22nd Mar2019

‘Pet Graveyard’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jessica O’Toole, David Cotter, Rita Siddiqui, Kate Lush, Andrew Hollingworth, Claire-Maria Fox, Mike Kelson, Kate Milner Evans, Heronimo Sehmi, Georgina Jane, Hattie Willow | Written by Suzy Spade | Directed by Rebecca Matthews


We’ve covered quite a few films from UK production outfit Proportion Productions, who have become almost factory-like in their film output in recent years, with films like the Unhinged remake, Fox Trap, House on Elm Lake, Darker Shade of Elise, Mother Krampus, Suicide Club, Curse of the Scarecrow and The Bad Nun to name a few… Pet Graveyard is the latest film in their ouevre and no, before you ask, this is NOT a riff on Pet Sematary.

Going back to the title for a minute, it seems such a shame that the companies recent output has been lumbered with these “mockbuster”-like titles and marketing (I’m looking at you Mother Krampus and The Bad Nun). I know that marketing films in this way can get you seen by retailers and better still more sales, but at the same time its almost like cheating an audience into seeing a film (a similar tactic used by The Asylum) by raising their expectations. Expectations that, undoubtedly, will be dashed by the finished product through no fault of its own.

Pet Graveyard (it could really do with a better title TBH) concerns a group of friends tormented by the Grim Reaper and his sinister pet after they undergo an experiment that allows them to revisit the dead – think something along the lines of Flatliners meets Insidious but from a British perspective.

The film opens with a prologue set three years ago a terrified woman (Claire-Maria Fox) drives into a garage late at night, with her passenger (Andrew Hollingsworth) dying in his seat. Instead of trying to help him she implores with the owner (Hattie Willow) to fix her car, desperate to escape the situation rather than pause to help her friend. But when Daryl blacks out he ends up in blackness, eventually killed inside purgatory, foreshadowing what is to come for our main cast of characters: failing medical student Lily (Jessica O’Toole) who, in present day, is cajoled by her Jackass-inspired YouTuber brother Jeff (David Cotter) into helping him and his two friends take part in a “brinking” (aka flatlining) experiment, which [obviously] goes horribly wrong and we get the aforementioned appearance(s) of a creepy sphinx cat and his grim reaper owner as Pet Graveyard descends into a mix of supernatural horror and old-school slasher movie.

And thats the thing, Pet Graveyard REALLY isn’t a Pet Sematary wannabe. Instead its a supernatural slasher movie, complete with inventive kills and all the other tropes of stalk and slash horror, but with the Grim Reaper as the killer rather than the likes of Freddy or Jason. The only ties it has to anything pet-related is that cat. That wrinkly-skinned, creeping around, cat which foretells the reapers next unfortunate victim.

One thing I really like about Proportion Productions is that they seemingly work very much like a family: producers are given the chance to direct, actresses are given the chance to write, etc. In the case of Pet Graveyard, the film marks the directorial debut of Rebecca Matthews (who was a producer on nine prior productions for the company) and comes from a screenplay by Suzy Spade, who wrote Viking War, a ChampDog Films production (the company behind the aforementioned Unhinged remake and Darker Shades of Elise) which was directed by Louisa Warren, who also acted in the likes of Curse of the Scarecrow and Suicide Club… See told you it was like a film-producing family!

The other thing I like about the company is… Well, just take a look at the paragraph above. Look at the names – they’re all women. No matter what you think about Proportion’s product, you have to commend them for actually giving women voices within the genre – not just acting in horror, but producing, writing AND directing. But hey, you’re not going to hear about that in the mainstream media, or even the larger horror media for that matter, are you? Nope. Sadly. And it’s THAT fact that should be used to sell their films, not any mockbuster angle – after all, genre fans all want to see more proportional gender representation (see what I did there?!) in horror don’t we?

If you’ve seen more than a few other films from Proportion Productions and their cohorts, like I have, you kind of know what to expect with Pet Graveyard: a competently made, micro-budget horror that – honestly – has ideas above its stature but that still manages to tell its story well, within the confines set for itself by virtue of budget, cast, etc. Yes Matthews’ film is slow at times and suffers from some stilted performances and flat cinematography but on the whole this is another win for the modern-day genre producers at Proportion.

Pet Graveyard is scheduled for release on DVD/Digital on April 2nd from Uncork’d Entertainment.


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