Synopsis: In 1969, a young Jud Crandall has dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow, Maine, behind, but soon discovers sinister secrets buried within and is forced to confront a dark family history that will forever keep him connected to Ludlow.
Stars: Jackson White, Forrest Goodluck, Jack Mulhern, Henry Thomas, Natalie Alyn Lind, Isabella Star LaBlanc, Samantha Mathis, Pam Grier, David Duchovny
Director: Lindsey Anderson Beer
Running Length: 87 minutes
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: The more movies that get made out of the novels of Stephen King, the more you grow to appreciate the early standouts that have had a lasting impact. 1989’s Pet Sematary, directed with homespun folksiness by Mary Lambert, had a freaky poster/VHS box that always scared me as a kid. The movie was no slouch either, with hissing cats, evil children, and an infamous moment involving a scalpel that had even the toughest codger biting their knuckle. Lambert returned for a less convincing sequel in 1992, and while there were hopes a 2019 remake would have the guts, alas, there was no glory.
In true Hollywood machine style, the studio heads have returned to the Stephen King well, plucked a tiny sliver of an idea (a chapter from the 1983 novel), and positioned it as a sequel to the 2019 film. The result is Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, a straight-to-streaming project debuting on Paramount+ after premiering at Austin’s Fantastic Fest. While considerably well made, thanks to cinematographer Benjamin Kirk Nielsen giving the film a first-rate period look, director and co-screenwriter Lindsey Anderson Beer can’t dig up enough new ideas to resurrect interest.
It’s 1969, and the Vietnam War still hangs like a shadow over the country when the film opens. For the townspeople of Ludlow, Maine, you either stick around and be stuck or get out the first opportunity you can grab. Suspiciously spared from the draft while his peers have been shipped off to war, young Jud Crandall (Jackson White) knows he must go and is leaving to join the Peace Corps with his girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind). His father (Henry Thomas, The Haunting of Bly Manor) is pushing him to leave, knowing the town has certain secrets from its past that won’t stay hidden forever…secrets that are unearthed quicker than anyone can imagine.
Beer and co-writer Jeff Buhler are likely aware that the audience for what is ostensibly a fourth Pet Sematary film would know the established rules by this point. Yet, they appear to want to tailor the mysticisms surrounding the sacred grounds that can bring back the dead to their screenplay. That leads to the graveyard being used more like a battery charging station for the recently deceased instead of a revival location that comes with deadly consequences.
Eventually devolving into a series of scenes of pointless attacks with little thrill, there’s a lot of energy wasted in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines planting seeds that we know will never grow into anything. In the process, good performances from Thomas and Samantha Mathis as Jud’s mother get lost in the shuffle. David Duchovny and Pam Grier are also
phoning it in present, but they look like they have arrived to shoot a movie set in 2009, not 1969. Finally, instead of working to dovetail the film to join up with the 2019 remake, Beer leaves the audience with an awkward finale that may deliver on the blood and guts, but narratively falls flat.
To complete your Pet Sematary experience, check out Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary, a fantastic documentary on making the original film!