Pet Sematary, although a celebrated King adaptation, is often an overlooked horror film in and of itself. Documentarian John Campopiano hopes to change that with his film UNEARTHED & UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY. We caught up with John for an exclusive q&a on the project and gave him the opportunity to explain his passion and what we can expect from the forthcoming film.
What are the both of you setting out to do with this documentary?
JC: Justin and I are taking a deeper look into the making of the film from multiple angles, two of which are the memories of the Maine locals and those of the cast & crew. What stories and memories do local Maine residents have of the production? How was the production documented in local television, magazine, and newspaper stories? What did the production do for the county of Hancock and the greater Maine communities? These are just a few of the questions we are exploring in our documentary. In essence, what we’re hoping to do is show the unique bridging of a relatively small Hollywood production with a small Maine community who, until this very day, still thinks so highly of its involvement in the film.
Why “Pet Sematary” instead of King’s other works?
JC: There are several answers to this question. First, this film is an oft-overlooked horror film of the 1980s. While there have been many “making-ofs” and documentaries for the more well-known classics of that decade (Nightmare on Elm Street to name one) in many cases Pet Sematary hasn’t received the credit or attention it deserves. So, as huge fans of the film we’ve set out to make something that we ourselves would love to sit down and watch. Second, King is extremely prolific and of course there are many other great films from his cannon that would be worthy of a retrospective documentary. However, this film holds particular meaning for Justin and I – a big part of that meaning is wrapped up in nostalgia and our memories of watching the film when we were younger. The fact that it’s also a horror film shot in our native New England only deepens our appreciation for it.
What locations have you visited during filming?
JC: We have many of the locations covered and documented – locations we’re positive that fans won’t expect and, quite frankly, locations Justin and I never thought we would find. We’ve tireless scoured maps of Maine, spoken with countless Maine locals, and even gotten our hands on original location charts and maps used by cast and crew during the production. Showcasing the filming locations will be an important part of this documentary.
Do you have plans to send the film to any festivals or theaters?
JC: It’s hard to say what will happen and where things will go. Of course Justin and I have hopes and goals for the project, but a lot of those things are tied up and dependent upon other things. What I can say for absolute certain is that we’re going to do whatever we can to ensure that as many fans of the film see the final product – what that ends up meaning we don’t quite know yet. We’ll all have to wait and see.
What are your favorite scenes in “Pet Sematary”?
JC: I really like the flashback scenes. I also absolutely love the shot of Miko wearing his blue suit, wielding a scalpel, telling Denise that he’s brought her something. It’s a truly disturbing and bizarre moment – I love it. But too be honest, I think of my favorite moments from the film in terms of specific shots as opposed to whole scenes. I love the shot of Fred up at the Micmac burial ground where the sun is setting on him and he’s lighting up a cigarette – great composition work by DP Peter Stein. Another favorite shot of mine is when Fred and Dale are walked back up to the house after burying Church and the kitchen phone rings. We get the point of view from the porch then we quickly pan back through the screen door and into the kitchen as Dale bursts in to answer the phone. Pet Sematary is full of interesting and creative shots.
Will the documentary focus at all on the sequel or strictly the first film?
JC: No, there’ll be no mention of the sequel. We soon learned after jumping into this project that we had quite a bit to tackle with just the first film. We’ll leave Pet Sematary II to someone else
Who have you spoken to for the documentary so far (or planning to speak to)?
JC: We’ve interviewed quite a few people from cast and crew to Maine locals who were either in the film, worked on the production, or admired it from a distance. The list is probably too long to write here, but everyone from primary cast members including Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Miko Hughes and others, actors with smaller roles such as Susan Blommaert (who played Missy Dandridge) to crewmembers and many others, will all make an on-camera appearance in this documentary. Check out our official Facebook page for more details on those who have given on-camera interviews as well as those who have contributed to the documentary in other ways.
What other projects have the both of you worked on together?
JC: None! Though we had been friends for a few years prior to starting this project, this is our first documentary together.