1983: Stephen King finishes his new novel Pet Sematary and puts it away in a drawer, thinking no one would want to read it. Later that year it would be an award nominated work published through DoubleDay. 1985: Pet Sematary is pitched as a feature film, but big studios aren’t interested because they think American theater-goers are “over Stephen King movies.” 1988: A writers’ strike puts an indefinite amount of movies into limbo and big studios struggle to find perfect scripts until giving Pet Sematary another look. 1989: Under the direction of Mary Lambert, Pet Sematary receives a wide release through Paramount Pictures. It is a massive success at the box office, breaks VHS rental records, and becomes one of the most beloved horror films of all time. 2017: The love for Pet Sematary is so large, even 28 years later, that John Campopiano and Justin White release their documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary.
There are a lot of fantastic horror film documentaries available on the market, encompassing entire franchises or diving into a single movie in an in depth way. I have to say, wholeheartedly, that Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary is easily one of the best horror themed documentaries on the market. Terror Films have an instant hit on their hand here. And I say this while not being the biggest Stephen King fan on the block. Somewhat embarrassingly, my knowledge of his novels and film adaptions dies after his hits Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Firestarter, Cujo, Christine and It. It’s an undeniable fact that King is one of the greatest, most lucrative, most creative horror geniuses that the world will ever know; it’s just that my interests have been directed elsewhere in recent years. But this, this documentary, moved me. And I think it has to do with the comradery that shines through almost 30 years later.
Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary has commentary from major players like director Mary Lambert, director of photography Peter Stein, cast members Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes and Brad Greenquist, and almost every crew member and featured actor – no matter how small their contribution to the film was. Even the cat wranglers get some shine! Being that the commentary is fresh and new, shot just for the documentary, it’s almost funny to see that the older actors have barely aged yet Miko Hughes is now in his 30’s! Other commentators include horror journalists, horror fans and even A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Heather Langenkamp, but really it’s the cast and crew that breathe life into this feature. They’re so candid, so giving, so humble and they seem to love each other so much that the aspect of a family coming together and growing together is inspiring. It’s also a stark contrast to the film Pet Sematary that features a supernatural fueled breakdown of a small family. You’ll watch this and feel the love. I sure did!
Once I moved past the enthralling feeling of companionship that this uncanny documentary brought out of me, I was equally impressed with all the behind the scenes knowledge, photos, and stories. Did you know that the Native American story of The Wendigo, the story of the cursed monkey’s paw, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jekyll & Hyde served as Stephen King’s inspiration for Pet Sematary? Did you know that pet deaths and childish mishaps that King and his family experienced in his youth were major elements that played into the story? Did you know that the big tree with the tire swing in The Creed’s yard was actually uprooted and moved their just for filming purposes? Did you know the tree died shortly after filming because of the strenuous process? That’s just a fraction of the information you get during this feature length documentary, and the best part is you even get a walk-through of various sets as they stand today; including the path into the sematary and The Creed House itself. On top of that, all the fact sharing compelled me to do further research on my own involving the book and the movie and that in itself says a lot!
My complaint, literally my only complaint, is that the documentary doesn’t feature any commentary from the Master of Horror Stephen King at all. He appears in all of the behind the scenes photos, and he’s a figure in all of the behind the scenes stories, and his influence is felt throughout the entire feature, but he’s never featured as he is today. That was a bit of a let down. Still, Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary is absolutely a must have for every horror fan, whether you’re a big fan of Pet Sematary or not. Movies, especially horror movies, just aren’t made like they were in the late 80’s and it’s such a cool experience, such a privilege to see how Pet Sematary came to be the phenomenon that it is today. From the special effects that were in place to the state of Maine becoming an unwilling character in the feature, you get so much knowledge right from the mouths of those directly involved with Pet Sematary. It’s a time capsule of horror that you need to open when Terror Films and Synapse Films release it on Blu-ray and DVD later this year. Holy fuck, amazing. Final Score: 9.5 out of 10.