DirectorJustin White and John Campopiano
Release Date(s)2017 (March 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Ocean's Light Productions/Terror Films (Synapse Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
For many who saw it at an impressionable age, Pet Sematary has always been one of the more frightening and effective adaptations of Stephen King’s material. Although it did a modest amount of business at the box office when it was released in 1989, it’s more or less been a home video cult favorite ever since. It took almost decade to finally come to the screen once it was published, and the story of how it came into being is an interesting one. As such, two die-hard fans of the film, Justin White and John Campopiano, took it upon themselves to do a documentary about it, which until recently, was only available to be seen on the film festival circuit. A distribution deal was eventually struck and now we have a fine Blu-ray release of Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary.
One of the interesting aspects of Pet Sematary is that it was shot on location in Maine, in an area where Stephen King frequently visited. Unearthed & Untold tells the story of this, interviewing several of the local townspeople about their involvement with the film, as well as many of the folks behind it, including director Mary Lambert and actors Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, and Miko Hughes. All of the subjects are fairly candid about their experiences making the film, which were mostly positive. Highlights include the discussion of Gage’s death and the follow-up funeral scenes, which were apparently quite emotional for those involved, as well as a remembrance of and tribute to Fred Gwynne. There’s also a segment featuring one of the crew members speaking about when she had to select the coffins for the funeral scene and accidentally selected one that was occupied. Needless to say, there’s plenty of great material.
One must also remember that this documentary was put together by a couple of talented fans of Pet Sematary, which means that it isn’t totally slick or completely focused. The non-use of footage from the film is also sometimes a detriment, depending on what the interview subjects are talking about. I’m personally not a fan of behind-the-scenes documentaries that rely on footage from the film in lieu of crafting a story out of the interviews, but in some cases, it’s essential to bridge narratives, as well as an occasional reminder of what’s being spoken about. That said, there’s still enough great behind the scenes footage and photos to make up for it.
Unearthed & Untold is presented on Blu-ray via Synapse Films with a very nice transfer. The footage used is a mix of high definition interviews, low grade VHS footage, and stills, so the quality doesn’t fully match all the way through. Regardless, everything looks well put together and clear with good contrast and deep blacks. The color palette is a little all over the map, but not to the point of distraction. The audio is presented on an English 5.1 DTS-HD track with no subtitle options. The rear speakers mostly open things up for the score as the dialogue and low grade footage is relegated to the front. A 2.0 track would likely have been more ideal, but still, it’s a good listening experience with no major distractions and clean audio for the interviews.
This release also carries a nice little selection of extras. They include an audio commentary with directors John Campopiano and Justin White; an additional podcast audio commentary with Campopiano and White; nearly nine minutes of deleted and alternate scenes; an interview with Campopiano and White about how the documentary came about; Pet Tales: From the Cutting Room Floor, which features extra stories from the cast and crew that didn’t make the final cut, including a memorable anecdote from Denise Crosby; a Pet Sematary location photo compilation; a documentary poster art concepts gallery; nearly seven minutes of rare on-set footage from the making of Pet Sematary by Rhonda Carter; a documentary sizzle reel, which contains additional bits of footage of fans from around the world; a promotional trailer; and a 20-page 2018 Synapse Films product catalogue.
Pet Sematary has always been one of those Stephen King adaptations that I found a bit disturbing, and not necessarily one that I like to pop in all that often. It’s a frightening film that goes more for realism than jump scares or traditional horror tropes, which makes it scary on a whole other level. The supernatural elements on top of it just make it that much more plausible, and oddly enough, mythical. Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary reveals the human story behind its creation, and with Synapse Films’ excellent Blu-ray release, it’s a journey well worth taking.
- Tim Salmons