Pet Sematary Bloodlines - Fantastic Fest World Premiere
Director: Lindsey Anderson Beer
Starring: Jackson White, Natalie Alyn Lind, David Duchovny Henry Thomas, Samantha Mathis, Pam Grier, Jack Mulhern
Written by: Lindsey Anderson Beer, Jeff Buhler
Produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian
Cinematography by: Benjamin Kirk Nielson
Original Score by: Brandon Roberts
A young Jud Crandall 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.
The 2019 remake of 'Pet Sematary' kinda just came and went, didn’t it? It was a decent attempt to do something new with one of Stephen King’s best stories, but it really just felt like a film going through the motions. One of the things I actually enjoyed from the remake was John Lithgow as Jud Crandall; although his performance was held up against Fred Gwynne from the original, Lithgow brought a softness to Jud that made him very relatable. So, to everyone's surprise, 4 years later out of the blue, Paramount Pictures say that they’re going to drop a prequel to the 2019 film. A completely new story, not based on anything King had wrote before but based around the character of young Jud and an incident that's described in the original novel. To me this all sounded like an unnecessary prequel, but the 2019 film made a lot of money. So, is 'Bloodlines' a simple cash grab or is it actually a story worth your time?
The film takes place in 1969, an interesting time in American history as they were still at war in Vietnam. We find Jud (Jackson White) and his girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind) getting ready to leave the town of Ludlow to join the Peace Corp. When Jud’s friend, Timmy (Jack Mulhern), randomly appears back in town after being discharged from the war, Jud must find out the dark history behind the town of Ludlow.
Director/writer Lindsey Anderson Beer does a great job capturing the late 60’s, using subtle set design and era accurate costuming to make you feel like this is rural America. Beer uses the backdrop of being drafted for Vietnam to create tension in the town of Ludlow. Timmy returning from the war creates in interesting narrative twist, as he seems to be behaving very different.
Slight spoilers, but it’s literally the first minute of the film, Timmy might have returned to Ludlow in a body bag. His father, Bill (David Duchovny), has buried his son in the Pet Sematary and has come back to life, but he’s not quite the same. It’s actually a cool take on the classic story, because it’s often said that when people come back from war that they’re like a different person. So, when Timmy is causing chaos in the town, it can almost be blamed on shellshock. I would have liked if the film went more into this idea, but it gives you enough for this story to be more interesting than just “He’s just evil now”.
Performance wise, the film is pretty solid apart from Duchovny, who seems to be checked out for most of the film. Jackson White is decent as Jud, although he isn’t given much to do emotional; he plays strong leading man, but he does it well enough. Henry Thomas as Jud’s Father is excellent in the role. Thomas brings a reality to the role and you can really feel that he’s worried for his son’s safety. It’s also fun to see Pam Grier, but she’s given nothing to do unfortunately. Jack Mulhern as Timmy is fantastic in the film. Truly terrifying in parts, he captures what it’s like to be an empty vessel that’s controlled by pure evil. There’s an underwater moment that really made my skin crawl, thanks to Mulhern’s performance.
I think for a film that's facing an uphill battle from the beginning, with it being a prequel to a boring remake and the fact that it’s not expressly based on King’s writing, Lindsey Anderson Beer does a great job. It's not the best horror film of the year, far from it, but it’s a solid entry into the world of King straight to DVD/streaming film. There's enough world building here that makes it interesting enough to fans of the original story and it’s full of performances that are on a higher level than the 2019 film. It’s like they say “Sometimes...the prequels are better”.
- Adam Neeson
'Pet Sematary: Bloodlines' received its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest '23 on September 23rd and will premiere exclusively on Paramount+ on October 6th