Review: Rebecca Matthews’ “Pet Graveyard” (Don’t Be Duped)

It pains me to write this review because I love Uncork’d Entertainment, and truly believe they are the best distributor in the world for quality independent horror. With that said, though, whoever decided to package this film as a Pet Sematary rip-off to coincide with the release of the remake from Paramount Pictures deserves a strong talking to. This movie, Pet Graveyard, could have easily existed as its own entity and been successful on its own merit, not on the coat-tails of a beloved, cult classic. Written by Suzy Spade and directed by Rebecca J Matthews, Pet Graveyard sees a group of young adults, all who’ve suffered the traumatic loss of a loved one, as they converge on an abandoned church to participate in the ritual of “brinking;” where a person dies – often through suffocation – and stays dead long enough to reach The Other Side before being brought back to the world of the living through CPR. Only this time, a mysterious cat shows up and the group finds itself plagued by visions of the Grim Reaper. When Death comes to reclaim those who’ve escaped him, it’s game over. Jessica O’Toole, David Cotter, Rita Siddiqui, Hindolo Koroma, Clive Cohen, Nimoy Summerscale, Kate Milner-Evans and Georgina Jane star in Pet Graveyard, on DVD and digital April 2nd 2019 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Filmed by Proportion Productions and Millman Productions, Pet Graveyard is the farthest thing from a Pet Sematary rip-off, which is why I’m still scratching my head at the decision to make it look like one. There’s no actual pet graveyard or sematary. The cat on the movie poster, featured above, is never buried and returns from the dead. There’s no family being tormented or hit by mack-trucks. There’s no Stephen King slow-burn creepiness that genre fans would look for. If anything, Pet Graveyard is more of a Flatliners rip-off than Pet Sematary. The plot is almost identical if you swap out med students for kids in a church. Sure, the addition of the Grim Reaper as a primary villain is welcomed, especially in a film of this nature, but it still just…should have been imagined as its own thing, and not a copy-cat. It features cinematography from Ben Collin and editing from Scott Jeffrey. The acting is fantastic for an indie feature and, aside from the opening scene, this movie was produced really, really well. I also loved that Pet Graveyard was written and directed by women, because that’s something this genre needs more of. It’s almost like a slight homage to Mary Lambert in its own way. A little more originality and free thinking would have helped catapult this movie to another level.

A dark, supernatural drama that’s low on horror but high in intensity and production value, Pet Graveyard could have been a big hit. Producers Scott Jeffrey and Rebecca J. Matthews clearly know how to deliver a worthy product, but the decision making and post-production packaging really hindered this movie from going “there.” In the essence of honesty and integrity, I have to caution readers not to purchase or stream this movie if you’re expecting something in the realm of Pet Sematary. I’d say to invest in a copy only if you enjoyed Flatliners or if you’re looking to kill time. Great locations and acting and a cute cat can’t save you. Sorry, team. Final Score: 5.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)