Director Lindsey Anderson Beer was a preteen when she first read Stephen King's terrifying 1983 novel Pet Sematary. The filmmaker remembers being "a super big nerd" around the age of 9 or 10. "I loved to go to libraries. I remember seeing it on the shelf," she recalls. "I'm like, 'Pets!'" While the book is far from being a kid-friendly animal story, Beer was entranced by King's terrifying tale of pets — and people — coming back from the dead after being buried in a particular patch of ground outside the fictional town of Ludlow, Maine. "I became very addicted to reading Stephen King," she says.
That addiction would ultimately lead Beer to direct Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (out Oct. 6), a prequel to the 2019 box-office hit Pet Sematary. Set in 1969, the film stars Jackson White as a young version of Jud Crandell, the character played by John Lithgow in the earlier film (and by Fred Gwynne in the original 1989 adaptation). In Beer's prequel, Jud starts to believe that something is terribly wrong with his childhood friend Timmy Baterman (Jack Mulhern), a soldier recently returned from serving in Vietnam. "Timmy is a boy who comes back from the war not exactly himself," says Beer, who also co-wrote the film's script. "That is because his father buried him in the 'sour ground' that is famous in Pet Sematary lore."
PARAMOUNT+ Natalie Alyn Lind in 'Pet Sematary: Bloodlines'
Beer explains that Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is an origin story. "This is where we get to see what tied Jud to the town and how he became the guardian of the woods," she says. "The film gives a lot more mythology in terms of how Ludlow was founded and this evil that's plaguing [the town]." In fact, a section of the film takes place way back in 1674 and documents how settlers got their first taste of the area's horrors. "That was some of my favorite stuff to shoot," says Beer, who filmed the movie in Montreal. "It was all outdoors in a beautiful woods, and it was like making a mini movie within the movie. I thought it was really important. It's one thing to hear that there's a lot of history to the town but another thing to see it."
Mulhern's costars include Henry Thomas and Samantha Manthis as Jud's parents, and David Duchovny as Timmy Baterman's father Bill. "David is so generous," Beer says. "There's a flashback scene that you see in the movie with him and young Timmy. He must have played catch with that kid for two hours off set." The director cast screen legend Pam Grier as another member of Ludlow's increasingly concerned citizenry. Beer notes the Jackie Brown actress "exceeded my expectations in terms of what a legend she is," saying, "She was up for anything, carrying a double barrel shotgun with absolutely no problem." Grier is also "the kind of person who, between takes, has people in a headlock," the filmmaker adds, laughing.
PARAMOUNT+ Henry Thomas and Jackson White in 'Pet Sematary: Bloodlines'
Of course, you need at least one pet in a film called Pet Sematary. Where the 2019 movie featured a zombie cat, Beer's tale boasts an undead dog, played in real life by a canine called Jellybean. "He's actually deaf, which posed a logistical challenge," Beer says of her four-legged thespian. "It's hard enough to shoot around an animal trainer, but the trainer always had to be within a direct line of sight, because they couldn't just call out a command. But Jellybean was really good at looking creepy and walking weird."
Although Beer's film is a prequel to the 2019 film, the two movies are both adapted from King's original novel, with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines based on a remembrance by Jud of some horrifying events from decades before. "It's an untold story from Pet Sematary itself," Beer says. "In the novel, Timmy Baterman went off to World War II. We moved up the timeline to Vietnam."
PARAMOUNT+ Jackson White and Forrest Goodluck in 'Pet Sematary: Bloodlines'
King himself recently gave a thumbs up to the movie, writing on social media that "the screenplay takes a few liberties, but it's a fine story. David Duchovny is excellent. The secret, as always, is caring about the characters."
BLOODLINES: In the book, this is the story Jud Crandall tells Louis Creed to try and dissuade him from using the Pet Sematary. The screenplay takes a few liberties, but it's a fine story. David Duchovny is excellent.
The secret, as always, is caring about the characters.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 12, 2023
Between the 2019 film and this prequel, King's novel has now been thoroughly stripped of narrative meat. Beer believes that, like the dead people who are buried in the franchise's sour ground, the franchise could live on if audiences dig her movie.
"There's certainly other chapters that you could explore," she says. "You could take any section of history because this has existed for so long."
Best not to put away that shovel just yet.
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines premieres on Paramount+ Oct. 6.