Review: ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ (2023)

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ is a semi-prequel to the 2019 remake. To elaborate what I mean by that, during a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter (link below), co-writer and director Lindsey Anderson Beer talked about how this project initially started off as a prequel to the remake from that film’s writer, Jeff Buhler, but when she came on-board to direct, the intention shifted to the new film being a prequel to Stephen King’s novel and not beholden to the continuity of the remake, which explains why the Crandall house, Pet Sematary, and Mic-Mac burial ground resemble those from Mary Lambert’s films and look nothing like those from the remake – although it should be mentioned that there are a couple of elements that carried over from the remake, such as the animal masks and the emphasis on the pull that the evil of the land has on the residence of Ludlow. Sadly, though, the Wendigo is yet again glossed over, but the essence of what it does remains the same.

The film begins with Bill Baterman (David Duchovny) dragging his recently deceased son Timmy (Jack Mulhern) to the Mic-Mac burial ground after he was killed in the line of duty during the Vietnam War. A few days later, as Jud Crandall (Jackson White) and his future wife Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind) prepare to leave Ludlow to head to Michigan where they intend to join the Peace Corps, they accidently hit the Baterman’s dog on their way out of town. Recognizing something strange with the dog, they cautiously lead it back to the Baterman house, where they encounter an equally strange Timmy, who doesn’t seem very welcoming to his old childhood friend. After the dog attacks Norma, the couple finds themselves trapped in Ludlow for another few days while Norma recovers. As Jud’s suspicions of the Baterman’s continues to grow, he turns to another old friend, Manny (Forrest Goodluck), and the two attempt to uncover the truth of their former friends’ bizarre behaviors. Meanwhile, Timmy begins to act on the evil’s behalf, targeting the descendants of Ludlow’s founders, whose secret committee has worked for generations in trying to prevent the residents of the town from being corrupted and feeding it.

I must say that this film was much “bettah” than I was expecting it to be, and is a huge improvement over the soulless 2019 remake. It doesn’t quite hit the emotional notes of death and grief from King’s novel or Lambert’s 1989 film, but it does make a better effort to than its predecessor with a few moments where the characters reflect on their memories about those who fall victim to the evil that inhabits Ludlow. It doesn’t have the punch in the gut of the original story, but it does try.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this film is the inclusion of the town’s founders, and how the descendants formed a committee to combat the evil that has soured the ground by preventing people from using the burial ground, and how the evil fights back by using Timmy as a way to take them out so that its pull can no longer be suppressed. I felt like this was an effective way to expand upon the mythology and lead to a question of the implications regarding the future of Ludlow once the last overseer, Jud, meets his end in the finale of King’s original story – and ultimately how the corruption of Jud in that story is the final blow that gives the evil its free reign. What this film does is help build a tragic arc, not only for Jud, but for the town itself.

One of the complaints you’ll likely see about this movie is that it’s predictable. Typically, I’d say “no shit”, because it’s a prequel that focuses on a story referenced in King’s book and Lambert’s film; if you’re familiar with the source material at all, you already know the fate of the Baterman’s and Jud Crandall. However, this movie does include a plot-point where Jud and Norma are leaving town, when we already know that they stay; we know that following Norma’s death, a lonely Jud latches onto the Creed family and tragically becomes corrupted by the evil’s influence, leading to the demise of the Creed family. One could argue that this adds to the tragedy of the characters and how their goals and dreams of a different life are halted by what transpires because of the Baterman’s. The point I’m trying to make here is that yeah, it is predictable for those who know the end result, but at the end of the day it is a prequel and doesn’t really try to hide it.

Overall, to my surprise, I really dug this film. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I do wish that it explored the themes that made King’s novel stand out in a much more meaningful and hard-hitting way, but I found it to be a well-directed film with decent acting, solid gore, and I very much enjoyed how it expanded onto the mythology and added a more tragic arc to the character of Jud Crandall.

The film is available to watch on Paramount Plus.

You can read the interview with Lindsey Anderson Beer here:

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About Seth T. Miller 90 Articles
I am first and foremost a proud father of two daughters who may or may not be possessed by demonic entities/deadites -- time will tell on that one, but I am pretty confident that one of them translated the Necronomicon. I enjoy short walks to my movie collection, reading in goddamn piece and quiet, and watching the same movies and tv series over and over instead of discovering new stuff.