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Stephen King’s concept of evil as an ageless and unyielding force that dwells within and beyond our world has been a recurring theme in his works. The best adaptations of his novels confront audiences with these dark forces, leaving a lasting impression. Unfortunately, “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” falls short in this regard, joining the ranks of lesser King adaptations.
Set in Ludlow, Maine, in 1969, a prequel to the original story, “Bloodlines” delves into the town’s history, suggesting it is a breeding ground for malevolent forces due to its founders’ original sins. The town’s past is remembered with melancholy rather than nostalgia, and it’s a place most people dream of leaving but never do.
The return of local Vietnam veteran Timmy (Jack Mulhern), with an honorable discharge and Silver Star, sets off a series of unsettling events. A bird collides with Jud Crandall’s (Jackson White) car windshield as he and his girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind) prepare to leave Ludlow for the Peace Corps. Tommy’s dog viciously attacks Norma, putting her in the hospital. Some of the locals suspect they know what’s behind these incidents, and given the town’s history, they might be right.
Despite its attempts to create an unsettling atmosphere, “Bloodlines” lacks the sense of foreboding needed for an effective horror film. There’s no genuine sense that the warning signs lead to something truly terrifying. Audiences are already familiar with the horrors of the eponymous burial ground, and this prequel does little to add depth to the mythos.
One notable exception is a brief sequence set in 1674, recounting the town’s founding by English settlers who ignored the ominous signs of their unwelcome presence. This segment stands out as the film’s most compelling portion, offering a fresh perspective that the rest of the movie fails to achieve.
Lindsay Anderson Beer, who tackles both writing and directing duties, seems constrained by the franchise’s expectations. Her talents might find better expression in a project not burdened by the weight of decades-old source material. As King wrote in his novel, “Sometimes dead is better.” After four movies in the franchise, those words have never rung truer.