“There are a lot of deaths in this movie…” Director Lindsey Anderson Beer on Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Based on the untold chapter from Stephen King’s classic novel Pet Sematarynew original horror movie for Paramount+, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is a prequel that explores the origins of how death became different in the small town of Ludlow, Main.

Set in 1969, the movie follows a young Jud Crandall who has dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow behind, but soon discovers sinister secrets buried within and is forced to confront a dark family history that will forever keep him connected to Ludlow. Banding together, Jud and his childhood friends must fight an ancient evil that has gripped Ludlow since its founding, and once unearthed has the power to destroy everything in its path. 

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is the directional debut for Lindsey Anderson Beer whose impressive writing credentials include the upcoming Bambi movie, as well as the upcoming Short Circuit, Star Trek: Beyond Sequel and M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand movies. We sat down with Beer to talk about Stephen King (obvs)…

How did you first become involved with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines?

I came to Hollywood looking to direct and found I really had to pay my dues writing before anyone would let me direct, and I got to the point where I felt like I had earned enough goodwill that I was just like, ‘no more writing, it’s time to direct!’.

So I met with a bunch of producers that I had good relationships with on the writing side. A couple of those were Mark [Vahradian] and Lorenzo [di Bonaventura], who I’d worked with on Transformers and Mark Vahradian said: “Whatever you whatever you direct, I have to be the person who produces it.”

It was such a nice thing to say, but you also hear a lot and I wasn’t sure how ‘Hollywood’ that was. But a couple of weeks later, he called me and he said, ‘would you ever be interested in Pet Sematary?’ And I said, ‘are you fucking kidding me? I loved that book and those movies as a kid, it was my favourite King book, send me the script’.

So a great writer named Jeff Bueller, who was involved in the 2019 film, had written this original draft and Mark sent it to me. I read it within an hour I called him and said, ‘I have a million ideas, I am so into this!’. I’m not joking, I sent him a new outline for what the movie could be a couple of hours later. Then it just went from there.

What is it like to take on something as iconic as a Stephen King adaptation?

It was a dream come true. Stephen King really was my entree into horror as a kid. I read that book at like nine or ten and just developed a horror addiction. So of course, it’s an honour to adopt somebody’s work who’s shaped my childhood so much and who’s just such a genius.

We saw that King Tweeted out some favourable things about Bloodlines. What did that feel like?

My God, it was such a relief. I heard from him after I finished all of my rewrites and he read the script, gave me the thumbs up and that was a huge relief. But it’s a long journey between script and the final cut and so to get that final thumbs up from him was just everything to me.

Did you take inspiration from previous iterations of the Pet Semetary, or the book?

The book! I loved the book so much as a kid. I just re-read and re-read the book and I tried to answer any questions that I had as a fan of Pet Sematary. I was just looking for little threads to pull on, like the Timmy Biederman passage and about that being the reason that the evil was targeting Jud. Also the characterisation of Timmy and how he likes to fuck with people.

There’s also a part in the book at the very end that calls Jud the guardian of the woods. It just felt like there’s this mythology that’s hinted at but not really explored in the movies. So I was just looking for threads looking for ways to tie things in a bow.

Then obviously there’s a reinvention of the mythology as it has to do with the Native American characters and the cursed land and that was very important to me. I was very honest about that when I came aboard the project that I could only do it if we could kind of undo this notion of the mystical indigenous and the Wendigo and wrap that up in what feels like a conspiracy. The stories we’ve been told, aren’t the whole truth. That was either a blatant lie or a cover up or superstitions, that kind of trickled through the small town as that happens, but here’s the real story.

What kind of scares can we expect from Pet Sematary: Bloodlines?

Well, that’s what I love about Pet Sematary the most. It is a human drama that has jump-scares and tension and gore and comedy – all of it! It’s a little bit of everything, and that’s why I love it so much. I think that’s why it’s the scariest because it feels more true to life. It’s not trying to keep it into one box.

There are some very emotive themes in Bloodlines like PTSD and grief. What do you think it is about horror that makes it a good platform to delve into such themes?

That’s why I love horror, it’s because of what you can say about the human experience and the human condition. I think horror is all about facing our biggest fears and our darkest impulses and overcoming them (hopefully). So I think horror serves a really important function in society.

What do you want for audiences to take away from the movie?

A few things. I’m hoping that in that vein of what I just said about the catharsis of horror movies. I mean, there are a lot of deaths in this movie, but I try to keep it on a bittersweet ending, because of the life cycle of the movie I hope they leave the movie feeling hopeful.

I also hope they leave the movie thinking about responsibility. That to me was the big theme of the movie. It’s why I ended it with the quote from the book about ‘a man grows what he can and he tends to it’ and it’s really just about taking responsibility for the sins of the past and the sins of the present. For me, that extended to responsible storytelling, and that’s also why it was important to me to change the Native American element.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines will premiere on Saturday 7 October on Paramount+ UK & Ireland

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