‘Pet Sematary: Bloodlines’ Director Talks Himbos and Stephen King

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

Director Lindsey Anderson Beer takes on a big name with her feature film debut. She jumps right into the horror deep-end with her prequel Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, inspired by Stephen King’s horrifying novel Pet Sematary. Beer is following in the footsteps of the great Mary Lambert in adapting not only King, but one of his most tragic stories.

Read the full synopsis:

In 1969, a young Jud Crandall has dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow, Maine 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.

Dread Central spoke with Beer at Fantastic Fest about taking on Stephen King, the bromance between Jackson White and Forrest Goodluck, and more.

Dread Central: What draws you to what draws you to Pet Sematary? Why is it your favorite Stephen King story? 

Lindsey Anderson Beer: I think it’s my favorite King because it’s, to me, the most king out of all. When I think of Stephen King, the reason that I love his stuff is because it is so human and so textured and so detailed. And in Pet Sematary, I think more than any of his horror books, he gives so much time and breathing room to the theme and drama. It really only becomes a true horror story in the back half. That to me was so captivating, and I think why I’ve always loved it so much. It just feels more real and more true to life.

I always love things that aren’t just one genre, because, for me, something feels so kind of canned when it’s trying to be so specifically one thing. Also, because I think the specificity of Lewis’s inner monologue in that book, you have such an insight into his character. Something that none of the films have brought out of the book is how his monologue is almost absurdist. It’s really funny. People think of Pet Sematary as so dark, but it’s also really funny. 

DC: I love that you say that because me and one of my friends talk about how funny it is all the time.

You also really tap into that fatherhood aspect of Pet Sematary, especially with inheritance and fathers giving things to their sons. I wanted to hear more about diving into the relationship between Judd and his dad because I really love how that develops in the film. 

LB: I’m so glad you said that. I really wanted to have these two parallels between Bill Baterman and his son and what he does for his son, which is to bring him back to life. And then we’ve got Dan and Judd and what he’s trying to do, which is get him the fuck out of town and protect him and not tell him a thing. So you’ve got two very different fathers from different socioeconomic classes and different privileges, but both just trying to do right by their sons.

Since the original Pet Sematarys are all about parents and their choices, I was really intrigued by this notion of a younger generation examining their parents’ choices. You’ve got Judd kind of thinking he doesn’t want to be his dad. He doesn’t understand his dad. His dad’s always just smoking on the porch. We know older Judd, obviously, that’s what he’s doing, drinking and smoking on the porch. But here showing that his father was like that, even though he and his dad never get that moment to reconcile, really shows the fact that he gets to not only understand his dad throughout the movie, but kind of take his place by the end. 

DC: Watching this made me even sadder thinking about Pet Sematary and the tragedy of Jud. You don’t see it as much in the original movie, but this really contextualizes it so much and it really adds, again, to the tragedy of the original film.

LB: Yeah, that’s what I hope, that it can add context to either Mary Lambert’s version or the more recent versions. I reread and I reread the book and just tried to make it as much of a prequel to that and draw as much as I could from that. At the end of the book, it calls [Jud] the guardian of the woods. And that kind of mantle, I don’t think is really fully explored in any of the films. And I felt like putting a finer point on that and us realizing that that’s what he was until he got older and the evil got to him.

It’s so interesting how in the book it says that Timmy Baterman and Jud’s involvement with Timmy is why the evil was actually kind of trying to get him his whole life and it only really got to him at the end. His interaction with Louis felt like the perfect lens to telling a Ludlow and a Judd origin story. 

DC: Jackson White is our young Jud, and he’s so good. How did you find him? 

LB: Oh, the casting process for Jud was really extensive. 

DC: I can imagine 

LB: So many talented people raised their hands for that. But it was just audition after audition and Jackson stood out to me. It’s not like I was debating between him and anybody else. I just thought, “This is him.” This is the person I’m putting forward. And he and Forrest [Goodluck] had such amazing chemistry. 

DC: They were so good together. 

LB: Yeah, that was the final checkmark in terms of making sure he was our Jud was doing their chemistry read together. I actually cast Forest first. 

DC: I’m so glad to see him getting more work. He’s so good. 

LB: Yes, he’s so good. And I actually didn’t audition anyone else for the part. I just knew I wanted him for it, and I had him in mind when I was rewriting the script. So I was so ecstatic when he said yes. But when I got them together, they just immediately had this really fun chemistry together. 

DC: Well, I was obsessed with when Forrest goes, “Why are you sexy?” Was that in the script? Or did he ad-lib that? 

LB: Oh he ad-libbed that. I mean, there were other little lines like that, that emphasized the bromance between them. Not all of them made it into the movie, but I needed this one though. Everyone’s thinking about it!

DC: I know that a big complaint about Pet Sematary is its use of Indigenous stereotypes. But with Pet Sematary: Bloodlines you have Indigenous actors and you really talk about white people taking the burden on.

LB: Absolutely. I mean, when I took my first meeting on this I said, “I can’t do this unless I can subvert these tropes.” I love Pet Sematary, but the trope of the mystical Indigenous and the cursed land obviously is not something that quite plays now. And it just felt like Pet Sematary had kind of benefited from those tropes without giving a point of view to those characters. So it was really important to me to create Donna and this sibling relationship between her and Manny and emphasize that they don’t have to pay that price. It’s not their mantle to carry. 

DC: Well, and Donna’s house, their whole little farm, and the VW Bug. I just love the production design. How did you find that house? 

LB: Yeah, we location scouted a bunch of houses, and when we found that one, it was just like, “This feels magical. This feels like a place Donna would live.”

DC: It doesn’t feel like it’s part of Ludlow. It feels like an Eden almost. 

LB: Exactly. The idea is that this could be a little farming hippie commune that they’re part of. There’s actually a deleted scene that shows the way Manny makes money. He sells their vegetables and eggs and stuff that they have on their farm. But yeah, just such a cute little place for them to exist in their little bubble. 

DC: That’s incredible. And going back to Donna,  the cast of this entire film is just absolutely incredible. From just the new people, then you have David Duchovny, you have Pam Grier and Henry Thomas. I’d love to hear more about the cast. 

LB: Yeah, I mean, the older cast, everybody in the film is so amazing. And for the younger cast, as I mentioned, that was more of an extensive audition process. Donna, Isabella Star LeBlanc is just fucking amazing. They’re all amazing. They would all hang out with Isabella because her character is an artist. She would host drawing parties and stuff for the cast so she could learn to draw. They learned to bake sourdough bread together and bagels. They were the cutest little gang of friends. And she was always kind of a den mother. So she really does have that Donna, maternal, everybody come together energy. 

But in terms of the older cast, they were all first choices who I thought brought the right stuff to the role. David Duchovny in particular, not just because of his genre history, but because of his role in Californication. I felt like he played a father so well. So we submitted the script to him and when we had our first meeting, he said he just really connected to the idea of grief and what a father would do for their child. The themes in it and the emotion spoke true to him, and he connected with it.

DC: Was the “Peace” written in the script, or did he ad-lib that?

LB: No, he added that. 

DC: I figured.

LB: Yeah, he added that and I cracked up. I was like, “Wait, did I just ruin that take laughing that hard?” Pam Grier was the same thing. When I wrote that line, “I killed Baterman’s fucking dog,” that’s when it came to mind that I should cast Pam Grier. So when it was time to cast, I said to the studio, “We should try to get Pam Grier for this.” And they’re like, “Oh my God, well, she would be amazing, but how are we going to get her?” But we still submitted it to her. She’s a big Stephen King fan. Then we had a meeting and she was just obsessed with the character. She grew up on a ranch and she had so many ideas for what Marjorie would do. It was just so textured. It was her idea for Marjorie to always carry jerky for the dogs on her mail route.

DC: My final question, I would love to know, what is the scariest movie that you’ve ever seen? 

LB: The scariest movie that I’ve ever seen? Oh, that’s such a good question. Nobody’s asked me that question. What’s scared me the most? Probably The Silence of the Lambs

DC: The first time I saw that I was like, “I don’t think I should have watched that”. And I still feel that way when I watch it. It’s one of those movies that still gets under my skin. 

LB: Yeah, I think because of the psychological element. I was also way too young when I saw it. I think because it was grounded and not supernatural horror. It was like, “Oh, people can be really bad people.” It was a bad lesson in humanity kind of a thing.

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is available now on Paramount+.


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