‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ review: the prequel curse continues

A new chapter of Stephen King’s small-town horror arrives for Halloween

“Sometimes, dead is better.” This famous Stephen King line serves as a reminder that not all movies should come back to life. 

Since its founding in the early 20th century, the film industry has seen its share of sequels, reboots and prequels across virtually every genre one can imagine. Sometimes, the newest offering is well received, gaining praise from audiences and critics alike. However, more often than not, these movies are regarded as being ‘less than,’ a mere ploy by production companies to make more money off of an established franchise. The horror movie genre is no exception.

Horror spinoffs often earn bad reputations among fans, as they never seem to live up to anyone’s expectations. While it would be a refreshing change of pace to say that Pet Sematary: Bloodlines – directed by Lindsey Anderson Beer – changes that for horror prequels, Bloodlines lacks very important aspects that make the movie fall short of being good, let alone great.

The movie returns audiences to Ludlow, Maine, the infamous town with a burial ground that can bring animals and humans back to life, but as most horror movies have it, something goes wrong, and nobody comes back from the other side quite the same.

In Pet Sematary (1989), we learn that the last human to be resurrected was Timmy Baterman. Bloodlines explores this previously untold chapter in depth. The film opens with Bill (David Duchovny of The X-Files) trying and succeeding to bring back Timmy (Jack Mulhern of The Society). While it is understood that everything done by Will is out of love for his son, the movie fails to develop their relationship, so the decision that drives the plot falls flat.

Unfortunately, the problem of key relationships going under-developed throughout the film is persistent, as evidenced when the story moves to Jud Crandall (Jackson White of Mrs. Fletchers) and his father Danny (Henry Thomas of E.T. and The Haunting of Hill House). Although the audience witnesses Danny and his overprotective nature towards his son, the big reveal about his motivations falls flat and feels quite anticlimactic.

The theme of Bloodlines, as the title suggests, revolves around family ties. Yet, it only successfully portrays this theme through one of the relationships, which can mostly be credited to the incredible chemistry of Manny (Forrest Goodluck of Blood Quantum) and his sister Donna (Isabella Star LaBlanc). Goodluck and LaBlanc make the most of every moment of their screen time, allowing the audience to witness their deep care for one another.

The final editing can be questionable as the film goes from one scene to another without any particular sense. Plot points are left unresolved and denied closure before the film moves on, making the story feel simultaneously rushed while contradictorily slow in development. But the subpar script elements and loose story ends are not the film’s only issues. Despite the studio classifying Bloodlines as a ‘horror movie,’ the parts meant to scare viewers fall short of expectations, a point that critics appear eager to highlight. As Belen Edwards of Mashable says, “With foreboding dreams, reanimated corpses, and Stephen King himself as inspiration, you’d expect Bloodlines to at least deliver some decent horror. Yet even the film’s scares are devoid of any weight.” Edwards’s critique, while tough, is completely understandable.

While many critics share Edwards’ sentiments on the movie, others have been somewhat more positive. Matt Donato of ING concludes one such review, writing, “You take the good with the bad in Bloodlines, which at least manages to avoid an utterly forgettable fate that might have buried this franchise six feet deep.”

Overall, the idea of the film is a good one, and it does explain how the burial ground came to be, but it doesn’t feel like a horror movie or a Stephen King adaptation. Is it watchable? Yes. Will it become a classic horror movie people rewatch every October? Probably not.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is now streaming on Paramount+.