has turned out really strong work in films like The Hunger Games and Seven Psychopaths – or Michelle Monaghan, Elizabeth Reaser, and Kevin Dunn. That’s a small but impressive ensemble. Hopefully, the material matches their talent, though given how arresting this teaser is, that shouldn’t be much of a stretch. In just a few months, we’ll see if True Detectives lives up to its promise or not.

Will you tune in, Screen Rant readers? Let us know in the comments.

True Detective premieres in January 2014.