Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023) poster

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director – Lindsey Anderson Beer, Screenplay – Lindsey Anderson Beer & Jeff Buhler, Based on the Novel Pet Sematary by Stephen King, Producers – Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Mark Vahradian, Photography – Benjamin Kirk, Music – Brandon Roberts, Visual Effects – ReDefine (Supervisor – Andre Bustanoby), Special Effects Supervisor – Louis Craig, Production Design – Adam Scher. Production Company – di Bonaventura Pictures.


Jackson White (Jud Crandall), Natalie Alyn Lind (Norma), Forrest Goodluck (Manny Rivers), Isabella Star LaBlanc (Donna Rivers), Henry Thomas (Dan Crandall), David Duchovny (Bill Baterman), Jack Mulhern (Timmy Baterman), Samantha Mathis (Kathy Crandall), Pam Grier (Marjorie Washburn), Christian Jadam (Sheriff Anderson), Karl Graboshas (Commander Williams)


1969. Jud Crandall is preparing to leave Ludlow with his girlfriend Norma and join the Peace Corps. Just as they leave town, they hit the dog of neighbour Bill Baterman. Following the dog back home, Jud finds that Baterman’s son Timmy, who has just returned from serving in Vietnam, is acting oddly. Norma is bitten by the dog and Jud has to break off their departure to take her to hospital. Timmy begins acting strangely around town and is found by his father devouring the flesh of animals he has killed. Jud attempts to get to the bottom of things and uncovers the mystery of the old Indian burial ground out beyond the Pet Sematary and how this ties back to the town’s past.

Pet Sematary (1983) is a Stephen King novel and one of his best regarded. King developed the central idea of a young boy returned from the dead not quite right out of fears of seeing the worst happen to his own children. The book was duly filmed by Mary Lambert as the okay Pet Sematary (1989). Lambert went on to make a sequel to this with Pet Sematary II (1992). Amid the big upsurge and revival of King properties that came in the late 2010s, the book was remade as Pet Sematary (2019) from di Boneventura Pictures, although this was a disaster that sought to update the resurrected child to an eight year-old girl.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is a sequel, or more correctly a prequel, to the 2019 film and was released directly to streming on Paramount+. It features the 2019 film’s screenwriter Jeff Buhler back on script. It is again produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the producer behind the Transformers film. The film was a directorial debut for Lindsey Anderson Beer, who had previously only written one film with the comedy Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018). That said, her name is attached as writer to a whole bunch of projects, including a new Star Trek film, an adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicle and remakes of Bambi (1942) and Short Circuit (1986).

The Stephen King sequel industry is invariably a guarantee of poor material – look at The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), Firestarter Rekindled (2002) and assorted Creepshow, Sometime They Come Back and The Mangler sequels, although all of this is outdone by the phenomenal sequel generating machine that is King’s short story Children of the Corn (1977), which has just released the eleventh film based on the one story. Pet Sematary: Bloodlines does have some legitimacy in that it is actually taken from the story of Timmy Baterman that is recounted by Jud Crandall in the middle of the King book. The film smartly updates this from a World War II setting to the Vietnam War.

Jackson White and Natalie Alyn Lind follow the Baterman dog home in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)
Judd Crandall (Jackson White) and Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind) follow the Baterman dog home
The Pet Sematary in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)
The Pet Sematary

This gives the film a solid and promising set-up – only for it to then go and blow it. All of the other Pet Sematary films follow a similar arc where someone is killed, loved ones take them out to the pet sematary and something no longer human returns. By contrast, there are no scenes in Pet Sematary: Bloodlines where people go out there to bury anyone or even any pets; the film begins with somebody already resurrected.

The book, the 1989 and 2019 films are parental nightmares about the fear of losing their children, while Pet Sematary II reversed that and had it about the kid dealing with loss of their parent. On the other hand, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines tosses out all of the fears of familial alienation in order to have a story that features good-looking teenagers as the central characters. There is no play on fear of losing a family member here – all that we have is a school friend turned up and acting strange, which makes Bloodlines no different than a standard Zombie Film. Indeed, the silly part about having to shoot the resurrected in the eyes to kill them makes this a wannabe zombie film in all but name.

Even the story of Timmy Bateman, the townsperson who came back from the dead not quite right, could have worked well on its own. The classic Dead of Night (1974) made an excellent film out of the same premise of a Vietnam Veteran brought back from the dead but not quite right anymore. However, the film keeps compounding the basic story, which should have been about the alienation of the townspeople, with other elements – a dog resurrected from the dead too; people infected after being attacked and turned into zombies; conspiracy amongst the townspeople (that never amounts to anything significant); and flashbacks to British soldiers searching the area in the 17th Century.

The latter third of the film just becomes lots of running around the town and woods involving a zombified Timmy and others infected (apparently by the act of Timmy stabbing them). The climactic scenes involve a venture into a tunnel to rescue an abducted Natalie Alyn Lind who is drowning in a mud cave. In these sections, the film becomes one of entirely cliché horror effects with the vaguest of connection to anything in the Pet Sematary franchise.

Trailer here

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