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UNEARTHED & UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY Documentary (2016)

Directed by John Campopiano & Justin White
Written by John Campopiano & Justin White
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Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

One of Stephen King’s most effective adaptations gets the documentary treatment in UNEARTHED & UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY; a thorough and entertaining little doc which details the film from initial inception to the last day of filming.

John Campopiano & Justin White are obviously fans of PET SEMATARY as they have dedicated a feature length to this documentary. Beginning with King’s inspirations for the film which include obviously FRANKENSTEIN and THE MONKEY’S PAW, the film goes into some nice details pointing out the bits and pieces from literature that King might have pulled from. I also really enjoyed the way the filmmakers focused on King’s hesitancy to print the story as it deals with very dark themes; including the taboo subject of the death of a child. These details of the origin of PET SEMATARY, which include King’s recounting of the death of his own family cat, his children’s first experience with death, and an emotional story where King experienced the horror of seeing his own child wander towards a busy road, were fascinating to see.

Campopiano and White do a fantastic job of gathering everyone even remotely involved in the making of PET SEMATARY. Everyone from the gal who built the elaborate children’s pet cemetery and the Micmac burial ground to the extra who played the truck driver who runs down Gage is interviewed and it paints an elaborate tapestry of what it was like to work on this film. King himself worked hard to make this film in his home state of Maine, so many of the cast and crew were locals who still live in the area, so it seemed like it was easy to go back to the locations and find those with stories of the shoot. Another interesting aspect of this film is that it revisits those locales, which still look familiar all these years later.

Some rather heavy moments of the doc were the scenes looking back at Fred Gwynn’s career and how much he brought to the role of Judd in the film as well as how Gwynn the actor touched the hearts and souls of all of the cast he worked with. The resonant and powerful theme of losing a child is also delved into by the cast and crew as they recall how difficult the scenes were building up to Gage’s death scene and the memorable funeral sequence. These pieces feel like the heart of the film and get the right time that they deserve.

The filmmakers were able to get everyone involved in the film, except for Gwynn and King himself (though some interviews of King are referred to). It was nice to see Lambert look back on her first feature film as well as actors Dale Midkiff and Denise Crosby look back on how it affected their lives. It was even more fun seeing the child actors who played Gage (Miko Hughes) and the twins playing Ellie (Blaze and Beau Berdahl) looking back on their performances and what they did and didn’t know about the film as child actors protected from the more intense bits of the film.

If there’s a criticism to be made about UNEARTHED & UNTOLD, it is that this is obviously a doc told from undeniable fans of the film. It is definitely more of a celebration of the film than an objective take on it, so much of the not-so-successful moments of the film and any other critical thinking applied to the actual film itself are glossed over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely isn’t very objective in its approach. Still, UNEARTHED & UNTOLD is a doc I would recommend to any fan of the original film (and who isn’t a fan, really?). It’s a remarkable tribute to a thoroughly effective story of life, death, and beyond with some of the more grueling moments in modern horror.




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