It would be unfair to advise giving Pet Graveyard a miss altogether, but there are far superior alternatives around with similar plots that don’t come close to flatlining.
This British supernatural horror begins with a stark warning:
Once you die, Death owns your soul, and there’s no going back from that!
Soon after, we open with a prologue set three years in the past. A terrified Nikki (Claire-Maria Fox) speeds into an auto-repair shop, with an ailing Daryl (Andrew Hollingsworth) in the passenger seat. As she encourages him to stay awake, Nikki implores perplexed owner May (Hattie Willow) for help fixing her car. She’s desperate for them to escape something, but when Daryl blacks out and ends up in the echoing depths of purgatory, Satan’s sinister drudge Sara (Kate Lush) ensures he’s going nowhere.
And thus, the stage of fear and paranoia is sort of set for Suzy Spade’s Pet Graveyard (not to be confused with the upcoming Pet Sematary, a second adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name and nothing to do with this film).
After a group of friends take part in a “brinking” experiment, they find themselves tormented by the Grim Reaper (or at least a watered down version of him) and his sidekick (a semi-creepy, crimson-eyed Sphynx cat). Although siblings Lily (Jessica Otoole) and Jeff (David Cotter) are driven by contrasting motivations, their goal of visiting the other side is the same. But neither of them or the group they fall in with expects the deadly consequences of their afterlife tourism. As the film’s poster states:
The space between life and death… can kill.
And it will if it finds you trying to bend the rules.
The deceptively-titled Pet Graveyard (it doesn’t really have anything to do with dead pets, other than the aforementioned cat) isn’t the best horror film out there. In conceptual terms, there are plenty of comparable creations kicking about the genre right now, and it clearly draws inspiration from them. To name a few: Insidious, with its comparably cavernous, otherworldly vibe; Flatliners, with its curiosity as to what exists past the boundaries of life; and Final Destination, with its futile efforts to cheat a dogged Death.
Pet Graveyard doesn’t do great things with any of that inspiration though. It should feel like one of those films that cleverly combines the ideas of others to humorous effect, gaining cult status as a result. Sadly, it takes itself too seriously, which just doesn’t work. It neither comes across as an earnest film nor as one willing to poke fun at itself. While Spade and newbie director Rebecca Matthews do pull together a range of conceptual elements we’ve seen elsewhere, they simply don’t execute any of them as well, individually or together. They should have decided which way to lean before following Wiz Khalifa and Iggy Azalea’s advice:
Go hard or go home.
The writer-director duo didn’t do either though, pushing out an awkward, overstretched narrative that feels like it would have been more comfortable as a short film. That said, the writing is fine, even if it is a bit tropey and pedestrian. It probably doesn’t help that the cast is stuffed full of merely passable actors. The performances aren’t egregious by any stretch of the imagination; they approach decent but run out of steam just shy of it, lacking any truly compelling emotion.
It would be unfair to advise giving Pet Graveyard a miss altogether, but there are far superior alternatives around with similar plots that don’t come close to flatlining. If you have time to watch a tonne of films and you’ve perhaps had a libation or two, give it a go. If you’re pressed for time, look into the titles mentioned in this review instead.
Steven is a Scottish freelance Film & TV Journalist based in London. He earned a BA in Journalism from Edinburgh Napier University before moving onto ghost-and content-writing. Steven now covers Film & TV for various websites.