Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, on Paramount+

Stephen King is Maine’s most famous author, but he hardly promotes state tourism. For instance, fictional Ludlow’s most notable landmark is its infamous animal burial ground. Who wants to visit? As we know, people rarely leave town, but “sometimes they come back.” The sinister backstory of the 2019 remake is explored in Lindsey Anderson Beer’s Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, which premieres Friday on Paramount+, because its Halloween season.

Jud Crandall will grow up to look like John Lithgow (or Fred Gwynne in the 1989 film), but in the 1960s, he was an undrafted teen, planning to leave home as a Peace Corps volunteer, along with his girlfriend Norma. His dad Dan Crandall wants him to get out of town, because he knows the town’s evil secret.

So does Bill Baterman, the son of Crandall’s estranged childhood friend Timmy, who just returned from Vietnam, except he didn’t really. However, by burying his dead son in the shunned cemetery, he rises again—but of course, he is different. The revived Timmy Baterman is nasty and sadistic. He seems to know people’s darkest secrets, which he reveals to toy with his potential prey.

To the credit of Beer and co-screenwriter Jeff Buhler, they do not simply remake the original story fiftysome years earlier. Instead, they focus on Timmy Baterman, who was the subject of Crandall’s monologue in the original 1989 film. They also explore the town’s early lore, some of which is new to
Bloodlines, but still feels very King-ish.

Bloodlines is a much better film than the disappointing 2019 Pet Sematary, to which it ostensibly serves as a prequel. It definitely helps that it is its own film, so it cannot be directly compared to Mary Lambert’s version. Right from the start, Beer’s execution hits the appropriately eerie notes, without radically reinventing the franchise.

also has the benefit of the most distinguished supporting cast of any of the three films. Jackson White is a bit bland as young Jud, but Henry Thomas is terrific as his father Dan. (Given his work with Mike Flanagan in films like Ouija: Origin of Evil, Thomas really ought to get more credit as a horror genre star.) David Duchovny is massively moody as old man Baterman. Plus, the legendary Pam Grier has a handful of great scenes as mail carrier (and founding descendant) Marjorie Washburn.

is not a horror classic, but it crushes expectations. It is better than its direct predecessor and can hang with Lambert’s film. Given the King connection and the cast, it seems strange Paramount skipped a theatrical release, but there is no accounting for test screening audiences. Recommended for fans of the previous films, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines starts streaming Friday (10/6) on Paramount+.