Blu-ray Review – Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

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One of the famous lines from Pet Sematary is “Sometimes dead is better,” and I think it’s about time the series took its own advice. The original film has its fans, as does the 2019 remake, but neither film is great and the idea that audiences are craving a deeper dive into the mythology of the cursed ancient burial grounds in Ludlow, Maine is quite a reach. Yet, that’s what we’re getting with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, as audiences will now get a muddled quasi-answer to the question they never asked: why is the burial ground cursed?

That’s at least what the filmmakers try to do, but it’s a fruitless effort that simply adds unnecessary elements to Stephen King’s story in what feels like a poor attempt to create some sort of Pet Sematary prequel franchise. If a horror film is successful then the desire to make sequels or prequels is going to be there, as they’ve often got a budget on the lower side of things, which allows for larger returns if they strike gold. The issue here is that as fun and lucrative as franchises can be, sometimes a story is best left shrouded in mystery.

One great example of this is the movie It Follows, which sees a young woman being hunted by a supernatural entity after she sleeps with a guy that the entity was previously following. Unless she sleeps with someone else, then the entity will continue to hunt her until it kills her, and if that happens it would once again begin hunting its previous target who was the young man who passed it on to her. It’s an eerie premise with a supernatural antagonist that really can’t be stopped, only slowed. That’s what makes it terrifying, and while they’ve recently announced a sequel titled, They Follow. I’m really hoping that they don’t lift the veil, giving the evil some sort of origin, and instead continue to keep it unknown because it’s just far more terrifying that way.

What often happens is studios see there’s more money to be made and the easiest route to go is to work backwards in time to reveal what the source of evil is in the series. With Pet Sematary we’ve got the ancient burial grounds, which we receive enough hints about to conclude that it’s some sort of cursed grounds potentially connected to hell, or a gateway for demons to take over corpses, or things along those lines. That’s all we really need to know. Once you start trying to make sense of why evil is evil then you start adding convoluted layers of storytelling that often end up taking away the mystery and intrigue that made the thing scary in the first place.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines takes place in 1969 and sees Jud Crandall (Jackson White) as a young man looking to leave Ludlow with his girlfriend, Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind). Their plans are put on hold, however, when a neighbor’s dog bites Norma on the arm, sending her to the hospital for a few days. That neighbor is Bill Baterman (David Duchovny), and his dog has returned to life after being buried beyond the pet cemetery.

Bill also buried his son Timmy (Jack Mulhern) in the cursed grounds behind the pet cemetery, and it was Timmy who killed the dog (though, again, Bill buried the dog right after, because why stop at one undead family member? I’m curious if he told undead Timmy to go wait in the car while he buried the dog). Fans of the first film may recognize those names because the tale of Timmy Baterman is the one Jud tells to warn Louis about the dangers of bringing people back from the dead using the cursed grounds.

While it’s the same story, there are some changes made, specifically with this messy ancestral connection that a handful of the residents of Ludlow have to the grounds, and are now tasked with protecting the world from it. Or at least the town from it. Either way, they all do a terrible job, because it’s clearly not hard to get in there for a demonic resurrection party. One of those tasked with this duty is Jud’s father, Dan (Henry Thomas), as the burden and knowledge of these grounds is passed down generation to generation.

The main issue with the story is that it’s one that didn’t need to be told, and if it was going to be told, it could’ve been done a lot better. There’s a lot of exposition dumps that happen along the way, and they’re all so awkward. One of the big ones is between two of the characters who, like the Crandall’s, are tasked with protecting the town from any evil that may arise. This is when they first realize that Tommy is back from the dead and terrorizing members of the town. They’re talking to one another on the phone about what Bill did, and spell it all out to the audience in a way that just comes off so contrived because no two people would talk to each other this way. They’d just go, “Oh shit, it’s happening,” or something like that. They wouldn’t go, “Oh no, Timmy knows secrets about my father’s suicide, which is something he’d never know, so clearly he’s acting crazy and after he comes at us with this psychological torment, then the killing will begin.” That’s just not how people talk, and it always comes off bad when a movie feels as though it must resort to doing it. It’s not that complex. The audience gets it – and if you feel they may not, come up with a more creative way to get the point across.

Also, even at 87-minutes the pacing just feels slow, and the characters are incredibly uninteresting. The majority of the townsfolk tasked with stopping the evil are just fodder, and I get that they’re just ordinary people, so I can appreciate that they don’t really have any skills to prepare themselves to go up against a demon; however, you’d think they’d at least make it harder to bury someone if they’re not going to be on alert to actually do anything after something rises from the dead. Once they actually go, “Hey, we better stop Tommy,” once the final act churns around, they’re all mostly picked off with relative ease because the movie just needed a body count.

There’s also a lot of gratuitous gore, which some may enjoy, but it’s so tacked on with no scares attached that it feels empty instead of chilling. Like while Norma is in the hospital, the hospital is attached by a possessed person returned from the dead, and Norma knows them. At first she thinks they’re just injured, so she sits them on her hospital bed and wraps them in a blanket. Then she kneels, gets a towel and begins to wipe their dirty feet, only instead of the dirty coming off, all their skin comes off to the bone! Gross, right? Sure, it’s gross, but much like the conversation above, it feels so forced. They’re dirty head to toe, what is wiping some of the dirt off their feet going to do? Again, it just feels lazy to provide some shock gore instead of actually building something up or having a more logical reason to do something.

I’ve heard there are plans to dive deeper into the mythos of Ludlow and the cursed grounds, and I’d be fairly surprised if it doesn’t happen, as I’m sure this film will garner enough interest to at least see to that. But should it happen? No, Pet Sematary is a story that works well enough as a one-and-done, as the more convoluted the backstory gets, the more diluted what made it scary in the first place becomes. Pet Sematary: Bloodlines should be buried in a place where it will remain for good, with no hope of the would-be franchise rising again.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The movie looks good, so if you’re dead set on watching it or owning it then picking up the Blu-ray is the recommended route to go. The 1080p transfer takes away the muddying that can be found during the darker scenes if you’ve streamed it on Paramount+, and overall it’s just a stronger picture with better details, better lighting and an overall better feel. It doesn’t help the story get any better, but again, if you’re looking to own it, the best way to do so is on Blu-ray.

The audio is solid as well, with the surround sound being decent in the majority of scenes, the dialogue is clear, and the score breaks through nicely. It’s hard to get excited about either factor when the movie just isn’t engrossing at all, but I can’t say they didn’t at least deliver a quality product from an audio and visual standpoint on Blu-ray.

Special Features:

Here’s where my mind gets blown a bit, as the movie has almost an hour of special features! So fans of the film, well, get ready for some interviews with the cast and crew. It’s all fairly straight-forward stuff, but there are bigger and better movies out there that get a fraction of the special features, so kudos to them for what’s available here.

Origins – This featurette is 10-minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talk about the Pet Sematary films that came prior, as well as what they’re trying to do with this movie.

Fresh Blood – This featurette comes in at 12-minutes in length and focuses on the new faces both in front and behind the camera for this prequel, and how they hope to shape the mythos moving forward.

Death’s Design – This featurette is just over 9-minutes in length and focuses more on the set design in the movie, and how they tried to incorporate spirals and other various Easter eggs into the film through the setting. It’s a solid idea and they did a good job with it, though it’s unfortunate that the overall product didn’t come together as nicely.

Method to the Madness – This is a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s just over 11-minutes in length, which sees two of the cast talk about preparing for their roles, as well as what it was like on set, and bringing more of the history of Pet Sematary to life.

War Comes Home – The last feature is just over 12-minutes in length and focuses on the film’s final moments, as well as the cast of characters who play those destined to “protect” Ludlow, and how they have to come to arms to do so as the film reaches its climax.

Paramount Pictures Presents Pet Sematary: Bloodlines. Directed by: Lindsey Anderson Beer. Written by: Lindsey Anderson Beer, Jeff Buhler. Starring: Jackson White, Natalie Alyn Lynd, Forrest Goodluck, Isabella LaBlanc, Henry Thomas, David Duchovny, Samantha Mathis, Jack Mulhern, Pam Gier. Running time: 87 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Dec. 19, 2023.

Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.