Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Directed by John Campopiano and Justin White
2017, 97 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on March 13th, 2018
Mary Lambert as herself
Dale Midkiff as himself
Denise Crosby as herself
Brad Greenquist as himself
Miko Hughes as himself
Blaze Berdah as herself
Lance Anderson as himself
Pet Sematary is a respectable entry in the world of cinematic Stephen King adaptations, one that features a screenplay by the author himself. I recently watched the film for the first time in a few years in preparation for this review of the documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary, and it brought back a lot of fond memories. I had read Pet Sematary in high school and saw the film when it hit theaters in 1989, and really enjoyed both. There was a special-edition DVD release in 2006 (followed on Blu-ray in 2012) that featured interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage along with a director’s audio commentary. This was a welcome replacement to the previous bare-bones releases. Other films have featured more elaborate special editions, but I’ll take what I can get. This all-new documentary is an unofficial fan-made feature length tribute that somehow manages to include so much more information than I ever expected that I am more than happy to add this title to my shelf right beside the movie it chronicles.
Directed by John Campopiano and Justin White, Unearthed & Untold is a perfect example of do-it-yourself ingenuity and dedication. Five years in the making, the duo manage to track down most of the surviving cast and crew members for a collection of all-new interviews conducted specifically for this piece. More impressive is the inclusion of numerous Maine locals who participated in the making of the film either in front of or behind the camera. Stephen King appears in some archival footage and there is a generous sprinkling of on-set shot-on-video material to provide a glimpse at the actual production. Crew members ranging from the director and cinematographer to the greensman, lead carpenter and casting agent all appear with interesting stories as do members of the community who appeared in small roles or as extras in the feature.
The filmmakers interview members of the community that provided additional support ranging from the people that allowed their house to serve as the main location, to the woman whose animal cemetery served as part of the inspiration for the original story. Some of Stephen King’s friends and fellow teachers are on hand to provide additional context to the creation of the tale, and the incident that sparked the haunting story is also revealed. Just when you think the documentary can’t delve any deeper, another layer of obscurity is peeled back. As examples of how extensive the list of participants is, it includes the driver of the truck that kills young Gage and the first on-set journalist to cover the production for Fangoria magazine.
As wonderful as this documentary is, I do have a few brief criticisms. I wish there had been a section devoted to the legacy of the film and a glimpse of the fan base at conventions. There is one fan interviewed, but he sort of sticks out as an afterthought. Also, while nitpicking, Sean Clark (Horror’s Hallowed Grounds) appears briefly at the beginning as a supporter but is nowhere to be seen when the focus shifts to actually discussing the filming locations. These are trivial complaints that don’t really detract from the overall strength of the piece but simply point out where the film could be more inclusive.
Unable to secure footage from Paramount Pictures, John Campopiano and Justin White make great use of photographs taken during production and also include original artwork to represent specific scenes being discussed. They have done a phenomenal job chronicling the origins and production of one of their favorite movies and their efforts are now giving horror fans a rare gift. While not as exhaustive as similar documentaries like Crystal Lake Memories, You’re So Cool, Brewster or Never Sleep Again, Unearthed & Untold is a long overdue appreciation of Pet Sematary and reveres the picture as the contemporary cult classic it has become after nearly thirty years.
Video and Audio:
The documentary is assembled from a variety of sources that vary in picture quality. Newly recorded interviews appear crisp and colorful, while VHS footage is understandably rougher. The material is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 1.33:1 video inserts.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track keeps things focused on the center channel, as this is a dialogue-driven film. All of the interviews appear without distortion of any kind and music levels are well-balanced and non-intrusive.
This disc comes with a healthy amount of supplemental material. Up first is a pair of audio commentaries with directors John Campopiano and Justin White. One was recorded for this release while the other was part of an earlier podcast promoting the film. There is some overlapping material of course, but the guys are eager to share plenty of anecdotes from the production. The podcast is the livelier of the two, but both are serviceable.
A collection of edited and alternate scenes (9 minutes) provide a few variations on moments from the documentary that changed before the final edit. Many are simple line extensions or brief story beats, but their inclusion is welcome here.
Behind the Making of Unearthed & Untold (8 minutes) is a video interview in which the directors explain the origin of the project and their efforts that went into making it happen. This piece serves as a decent introduction to the film if you wish to watch it first.
A collection of deleted scenes, Pet Tales – From the Cutting Room Floor (18 minutes) offers additional anecdotes that didn’t make the final cut. The stories are entertaining but simply didn’t serve the greater narrative.
Next up is a compilation of photographs (2 minutes) of the directors at assorted shooting locations.
Concepts for the documentary poster art (1 minute) play as a slideshow.
Rare On Set Footage from Rhonda Carter (7 minutes) is presented without narration and shows a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the production team at work.
A documentary sizzle reel (4 minutes) contains a look at the fans missing from the actual piece.
The original promotional trailer (3 minutes) offers an early look at the material that sets the tone for the documentary.