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October 6, 2023 / Paramount+

Starring: Jackson White, Forrest Goodluck, Jack Mulhern , Henry Thomas , Natalie Alyn Lind Isabella Star LaBlanc, Samantha Mathis, Pam Grier, David Duchovny

Directed By: Lindsey Beer

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. Based on the never before told chapter from Pet Sematary, Stephen King’s chilling novel, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is a spine-chilling prequel exploring the origins of how death became different in the small town of Ludlow and why sometimes dead is better…

Written By Darren

Rating 2.5 out of 5

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is a disappointing expansion of Stephen King’s classic horror tale, with a rushed story that fails to capture what made the original novel and two previous films a chilling experience.

2019 saw one of Stephen King’s original stories remade and released on the big screen, and while it was not a hit with critics or beloved by audiences (given their scores on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb), the remake of Pet Sematary ranks among my favourite Stephen King adaptations. It’s a chilling tale that is unsettling from start to finish, with a truly morbid tale that you won’t soon forget. When the prequel was announced, I was intrigued to see how they could expand on the story, knowing that there is a lot of history for the town of Ludlow that could be explored, with the chapter of Jud’s story of his first experience with the Pet Sematary being a jumping off point. However, the actual result is a messy, non focused and rushed experience that uses the King name to market a horror film that fails to live up to his genius writing that has captivated audiences for decades.

Set decades before the Creed family discovered the Pet Sematary in the 2019 remake of Pet Sematary, the film explores Jud Crandall’s first encounter with the undead brought back to life by the cursed grounds of the Pet Sematary. As Jud discovers the terrifying power of the cursed lands, he is forced to face dark secrets from his family and the town of Ludlow’s past as he and his friends must face the ancient evil terrorizing the town.

The biggest culprit of the film is the story, and its mishandling of the lore created by King in his original novel. Set in 1969 in the town of Ludlow, the film assumes you have seen one of the two previous versions of Pet Sematary or have read King’s original novel, therefore largely skipping over the fact that the Pet Sematary will bring people or animals back to life that are buried there. I appreciate this, as if the screenplay spent its entire time revealing this plot point, it would just be a redo of the original story. However, apart from one rushed sequence where they explain the first time the people of Ludlow discovered the effects of the land, the film fails to develop the lore around the feared ground. It hardly mentions it, instead using it as a catalyst to create undead humans and animals to mindlessly terrorize our protagonists, failing to capture the emotional elements of King’s original story that made it so terrifying. The animal masks donned in the remake by the children of Ludlow are briefly explained in a throw away scene, just to give them an origin despite having no real relevance to the overarching story. It really is just lots of exposition in the first hour, all building towards the final act and the big showdown between our protagonists and those brought back to life after being buried in Pet Sematary. It's an entertaining enough sequence to close out the film, but it is far too little too late to make this film worth checking out.

While stories can fumble in horror films, the chase and kill sequences can help make up for that if they are well executed. And while there is some entertainment value in those scenes in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, the production value behind them lessens their effects. Most of this is due to the film’s lighting, which plunges the film in utter darkness for the majority of the chase sequences, making it hard for the audience to decipher what is going on. It’s a puzzling creative choice as it buries what should be the film’s standout moments.

Performance wise, there is not much to say about the cast in this film. The majority of them are left with an underdeveloped script and very little screen time, preventing them from having any lasting impact on the audience. Jackson White is decent as a younger Jud Crandall, doing his best to lead the film. If there is any one who stands out, it is David Duchovny as Bill, the father who brings his son back to life. Duchovny does a great job capturing the conflicting emotions within Bill, the grieving father, as well as being terrified of what he has done, but there is not enough of him in the film to have the same impact that both Jason Clarke and Dale Midkiff had as Louis Creed in the adaptations of King’s novel.

Proving that somethings should remain dead, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is everything you fear a horror spinoff to be. Merely capitalizing on the success of the original story with an underdeveloped story that adds nothing new to the lore of the Stephen King’s original work, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines fails to conjure up any real chills or excitement, rendering it a forgettable straight to streaming horror spinoff.

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