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Pet Sematary: Bloodlines – Fantastic Fest 2023 (Film Review)

2 min read
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

Legacy horror films receiving prequels, sequels, and reboots have proved divisive among fans. While some love the chance to see new life breathed into a classic story for a new generation, others believe fresh stories should receive the platform these rehashings take up and that many simply don't live up to the original.

's iconic novel and its first big-screen adaptation from Mary Lambert in 1989 has already undergone the sequel treatment, as well as a remake in 2019 from Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer that garnered a lukewarm reaction from cinemagoers. Now, we're going back to the beginning in Ludlow with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, a prequel to the small-town tale.

Set during the Vietnam War, Bloodlines focuses on a young Jud Crandall (Jackson White) who will go on to be the neighbour of the Creed family, informing patriarch Louis of the powers of the ancient burial ground. In the latest installment, Jud is preparing to leave Ludlow alongside his girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind), but forces seem hellbent on keeping him there as a last-minute encounter with his childhood friend Timmy Baterman (Jack Mulhern) sets him on a new course with devastating consequences.

Bloodlines attempts to take the often misunderstood franchise into new territory, doing away with the look and feel that Pet Sematary fans have come to recognise. While it's a bold move by director Lindsey Beer to turn much of the classic tale on its head with the removal of the unique and detailed lore that surrounds Pet Sematary, not much — if anything —  is offered in its place.

Instead, the film's narrative ambles along, failing to reach a satisfying conclusion and instead culminating in a generic supernatural horror that falls flat inspite of some moments of visceral brutality. Set during a period touched upon in the previous films, it does little to fill in any backstory of Jud's time in the Vietnam war and his relationship with Timmy, instead offering half-baked musings on the horror of war and the colonialism linked to the spooky cemetery we know and love.

Shifting from eerie resurrections to full-blown demonic possession takes the franchise in a surreal direction. One that sadly loses touch with its spine-tingling, spooky charm hurtling from one scene to the next with little time taken to establish the moody, gothic feel that has gone hand-in-hand with previous iterations of the story.

While there are some genuinely shocking sequences and gripping performances, the film shows that sometimes, dead is better as it fails to resurrect the classic story, offering up instead a generic possession film that misses the point of King's landmark novel.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines premiered at on September 23. It is released on Paramount+ in the UK on October 7.