Written and directed by John Campopiano and Justin White
Whether you are just an average moviegoer or a diehard Stephen King fan, everyone seems to remember Pet Sematary. Sold as the one novel that King himself was almost too scared to write, the film version of the bestseller managed to debut at number one at the box office in April of 1989 and remained there for three straight weeks.
Considering that the story used the death of a child to serve as a catalyst for the horror seen in the film, the success of Pet Sematary is something of an anomaly, but looking at the many pieces that came together to make it all work, it’s not surprising that a film that almost never got made eventually became a runaway hit for Paramount. Thanks to the documentary Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary from directors John Campopiano and Justin White, fans now have a definitive documentary that contends Pet Sematary should be revered as a modern horror classic.
Setting the stage leading up to the start of production, Campopiano and White begin by delving into the Hollywood climate of the late Eighties when a WGA strike threatened to shut down any productions without a finished script. Stephen King’s screenplay had been offered up multiple times before the strike finally led to production being greenlit, giving cinematic life to one of his most personal novels. In showing how many real-life inspirations King used in Pet Sematary after residing in Bangor, Maine, right next to a dangerous highway, the documentary successfully lays out how this was the first of King’s stories to ever shoot in the writer’s home state and why it has resonated so deeply with people over the years.
Since its directors are certainly fans first, it’s immediately clear that Unearthed and Untold became a reality due to their passion for the material, so it’s not a surprise that they were able to obtain interviews from a great deal of the cast and crew including Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Susan Blommaert, and fan favorites Brad Greenquist and Miko Hughes (a horror convention regular). Having passed away in 1993, Fred Gwynne as the endlessly quotable Jud Crandall is noticeably absent, but the kind words from those interviewed and some rare behind-the-scenes footage succeed in capturing the man’s spirit over the course of the film’s running time. Most known for directing music videos for Madonna including “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin” to name a few, Mary Lambert is also a presence throughout the documentary; and it’s clear how crucial her eye and attention to detail helped Pet Sematary make the transition from print to screen.
Also highlighting the incredible make-up work from father and son team Lance and David Anderson, Unearthed and Untold reminds fans just how indelible some of these images are, from the last shot showing the disfigured re-animated corpse of Rachel Creed to the gaping head wound forever linked to the friendly ghost of Pascow – a prosthetic that’s so memorable it rivals the decomposing, claw-ripped face of Griffin Dunne in American Werewolf in London. Whether it’s these examples or the first hiss of Church from beyond the grave coupled with Gage’s playful killing spree, the interviews and recaps found in the documentary remind everyone just how iconic some of these moments have become.
There’s plenty more to uncover concerning the production depicting the more difficult days and impressive accomplishments among the set builders and scenics involved and many more interviews with local residents in Maine to explore showing just how homegrown and personal the shoot was. The main evidence, however, that will determine just how much of a success Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary really is lies in just how quickly fans will want to watch the original the second the end credits start rolling by.
Fans have two more days to pre-order and take advantage of the Limited Edition Documentary Combo DVD/Blu-ray promotion that ends on May 18th. It’s packed with lots of bonus features, a full-size poster, t-shirt, and some cool stickers – none of which you will be able to get when the film officially releases digitally and on VOD in October. You can pre-order a copy at the Terror Films website.