“While it’s not bad, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines isn’t what you’d call great horror entertainment. Maybe it should have stayed buried.”
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is the untold chapter from horror writer Stephen King’s superb novel. Its events are hinted at during the book and the two film adaptations. Those of us who have either read the book or seen the film(s) or both know that the source material is top-notch horror. This new film is a prequel to the events we have read or witnessed on film. Set in 1969, it tells the story of a young Jud Crandall and his first encounter with the evil in Ludlow, Maine. As a prequel movie, it does manage to set the stage for what is to come in the future. But is the film worthy of life or should it have stayed buried beneath the dirt?
In 1969, a young Jud Crandall 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. Banding together, Jud and his childhood friends must fight an ancient evil that has gripped Ludlow since its founding. And once unearthed has the power to destroy everything in its path. Based on the never-before-told chapter from Pet Sematary, Stephen King’s chilling novel, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is a spine-chilling prequel. Exploring the origins of how death became different in the small town of Ludlow and why sometimes dead is better…
Sadly, the film, despite having some life to it, really doesn’t thrill or horrify that much. At a brisk 87 minutes, 6 minutes of that being the end credits, it feels limp. And at times rushed. While we get some backstory to the characters we are not familiar with, we don’t know enough about them to care for their fates. And that doesn’t do the film any favors. At times, we feel as if we are watching a straight-to-streaming zombie movie. The fact that the film has gone directly to Paramount+ tells you more than enough.
The scares. what there are, we can see and feel coming a mile away. That’s not to say the film doesn’t contain any violence or gore. It does, and a fair bit of it too. But when certain characters are killed off, we simply shrug while waiting for the next victim to die. We need to be invested in these characters, to care for them, and to feel sad at their demise. We don’t get that here. Instead, we are presented with a good cast that deserves better. As do we. However, long-time fans of the movies will get a kick out of seeing a familiar 18-wheeler make several appearances in the film, foreshadowing what is to come in the future.
The cast all perform well with what little material they have to work with. Jackson White as Jud Crandall embodies the character we know as an old man in the 2019 adaptation of the novel well. However, we know the character’s fate so we never feel worried or scared for him. We know he will survive the film. The same goes for Natalie Alyn Lind as Norma, Jud’s future wife. Again, we know that she will survive the film as she is a character in the novel. Natalie Alyn Lind appears, gets attacked, ends up in hospital, and vanishes from the film until almost 45 minutes later. The actress deserves more than that. Forrest Goodluck as Manny fares a bit better. At least he does have a part to play in the storyline as it is. As does Isabella Star LaBlanc as Donna, Manny’s sister.
Jack Mulhern as Timmy is the big bad here. And that isn’t a spoiler. Fans of the book and films will know his story. And the actor gets to grips with what he has to work with and runs with it to great effect. Timmy went to war in Vietnam and returned different. VERY different. For those who are unaware of the character and his story, I won’t spoil it for you. For fans though, the story has been changed. I will let you decide if the changes are for the better or not. I’m actually okay with how things of changed to a point. But the conclusion of his story left me cold.
THE SUPPORTING CAST
The supporting cast is okay with what they have been given. Henry Thomas as Dan gets the most screentime of them all as Jud’s father. He knows more than he is letting on and comes across as a mixture between creepy and uncaring, and a wet sponge. This is how the character is portrayed to us. Thomas makes the most of his part in the proceedings as he comes into his own near the climax. David Duchovny as Bill, Timmy’s father has a significant but ultimately extended cameo role. At no time do we ever feel anything but anger at Bill. He comes across as a grizzled, grumpy old man who is rude and obnoxious for no apparent reason. All becomes clear later on but Duchovny, at times, seems disinterested.
Samantha Mathis as Kathy, Dan’s wife and Jud’s mother has very little to do except appear at some points, look worried, and then vanish into the background again. While I’ll be kind and say at least Pam Grier as Majorie turned up to filming. Pam Grier is one of the icons of film, a legend of the 1970s blaxploitation era. Here, she appears, has something happen to her, and disappears for most of the movie, only to appear near the climax. She is completely wasted, as is Samantha Mathis.
THE SCRIPT AND DIRECTION
The screenplay by Lindsey Anderson Beer, who also makes her directorial debut here, and Jeff Buhler is actually a valiant and well-thought-out attempt at expanding a plot point in the novel and films. Although it doesn’t quite pay off, they’ve managed to bring a neat little horror movie to the small screen. The expanded look at Bill and Timmy actually works in the film’s favor. This plot point has been given flesh to its bare bones by the screenplay and makes for an interesting, intriguing part of the film that deserves the attention it receives.
Lindsey Anderson Beer’s direction actually suits the movie. It certainly fits into the previous entries based on the book. Her eye for detail and some sequences actually look extraordinary. However, a major problem with the film is that some scenes are far too dark. At times, we can hardly see what is going on. When it comes to a horror movie, darkness is key. But complete darkness in scenes that are vital to the plot and enjoyment of the film means we are not as terrified as we should be, just annoyed by what we should but can’t see. This proves to be a major distraction and an almost fatal flaw in what could have been something that would be perfect for the coming spooky season.
While it’s not bad, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines isn’t what you’d call great horror entertainment. Maybe it should have stayed buried. Actually, I’m not being fair to the film by saying that. It does have enough going for it to have horror fans tuning in and watching. And some scenes do bring the gore and violence that we expect. But it is a little bit too far and in between to really keep us invested in it. When it does arrive, it is brief but nasty. The mystery of the film does have us hooked at times but it isn’t enough. And with only 81 minutes of the run time being devoted to the film, things are rushed to get to the finale and resolution.
If the film had been allowed to breathe, to set itself up properly instead of being rushed through, it could have been a horror classic. It so easily could have become a film that gives the audience nightmares afterwards. Sadly, it fades from the memory almost instantly. It will find its audience, that much is for sure. But they will go away as unfulfilled as I was once the final credits roll. While it isn’t a bad horror movie, it is an average one. If the film was to be buried, like several characters during proceedings, it would be debatable if anyone would rush to dig it up again. The franchise still has life in it. But, as they say in the film, sometimes dead is better.
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines will be available to stream on Paramount+ from October 6th.
Trailer source: Paramount Plus
Future of the Force News Editor,Liverpool F.C fan,Halloween Movie Fan, Friday The 13th movies fan, Star Wars Fan, Star Trek Fan.