• Unearthed & Untold: The Path To Pet Sematary

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: March 13th, 2018.
    Director: John Campopiano, Justin White
    Cast: Denise Crosby, Dale Midkiff, Miko Hughes, Brad Greenquist
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    In the tradition of Crystal Lake Memories and Just Deserts comes Unearthed & Untold: The Path To Pet Sematary, a feature length documentary from filmmakers John Campopiano and Justin White that provides fans of the film a deep dive into its history and its origin. Like those aforementioned projects, this one is made up primarily of interviews with those who worked on the film in one capacity or another, with interviews with fans and film critic types interspersed to provide some context. The end result is a genuinely interesting look back at what was involved in bringing Stephen King’s novel to life, the themes that it deals with that set the film apart from other horror films made around the same time, and the stories of those who were involved in the production.

    The documentary starts off with some background information on how and why King came to write the novel on which the film was based, detailing his homestead in Maine, the importance of Highway 15 and the countless logging trucks that drove the road, and the real life ‘Pet Sematary’ that was built in the area by some local kids. From there, we learn how the book was optioned and how it took a few years for the film to actually get made due to some hesitation on the part of the studio.

    After that, we head straight on into the making of the film by way of interviews with most of the principal cast and crew members. Obviously, Fred Gwynne wasn’t able to be interviewed as he passed away but Blaze and Beau Berdahl, Denise Crosby, Michael Lombard, Dale Midkiff, Brad Greenquist, Miko Hughes, Susan Blommaert and quite a few other actors show up here to share their memories of making the film and their thoughts on why it has enjoyed the enduring popularity that it has since it was released in 1989.

    The movie also spends a fair bit of time with director Mary Lambert, who was fresh off of a series of popular music videos for the likes of Chris Isaak, The Eurythmics, The Go-Go’s and probably most importantly Madonna (her Justify My Love video was quite controversial in its time!). She’s candid about her work on the shoot and seems to look back on it quite fondly. Composer Elliot Goldenthal shows up here to talk about his work on the picture as well as cinematographer Peter Stein (who had shot a few of the Friday The 13th movies previously and was, at the time, tired of doing horror pictures!), and quite a few others.

    The documentary is thorough and interesting. In addition to letting the various participants tells their stories we also learn about the impact that the shoot had on the small Maine town where the production took place, celebrity visits to the set and the underlying themes that make the movie more than just another run-of-the-mill horror story. Production values are good. There are a few interviews that look like they were done in the hallway of a hotel (likely at a horror convention) but even in these less than ideal conditions the camerawork is good and the audio nice and clean. Solid editing and a nice sense of visual style keep this interesting to look at. All in all, even if you’re not a diehard Pet Sematary fan, if you just enjoy learning about the ‘stories behind the movies’ then you’ll more than likely find quite a lot to like about Unearthed & Untold.


    Unearthed & Untold: The Path To Pet Sematary looks pretty good on Blu-ray from Synapse Films framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Obviously, some of the tape sourced archival footage looks like the VHS footage that it is but the newly shot material is crisp, clean and colorful. There are no problems with any compression artifacts or edge enhancement and as this was shot digitally there are obviously no issues with print damage, debris or grain to note.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also of good quality. Surround channels are mostly used for music and occasional effects placement, with the dialogue – making up the vast majority of the production – come from the front center channel. It all sounds fine, it’s quite clean and clear (though again some or the archival material shows its age) and levels are well balanced. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.

    Extras are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary from creators John Campopiano and Justin White. This track is pretty interesting, as it covers how and why the two filmmakers decided to tackle Pet Sematary, what went into finding as many of the participants as they did for the feature, locations used for the shoot and lots more. A second commentary appears in the form of a ‘podcast commentary’ that was done for the Halloweekly podcast again featuring Campopiano and White. It covers much of the same ground but it is a bit more conversational in nature. Both are pretty packed with info and interesting stories about the making of the documentary and the stories that come with a project as big as this.

    The disc also contains a seven-minute video interview with Campopiano and White where they further detail the ‘how and why this documentary came to exist’ aspect, it’s interesting and rather amusing how they wound up falling down this massive rabbit hole. The eighteen-minute Pet Tales: - From The Cutting Room Floor featurette is an interesting collection of deleted material wherein the interviewees tend to go off topic (which is why the material was cut out). Some of this stuff is actually really interesting and frequently quite amusing, making this some deleted material worth watching.

    The disc also contains about eight minutes of edited and alternate scenes that were shot for the feature but not used (at least in the form they’re shown in here in this section). Additionally, the disc includes a promotional trailer for the feature, a two-minute gallery of location photos, a selection of documentary poster art, seven-minutes of footage shot on the set during production by Rhonda Carter, menus and chapter selection. The disc comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art as well.

    The Final Word:

    Unearthed & Untold: The Path To Pet Sematary is about as comprehensive as you could hope for, King’s absence notwithstanding. The Blu-ray release from Synapse Films looks and sounds good and it’s packed with extras. If you’re a Pet Sematary fan or just someone who enjoys behind the scenes stories, this comes recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!