An Interview With The Man Behind The Pet Sematary Documentary

John Campopiano Digs Up the Dirt On His Upcoming Documentary

So, as I’ve written on here before, I’m a pretty big fan of the film Pet Sematary. I’m also a big fan of documentaries, especially on horror. So you don’t have to graduate Magma Cum Laude from Harvard to figure I’d probably enjoy the upcoming film Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary. As luck would have it, I got a chance to sit down with one of the film’s directors and writers, John Campopiano. Here’s what he had to say about digging up the dirt on one of the most infamous Stephen King adaptions.


The Shed: Thank you for joining us Mr. Campopiano
John: You’re welcome.
      So I know your working documentary on the film Pet Sematary. Sematary was actually one of the first horror films I ever saw. Do you remember your first time seeing it?
              I do…well, I think I do! I have an early memory of seeing Pet Sematary at a good friend’s house. He lived in the neighborhood (in fact, he lived right behind my parents). He’s a few years older than me so usually I would be exposed to horror movies that I was probably still a little too young to watch, Pet Sematary being one of them. I have a vivid memory of laying in the top bunk of his bunk bed, watching the film on a TV which was on his desk below. As soon as Zelda appeared I remember being TERRIFIED. Because I was on the top bunk I could hide my face without my friends (down below) ever noticing. I was trying to hide the fact that I was scared — had they seen me freak out they would have most certainly teased me about it. Much like the first time I saw Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s IT, I was both terrified and mesmerized simultaneously. The first viewing of Pet Sematary was a defining moment in me becoming a lifelong horror fan.
 How did the idea of creating a documentary on Pet Sematary come about?
       It came about very organically and over time. Originally my film partner, Justin White, and I decided we would take a road trip up to Maine to see some of the filming locations from the movie. While we were in Maine we discovered that there will still many locals in the area who had been a part of the film (either as a crew member or an on-camera extra). Many of these same people also had behind-the-scenes photographs and home video footage from the production — materials that the general public (certainly not Pet Sematary fans) had ever seen before. As we talked more about it, made more local contacts, and continued making more trips, we began to realize that we had something special on our hands and that we should continue to pursue it. Five years later we now have a feature-length documentary.
 Pet Sematary had an interesting story behind it’s creation. Is there anything of particular interest you uncovered when making your documentary?
Of course! But you’ll have to watch the documentary to hear about them. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you (laughs).
 For many people who have seen Pet Semetary agree that the most frighting part isn’t the zombie cat or the scapel wielding toddler; it’s the brief flashbacks to the deformed little girl Zelda. Why do you think this is?
Mary Lambert’s casting decision for Zelda was certainly unusual and as a result created a look and feel to Zelda that stuck with viewers. A man playing a sickly woman – particularly in the context of a horror movie like this – is going to come across unusual, off, even creepy. Plus, Mary was wise not to over use the Zelda character. In other words, we didn’t see her in every other scene. She was used more sparsely, which kept her fresh and scary to viewers.
Denise Crosby also deserves credit for selling the character of Zelda. Had we not believed that Denise’s character, Rachel, was terrified of her dying sister then neither would we as viewers. And, while we’re at it, we should also salute the physical acting of the actor who played Zelda, Andrew Hubatsek, as well as the special effects makeup creators, Lance and David Anderson, for bringing the look of Zelda to life. The success of Zelda was truly a team effort.
    Throughout mainstream horror, there is a definite shortage of female directors. Mary Lambert, the woman who did direct Pet Semetary, is one of the few in the business. Why do you think this is, and if anything, how did having a female direction impact the film?
I’m not quite sure. I think there are a lot of female writers and directors nowadays bringing a lot of exciting ideas to the horror genre. Mary’s input on Pet Sematary was unique in that she brought a special kind of visual artistry to the film that – in my opinion – another genre director from that time period wouldn’t have. Mary’s background is in painting and during the 1980s she was responsible for shooting many successful music videos for artists like Madonna. These kinds of influences and this varied experience played a part in giving Pet Sematary the look that it has.
 So where can we watch the documentary when its finished?
Well, the documentary is very much finished and is available for pre-order on the Terror Films website. The pre-order promotion ends May 18, so place your order before it ends! After the promotion fans will have to wait until October for the official release. Terror Films will announce more information about this later this year.
 Well thank you for taking the time to speak with us Mr. Campopiano. Any final words or plugs before we part ways?
Thanks for your questions and we hope you enjoy the documentary!
Jeff is a writer for The Blood Shed and eats, drinks, and bleeds horror. You can contact him at
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  • Vicki woods
    7 June 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    I will always remember the line in the book about poor little Gage being knocked right out of his keds