Pet Sematary: Bloodlines Review
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is now streaming on Paramount+. This review is based on a screening at Fantastic Fest 2023.
Director and co-writer Lindsey Anderson Beer takes a step back in Paramount+’s Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, offering a modest prequel to the 2019 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. The goal was to provide an explanation of the Pet Sematary mythology, and Bloodlines accomplishes that mission. However, it falls short of becoming another horror classic. While it may not be as visually captivating and expansive as the original lore, the film manages to navigate Ludlow, Maine’s cursed history without detracting from the overall experience. Although it’s not a glowing endorsement, horror fans have certainly seen worse from more popular franchises.
Exploring Ludlow’s Toxic Lineage
Bloodlines delves into the toxic lineage of Ludlow’s founding families through the perspective of local figure Jud Crandall, played by Jackson White. The film introduces us to a young Judson who plans to join the Peace Corps in 1969. However, his plans change when his girlfriend Norma, portrayed by Natalie Alyn Lynd, is viciously attacked by an aggressive dog. With Jud grounded in Ludlow, Bloodlines becomes a story of draft dodging, warnings from 1600s Micmac chieftains, and Jud’s inevitable fate. While the young cast members play a central role in their attempt to escape from Ludlow’s generational hold, veteran actors like Henry Thomas, Pam Grier, and David Duchovny leave a more substantial impact.
Nostalgia and Atmospheric Settings
Beer demonstrates her investment in King’s world by incorporating key moments from Pet Sematary, allowing for nostalgic gasps throughout this origin story. Ludlow’s main stretch of roadway is notorious for near-misses with speeding vehicles, a recurring element that may elicit a chuckle. However, the blaring sound design always provides an effective jolt. Bloodlines also features menacing tractor-trailers zooming past the camera, emphasizing their constant threat. While the film doesn’t offer a groundbreaking homage to King, the unwavering gaze of a mangy mutt and the unsettling victims of the “Sematary” manage to get under our skin.
Missed Opportunities and Shallow Scares
Unfortunately, Bloodlines occasionally stumbles with weak jump scares that fall flat, along with digital gore that lacks the impact of practical effects. The animated renderings of decaying tissue, muscle, and bone are underwhelming compared to the eerie dread of the graveyard setting. Beer’s direction captures the haunting atmosphere of the burial ground, enhanced by the rhythmic thumping of rawhide drums and rolling fog. However, the film falls short in delivering truly gripping scares.
Dramatic Tension and Rural Tragedy
Beer places more emphasis on dramatic tension than haunted thrills, focusing on the heartbreak of fathers resurrecting their Vietnam-deceased sons. David Duchovny and Henry Thomas deliver powerful performances as they grapple with Ludlow’s secrets. Beer and co-writer Jeff Buhler explore the weight of ancestral fates, framing Bloodlines as a rural tragedy rather than a relentless rollercoaster. While cramming centuries of Ludlow’s effects into 84 minutes may muddy the continuity, the film remains decipherable. However, the prequel struggles to justify its journey towards an inevitable conclusion.
A Mix of Hits and Misses
For every dull moment, such as a character dying off-camera only for their remains to be discovered, Bloodlines offers exciting counterpunches. Whether it’s a shotgun used as an impaler or Jud’s disregard for his roadster’s condition, the film avoids wastefulness. It meanders through Ludlow, exploring the desires of its residents trapped in their hometown legacies. The movie can be brutal and torturous when characters face their reanimated companions but also drags at times, despite underground chases and hospital massacres. Overall, Beer’s direction conveys compelling ideas, but the film lacks a lively spark.