Review: ‘Pet Sematary’ Doc Expertly Chronicles Production of Cult Classic – We Are Indie Horror

From Terror Films, Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary is an extensive documentary that celebrates and explores the creation and impacting legacy of the 1989 film Pet Sematary

Certainly straying away from the norm of 1980s rotation of slasher flicks, popularized by films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, Pet Sematary, not only featured a female director at the helm in Mary Lambert but was also made away from sunny Southern California. Pet Sematary would go on to be shot on location, in Maine, where the film’s story takes place. Stephen King, a native of Maine, had previous books of his made into films but none were ever shot in his home state. It only seems appropriate for a film that takes so much of its inspiration from King’s community (including the titular “Pet Semetary,” an actual place we get to visit) to be shot in and around the area that inspired the original material.

Furthermore, in the beginning, and before the film was greenlit, no one wanted to touch what King deemed a descent into darkness, and the studios agreed. The death of a child in the book and film was too taboo at the time and something that would likely not settle well with viewers. When the writer’s strike came around it would arrive as the film’s saving grace as studios were in desperate need for completed scripts that were ready to shoot. Despite King’s prior success, his accomplishments were largely those of a time that had come and gone, adding another layer of reluctance in setting the project in motion. Even more dubious were the stipulations for the film: the script to be used would be a version by King; and the agreement that the film shoot in Maine. As it turns out, the film would be shot in Maine and would go on to use local actors and citizens for bit parts in the film, propelling the state of Maine as a central character, and thus, adding an authentic flavor to the film.

The film goes deeper than just the production– although the production details are the focus and heart of the film– exploring King’s influence, inspiration, and conception of the story. The book would go on to be a massive success riding on the coattails of it being publicized as too scary, so much so that King waited years until finally deciding to publish.

As Pet Sematary places Maine front and center, Unearthed & Untold, similarly follows suit in exploring Ellsworth, Maine (where the film was shot) and its people. As a resident of Los Angeles, it is easy to become jaded about the filming that happens around town that it loses its magical allure, one that attracts so many other people to Hollywood. In the documentary, we get glimpses, through footage, photographs, and eye-witness accounts of droves of denizens clamoring around and watching the process of creating movie magic in Pet Sematary

The film’s legacy is undeniable and has, obviously, gone on to become a cult-classic and horror favorite. Like many classic films, the process behind the creation of a piece of art is just as fascinating as the product itself.  Directed by John Campopiano and Justin White, the documentary is full of interviews from locals, cast, and crew including actors, key crew, and director Mary Lambert. It features behind the scenes footage and photos taken by the production and the citizens of Ellsworth featuring Lambert directing, actors enjoying each other’s company and intimate moments, and the creation of practical gore effects and production design. None are more impressive than the transformation of a modern farmhouse into an aging Victorian-era home, created by encasing three-quarters of the house with a facade.

Unearthed & Untold really gets into the thick of things covering varying aspects of the film’s production allowing one to feel like you’re in the thick of things. No stone is left unturned in this doc as director’s Campopiano and White explore the varying aspects and perspectives of the collaborative nature of filmmaking with cogency, digging into the entire process from book to screen. For fans of Pet Semetary and filmmakers in general, this is a must-see documentary about the art of filmmaking. The directors painstakingly recreate the production of the film allowing for a vicarious experience for the viewer in an extensively researched documentary that is insightful as it is celebratory of the book and film’s legacy.

You can find Unearthed & Untold: The Path of Pet Semetary on video on demand on Friday, January 13, 2017, on the following platforms: Amazon Instant Video, Xbox Live, Vudu, Sony Playstation Network, Google Play, and Itunes. It will also make its way to Hulu, Amazon Prime, Roku, and cable VOD in the future.

Follow the doc on Facebook and Terror Films on their official site