As the resident jump scare enthusiast at Downright Creepy it only makes sense that I should be the one to give you my thoughts on ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines.’ If you hate jump scares, there’s the door (motions vaguely at an exit) because we are here to appreciate them! Mainstream horror needs them, casual horror fans demand them, and ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ delivers them, by the fast moving semi-truck load! Are there too many? Possibly. Is that all it’s bringing to the table? No, I don’t think so.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, this is a film made for Paramount+. It is clean, shiny, and a little too slick. It will not be in theaters, it was created to watch at home and it definitely has TV movie vibes. For me, those vibes are not deal breakers, if the story and the imagery falls into place I can overlook heavy handed production.
Tackling a Stephen King property is a daunting task, I can only imagine the confidence it takes to say to yourself “King didn’t cover this bit, but I think I know how he would have if he did” and make a prequel for one of his most beloved works. This is what director Lindsey Anderson Beer took on. She was heavily involved in creating the screenplay and her love of the book and original film adaptation shows in the final product. Like many of us she read ‘Pet Sematary’ a little too young and could never quite shake it. Also, like many of us, she wanted to know more about how exactly the land soured, and why, with the knowledge that more often than not “dead is better,” do people keep burying their deceased loved ones there?
Set in 1969 Jud Crandall is trying to leave Ludlow, Maine. He has not gotten called in the draft for the war in Vietnam but longs to do something heroic. As he and his girlfriend Norma pack up to leave for the Peace Corps his childhood friend Timmy returns from the war, but not in the good way. Timmy’s father Bill, unable to accept that his son was killed in battle, has awakened an ancient evil by burying Timmy in the forbidden “sour” land. As we know Jud never does get to leave Ludlow, Bloodlines is the story of why.
This is not an origin story of why the land has these dark and magical properties. This is a Jud Crandall origin story. This is a story about colonialism and what those of us who have benefitted from it owe to the land our ancestors disrespected and the people they displaced. The storytelling is not heavy handed on this issue, if anything it holds back too much on what it really wants to say. It feels a bit like producers and big wigs got involved and said “get rid of all of this moralistic stuff and put in more loud trucks passing out of nowhere!” Despite that we get a lot of storytelling in a tight 87 minute package. While some of it feels a bit rushed I’ll never complain about a shorter movie and the pacing works for me.
One of the bigger hype points of the film were the key big name actors. It’s great to see David Duchovny, Pam Grier, and Henry Thomas doing what they do best, the young cast gets a bit overshadowed. While Jackson White does what he can with the rather humdrum character of young Jud, Jack Mulhern is turning in an incredibly unsettling performance as the reanimated Timmy. Whether he is lurking in the shadows or scuttling through underground tunnels every moment he is on the screen is ominous and disquieting. We get quick glimpses of the childhood friendships that King himself holds so dear in his writing, but I would have appreciated getting a little more on those relationships into adulthood.
While far from perfect I had a good time with this film and I think more casual horror audiences will really enjoy it for the Halloween season. For more die hard horror fans, I think there’s still a lot to love and some talents to watch going forward should they choose to continue in our beloved genre.
‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ had its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest and will be on Paramount+ starting October 6th, 2023.
Fantastic Fest: ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ Delivers Jump Scares By The Truck Load