Fantastic Fest 2023 Pet Sematary: Bloodlines – the Idea Should have Stayed Buried

Forrest Goodluck and Isabelle LaBlanc In Pet Semetary: Bloodlines (Paramount+)

Fans of Stephen King’s eerie novel ‘Pet Sematary’ and those who remember the chilling 1989 adaptation might have once wished for a sequel or a remake. Hollywood granted those wishes, but the results were mixed. Too often, Hollywood attempts to create equally successful prequels or sequels and fails. And we now have ‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines,’ which screened at Fantastic Fest 2023, a straight-to-streaming horror film that continues the trend of uninspiring titles and disappointments.

The story of “Bloodlines” draws from a critical plot point omitted in the 2019 remake. It revolves around a memory shared by Jud Crandall (Jackson White), the neighbor of the Creed family from the original film. In this tale, Jud recounts a past incident involving a man named Bill Baterman’s (David Duchovny) ill-fated attempt to bring his son, Timmy, back to life using the ancient Indigenous burial ground, setting the stage for the entire film.

The narrative transports us to 1969, focusing on Jud’s life in Ludlow, Maine, as he contemplates joining the Peace Corps with his girlfriend, Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind). An unexpected accident involving a dog bite and the enigmatic Timmy Baterman (Jack Mulhern) keeps them in town longer than expected, unveiling the town’s dark secrets. As Jud delves into Timmy’s peculiar behavior, a cast of supporting characters, including the enigmatic senior Baterman and the underdeveloped Marjorie (Pam Grier), contributes to unraveling Ludlow’s mysteries.

While the original material and its 1989 adaptation were steeped in dramatic intensity, “Bloodlines” opts for a perfunctory approach, mirroring the 2019 remake, which hardly qualifies as good regardless of its cast. ‘Bloodlines’ loses the emotional depth and suspense that made the original story compelling. The shock of the original story stemmed from the emotional turmoil of a grieving family intertwined with supernatural events leading to the resurrection of Louis’s son. This prequel presents a lackluster, clinical extension of the haunting tale, evolving into a run-of-the-mill supernatural horror focused on thwarting a possessed killer.

The film’s prequel status had the potential to enrich Jud’s predicament, as viewers knew his fate in the years to come. However, the script reduces him to anonymity, failing to explore the socio-political context of 1969. The opportunity to capture the loss of American idealism as the ’70s approached is squandered by a muddled and vague narrative. Simply put, ‘Bloodlines’ lacks substance and scare element of the source material.

‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ seems content with adhering to genre expectations and relying on stock jump scares. The result is a shallow and flimsy horror prequel that leaves viewers with little to take away. It serves as a stark reminder that for every successful Stephen King adaptation, some should have remained buried. It ears a single star. Those still curious, check out the film on Paramount +.

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