Pet Semetary: Bloodlines, playing at Fantastic Fest, shows the life of young Judd Crandall. A decades-early prequel, the film delves into the origin of the horrors while showing what shaped Jud Crandall’s (Jackson White) life in Pet Semetary. The prequel has entertaining moments but feels like a mix of the first movie and The Fog. So, it creates a mishmash that offers little more to the story, and its cliched nature even harms it. It is entertaining when it explores small-town dynamics, resentments, and history.
Directed by Lindsey Anderson Beer and written by Beer and Jeff Buhler, the movie takes the original film and book written by Stephen King and adds some depth. Whether it’s a depth audiences want to see explored is something else. The movie occurs in 1969 during the Vietnam War and the wildly unpopular draft. Jud Crandall’s childhood friend, Tim (Jack Mulhern), returns from the war to the relief of Tim’s father, Bill (David Duchovny). As Jud sets to leave the town of Ludlow with his girlfriend, Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind), a series of misfortunes set up a battle with the evil that wants to consume the town.
Pet Semetary: Bloodlines Leans Into Jud’s Savior Mentality
Though the movie refers to it as more of a hero complex, Jud wants to be part of something larger. The desire to make a difference is understandable. But it also puts others in danger. That is clear when he and his girlfriend Norma walk an antagonistic dog home. As a character, Jud is dull. His hero mentality feels like his whole identity. The stories surrounding the town and others hold the audience’s attention more. Perhaps that’s why he wants to leave—to be interesting. His father, Dan (Henry Thomas), encourages him to leave Ludlow to pursue his dream of heroism. But that’s not the only reason.
Ludlow Lore Meets The Fog
While it feels less like Pet Semetary and more like The Fog, how the movie explains how the horror came about lifts the story from superficiality. Tying in the Mi’kmaq and casting Indigenous people adds weight to that aspect. Forrest Goodluck as Manny and Isabella LaBlanc as his sister, Donna, deliver admirable performances. The dialogue hinders most of the cast, moving between too pat and too vague or cliched.
Besides The Fog, it also has The Vampire Diaries moments. The meetings about what’s occurring that only a select few in the town know are similar to the council in that series. Pam Grier, who plays Majorie, is on it. Exploring the history of Ludlow makes sense. But part of what made Pet Semetary so chilling was the largely mysterious aspect of how burying the dead works. In lieu of the mystery, Pet Semetary: Bloodlines gives some clarity.
While prequels and sequels do not necessarily have to rise above their original, this prequel feels unnecessary. As such, Pet Semetary: Bloodlines needs to add a layer worth inclusion. Jud’s character arc, however, makes sense. Although no one clamored for a Jud prequel, there are entertaining elements despite less engaging dialogue. Plus, the film wraps up the story nicely. Pet Semetary: Bloodlines has occasional frights but little else worth its inclusion in that world.
*This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.