This interview was edited for length. To listen to our full interview with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines director Lindsey Anderson Beer about expanding the legacy with a prequel, click here.
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is set to kick off Halloween month on Paramount+ by expanding on the lasting legacy of the Stephen King novel by looking to the past. At Fantastic Fest 2023, where the prequel film had its world premiere, we had the chance to speak with Lindsey Anderson Beer, director of the film, about becoming a part of the Pet Sematary legacy as a prequel, telling a story about grief, and the importance of responsibility in this story.
Stephen King’s works and their adaptation to the silver screen are legendary, but they also noticeably do not often include women on the writing or directing team. Pet Sematary, however, was first adapted by Mary Lambert as director and again with its sequel. Now, the legacy returns to a woman director with Anderson Beer. When asked about what it’s like to join the legacy of Ludlow and stand next to Mary Lambert as the only two women to direct a King adaptation, Anderson Beer said, “It’s an honor and a thrill, and a pleasure. Mary Lambert did such an amazing job, obviously, with the original film adaptations, and I think that that was something that I was very cognizant of [from the start]. I was coming at it from a female perspective, and [I made] sure there were more female characters represented in the movie that had a strong presence.”
And compared to the other Pet Sematary stories, Anderson Beer succeded in that, with driven and resilient women, including the iconic Pam Greer taking center stage. She continued, “It was really important to add the characters of Donna, Marjorie, and Norma. Or actually, even John’s mom, who kind of says more by not saying anything. She’s such a woman of the era. I made sure I was adding in the female perspective.”
While Lambert’s empathic and feminine stamp on Pet Sematary was something I came to explore as I grew older, my very first watching of the film was as a child new to horror. The scares, the lore, and the way it helped me explore the death of a pet was a shocking gateway into the genre. With Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ status as a prequel and immediate availability on streaming, the accessibility to a new audience is noteworthy. This could very well be someone’s first Pet Sematary memory.
For Anderson Beer, the thought of being someone’s gateway into horror was a strong one. She explained, “You know, you are the first person to ask me that question. And that is an amazing question. [It] is an honor. Pet Sematary was one of my entry points [for horror] for me, too…I first read the book very young and then watched the movie with my sister over and over. She hated it because it was too scary, and I loved it so much, but it created this horror addiction. So thinking that [Pet Sematary: Bloodlines] could be something that awakens other young minds to the genre of horror, and how important it is…” Anderson Beer paused before continuing, “For our culture, horror is something that allows you to face your fears and come out the other side. I truly believe that it is actually very important psychologically [for all ages]. So, [being a gateway film] is a fun thing to think about.”
Part of the way in which this Pet Sematary prequel expands to be a great entry point into the town of Ludlow and the curses that lay there in the sour earth is shifting the perspective of the story from a personal story about grief to one about collective grief and community. When asked about this, Anderson Beer said, “That was one of the most fun parts for me. It felt like I had kind of a murder board in my head of the whole community. What all of their sins were, what they had done and to whom, and, of course, what everybody knew about each other versus what was hidden.
“I really wanted to share it because, yes, the previous incarnations have been so localized to a family grief. And certainly, I tried to take that personal story of Bill and Timmy. But I wanted to show the effect that this has on the entire town. And how that notion of what you would do for somebody you love is really at the core of all the Pet Sematary movies. I wanted to show how you see that play out in different forms or relationships like Dan and Bill, played by Henry Thomas and David Duchovny.”
She continued, “They do very different things for their sons but with the same impulse right to protect them, and Dan just wants his son to get the hell out of Ludlow to protect him, and Bill wants to bring his son back to life to protect them and but it’s very much coming from the same place of protection and wanting to do something for the ones they love. I wanted to extend that out to community members like Marjorie to protect the people that she delivers mail to every day, and if not, since birth. And even Manny and Judd and their friendship and what they do for each other and what they do to try to—like put Timmy out of his misery, or what Donna would do for Manny, to help him kind of come into his own and get out of his own head.”
The connectivity of Ludlow and the collective grief they’ve learned to process as a community is a defining feature of Pet Sematary: Bloodlines and impacts its placement as a prequel in the timeline. With that, we asked director Lindsey Anderson Beer about what she hopes audiences will walk away from the film with when it premieres October 6 on Paramount+, to which she replied, “When I was writing it, and then when I was directing it, I was trying to give myself the answers that I wanted as a fan. And so I hope they come away from [Pet Sematary: Bloodlines] thinking, ‘Yes! Finally, these things that I like, and that didn’t quite make sense to me before, do.”
But that’s not all. She continued, “I hope they also come away from it feeling like horror movies can be just as scary if they also have character drama and heart to them. I also just hope they come away from it thinking about the themes of responsibility and the responsibility to tell stories responsibly. And in that, see the responsibility to our community, the responsibility to our friends or family. It was really a theme that I thought about a lot, and that’s why I ended it with the Stephen King quote: The soil of a man’s heart is stonier: a man grows what he can and tends it. It’s from the book, and it’s very much about responsibility and taking the mantle and kind of paying for what his forefathers did.”
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines premieres exclusively on Paramount+ on October 6, 2023.