Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Sometimes, the joke is so apparent it becomes irritating. “Sometimes dead is better” is not only a well-known and often-quoted line from “Pet Sematary” with people often adding a comic Maine accent as they do so. It also serves as an obvious choice for a headline questioning the value of this lackluster prequel to a middling reboot of a mid-tier Stephen King film adaptation (no offense to Mary Lambert, the director of the 1989 original). It’s frustrating because the temptation to go for the easy punchline will undoubtedly be too strong for many critics to resist.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines – A Shallow Grave for Horror Enthusiasts

However, one might argue that a movie like this doesn’t merit the effort of crafting a more clever critique. In a bold move for an evidently low-budget prequel, “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” transports the story back to Ludlow, Maine, circa 1969, a setting presumably influenced by the success of a similar period piece released last year. (We’ve witnessed several horror films set in the Vietnam era since then.) The script is a collaboration between director Lindsey Anderson Beer and Jeff Buhler, known for his involvement in lackluster horror franchises, including the 2019 version of “Pet Sematary.” The film’s attempt to expand upon the backstory of old Jud Crandall and the Mi’kmaq burial ground that resurrects the dead is dutiful but ultimately uninteresting.

 Back to the Past: “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” Misses the Mark with Lackluster Lore

“Bloodlines” revolves around Jud (Jackson White), a restless teenager eager to escape Ludlow. At the outset, he is on the verge of leaving for Michigan with his girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind), who has persuaded him to join her in the Peace Corps. However, their departure is short-lived, as Norma is brutally attacked by a dog belonging to Jud’s childhood friend Timmy (Jack Mulhern) as they leave town. Jud is unsettled by Timmy’s reaction to the attack: “He just stood there,” he mumbles by Norma’s hospital bedside. Upon reflection, there is more amiss with Timmy since his return from the war…

Friendship Takes a Nightmarish Turn in “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” – A Tale of Twisted Allegiances

In “Bloodlines,” there is a faint resemblance to Edwin Neal’s “Hitchhiker” character from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” in the portrayal of Timmy, which is perhaps the highest praise for a quirky character clad in a fatigue jacket. Unfortunately, it remains merely a hint. For the most part, the film’s representation of Timmy as a mindless, Terminator-like killing machine, attributed to his possession by a malevolent spirit, appears more indicative of an underdeveloped performance. The flat performances by David Duchovny and Pam Grier as townspeople burdened by an ancestral curse lend credence to this notion. The film’s one redeeming aspect comes from Forrest Goodluck (“The Revenant,” “How to Blow Up a Pipeline”), who plays Manny, Jud’s other childhood friend. The brief flashbacks to the boys sharing beers in a treehouse fail to establish the supposed lifelong bond, but Goodluck’s performance, along with that of his sister Donna (Isabella LaBlanc), appears to have been included to add authenticity to the Native American lore from King’s novel. Fortunately, Goodluck’s acting prowess stands out in this otherwise lackluster movie.

The murky nighttime cinematography contributes to the atmosphere of waiting at a bus stop on a rainy afternoon, and, unsurprisingly, there’s a zombie dog. However, what truly undermines “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” is its editing. While director Lindsey Anderson Beer, known for her work on the Netflix rom-com “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” ventures into the horror genre, she lacks the intuitive sense for suspense and timing. Consequently, the film drags on both in its larger narrative and individual scenes. Even the jump scares fall flat, leaving only sporadic bursts of gruesome violence to keep the audience engaged. A few of these moments are gruesome enough to briefly jolt “Bloodlines” from its slumber, and there are some promising ideas buried within the screenplay. One such idea is a fleeting flashback to 1674, on the land that would later become Ludlow. It becomes evident that the land has been tainted from its inception, with the arrival of white settlers only accelerating the malevolence. Strangely, the film’s depiction of 1674 is more convincing than its 1969 setting, and the concepts explored in that brief segment prove more captivating than the central narrative. Unfortunately, this promising thread is prematurely buried and never revisited—a missed opportunity for resurrection in this lackluster tale.

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