To date, Pet Sematary remains one of the Stephen King’s best novels. Though some 80s horror fans love the original Pet Sematary adaptation, it’s a middling effort with just a handful of memorable moments. The 1992 sequel Pet Sematary Two has its fans, but it’s not particularly good either. Neary three decades later, the 2019 Pet Sematary remake did decent at the box office while dividing critics. Now Paramount+ looks to cash in on the intellectual property rights just in time for Halloween season. Aside from franchise familiarity and King’s name, Pet Sematary Bloodlines sets itself up as a prequel and adds David Duchovny.
It’s 1969 and all Jud Crandall wants to do is get out of his small, sleepy town of Ludlow. With his girlfriend, Norma, Jud plans on leaving for the Peace Corps. But when childhood friend, Timmy Baterman, returns from Vietnam, a series of strange events force Jud to change his plans. Something isn’t quite right with Timmy. He may be back from the war, but something was left behind.
Pet Sematary Bloodlines a Prequel That Feels Like It Doesn’t Know Why it Exists
Pet Sematary Bloodlines is the latest effort to take a piece of an existing intellectual property – like a single chapter from King’s original novel – and spin it off into its own feature length movie. Just this past summer, Universal Pictures tried the same thing with The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Director Lindsay Anderson Beer and co-write Jeff Buhler are working with one of King’s best works. And the novel’s chapter focusing on the past story of Timmy Baterman was creepy stuff. Throw in the potential presented by the novel’s mythology and Pet Sematary Bloodlines had plenty with which to work. Yet somehow Beer and Buhler don’t know what to do with the material. What little mythology turns up comes via an exposition dump of a flashback. And that scenes arrives in a very convoluted manner.
What little mythology turns up comes via an exposition dump of a flashback. And that scenes arrives in a very convoluted manner.
Too many movies stretch a thin premise across a bloated runtime. Conversely, this horror prequel runs at a trim 88 minutes and feels like it needed more time to breath. Everything about the story feels rushed. What’s on screen conjures up images of a screenplay riddled with bullet-points of where Beer and Buhler wanted the story to go with nothing filled in. Too much is simply presented to the audience or assumed. We know Jud Crandall had a wife named Norma and the prequel introduces us to the couple, but the relationship never gets much time. Similarly, Bloodlines wants emotional investment courtesy of the friendship between Crandall, Timmy Baterman, and new character Manny. But we never see the characters together before things get bad. In fact, it’s only a brief montage of flashbacks at the movie’s end that reminds us we’re supposed to care about these people.
Pet Sematary Bloodlines Gets Some of the Horror Elements Right
When Pet Sematary Bloodlines occasionally works, it’s the horror imagery and scenes that offer flickers of a decent movie. In particular, Jack Mulher’s ‘Timmy’ is every bit as creepy as what we got a glimpse of in the original movie. Beer’s first introduction to the character – only somewhat visible through a screen door – comes close to being unnerving. And Beer scores a handful of decent jolts and a few gruesome moments that should keep audiences watching. Too bad these scenes are too few and far between. Timmy Baterman feels wasted – a recurring theme here – and the finale starts and ends abruptly. Clearly, there’s an editing problem at play as the prequel feels choppy.
However, Bloodlines‘ biggest offence may be its unnecessary retconning of King’s original backstory, which introduces big problems for Pet Sematary.
All of the young cast – including Jackson White as a young Judd Crandall – are just fine. The lack of a Maine accent may annoy fans of the original movie. However, Bloodlines‘ biggest offence may be its unnecessary retconning of King’s original backstory, which introduces big problems for Pet Sematary. Maybe Beer and Buhler intended their prequel to make an older Crandall a more morally ambiguous character. Or it could just be a case of poor storytelling. Regardless there’s no justifying just how much this movie wastes a talented cast that includes David Duchovny, Henry Thomas, Pam Grier, and Samantha Mathis. It’s Duchovny’s ‘Bill Baterman’ who offers the prequel its most compelling story and he barely shows up.
Pet Sematary Bloodlines Probably Should Have Stayed Buried
Pet Sematary Bloodlines is a uniquely bad movie in that it does so many things wrong. And there’s no excuses given the talent and budget at its disposal. Clunky and rushed storytelling, poor editing, and a lack of scares stand out as the prequel’s worst offenders. Yet it also seems like no one responsible for this movie knew what they wanted to do with King’s original premise. It’s an exposition-dump of a movie with a handful of decent gross-out moments. What they put on screen also introduces major plot problems for the original (or remake of) Pet Sematary. At less than 90s minutes, this prequel never overstays its welcome and remains watchable, just not memorable.