This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY BECCA JOHNSON OCTOBER 12, 2023
Directed by Lindsey Beer, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is the prequel to the not-so-popular Pet Sematary (2019) remake. It takes viewers back to 1969 Ludlow, following fan-favourite Jud Crandall who has dreams of leaving his hometown behind. We know of Jud's story from the source material, but this is the first time it's been put to screen. Despite having a solid cast, great camerawork and an interesting premise, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is unfortunately just a rehash of information we already knew and brings nothing exciting to the table.
In 1969, a young Jud Crandall has 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
Though most agreed that Pet Sematary (2019) was a lacklustre remake, many did like one thing – Jud Crandall, and John Lithgow's portrayal of him. Four years later, we have a prequel following his character as a young man, discovering the horrors of the cemetery for the first time and finding out his ties to the town. We see his early relationship with Norma, some interactions with his parents and we finally get to actually see what he saw those years ago. Although the premise sounds interesting, and Jackson White's lead performance is just fine, Jud Crandall as a youngster is pretty plain and uninteresting to follow. He doesn't have the quirks, kind nature and wise advice of older Jud, and he doesn't do a great deal to stand out amongst the cast. The name is the only similarity – we could've been following anyone throughout this movie, and it would've had the same effect. Fans of the character may be let down by the subpar display, and the failure to make the lead as compelling as the Jud we know and love.
Unfortunately, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines can't help but fall into the traps of many horror prequels before it – it doesn't feel fresh, new or exciting. Due to it being a prequel, we know who dies and who survives; by simply having seen the original, the prequel is spoiled. This is a shame, especially within the horror genre, as it toys with the stakes. When we know someone will survive an attack, the attack doesn't bother us, and when we know someone is likely to die because they're not in the original, we cannot root for them or get too close. Furthermore, despite it being the first time Jud's story has hit the big (or in this case, small) screen, it is a story we have been told before in previous works of the Pet Sematary story. Those who are in tune with the story won't find anything to sink their teeth into, as no information is new. It's hard to get behind a plot when we already know how it'll play out.
As a horror movie and nothing more, it's hit or miss. On the one hand, it utilises effective gore and body horror, often making it the most bloody of the entire franchise. The practical effects work well, and there are one or two shots that may make the more queasy viewers need to quickly glance away from the screen. However, on the other hand, it relies too heavily on jump scares. Not only is this the main choice for scares throughout the duration of the movie, but it even uses the same method of jump scare more than once – the same set up, the same sound effect, the same angle. This becomes very boring very quickly, and is just one of the elements that stops Pet Sematary: Bloodlines from feeling original.
It is a competently made film, and it's direction is good. At just 87 minutes long it doesn't overstay it's welcome, and although it sometimes feels especially slow for a short flick with a familiar story, it does well to build tension and create a looming sense of dread and atmosphere. It features some great cinematography, with intriguing colour grading and shots that feel well-crafted. The cast also features a huge amount of talent, featuring the likes of Pam Grier (Jackie Brown), Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant), David Duchovny (The X-Files) and Henry Thomas (The Haunting of Hill House). Unfortunately, the performances are good but not great. They mostly feel quite wooden and bland, including the lead, no-one really convincing us that they want to be there.
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines has some gruesome horror visuals, a fun creepy setting that is always a joy to revisit and bouts of intriguing film-making. However, it's story doesn't deliver any new explanations or history, the performances leave much to be desired and what sounds like an interesting premise on paper, fails to deliver on screen. It's too slow, it's too familiar and it's too predictable.