THE PIT (1981)
WRITER: Ian A. Stuart
DIRECTOR: Lew Lehman
STARRING: Sammy Snyders as Jamie Benjamin
Jeannie Elias as Sandy O'Reilly
QUICK CUT: A touching story of a boy and his teddy bear frolicking in the woods.
Jamie - A troubled young man with no friends, an unhealthy obsession with women as he's maturing in some ways, and in some ways not, with an overactive imagination. He could be a good kid, and in some ways he is, but he is on a dangerous path that could lead to being a sociopath.
Sandy - A college student hired by Jamie's parents to look over the house, and keep an eye on him as they do...something. She's worked with kids before, and has a lot of helpful insights, even though Jamie's case challenges even her knowledge.
TRISK ANALYSIS: Welcome back, Triskelions, to yet another review here. I thought it was just about time to get around to this little known, Canadian made (but filmed in Wisconsin) horror flick, called The Pit. I've had it sitting around for ages, but kept getting side tracked. And really, there's been some great piles of cheese in the interim. But anyways, let's get into this.
The movie opens up at what appears be a Halloween party, as a ghost floats through the kids, searching out one in particular. We get a brief flashback to the kid punching the ghost under the sheet in the face wicked hard, and then back to the present. Did he punch Jamie so hard, he killed him??
Jamie leads Freddie and his friend Christina out into the woods, with promises of a bag full of treasure, and then shoves Freddie into the titular Pit. Not even at the credits yet, and already a death. That's how I like it.
We then jump back to the past after the credits, although this is never made clear transitionally. We are left to figure it out through context clues.
Jamie is being punished with the classic Bart Simpsons blackboard style punishment, and is eventually sent home from school. The teacher flips through the book of nude photography he had, and takes it back to the city library.
Back home, Jamie's parents are interviewing a young lady to take care of their home and Jamie while they're away for a bit. For some reason, they're leaving the plot early. Something is said about them moving to Oklahoma? I really don't know.
While that's going on, Jamie goes up to Freddie and asks, hey wait... Okay, so that's where we figure out this is in the past. As the plot trundles along, we do get some insight into Jamie's character, through dialogue from the mom and a few scenes here and there, showing that's he awkward and has no friends. I can relate.
Jamie is one of those kids, on the edge of puberty, and he is becoming VERY interested in girls, in an almost obsessive, dangerous way. And he takes a liking to Sandy, so I guess she'll be sticking around.
While they get to know each other, after his parents leave the plot, Sandy drops a knife. Jamie tries to get it, but she's a capable, 80s woman who can do for herself! But look, Sands, if you're taking care of a kid, who EXCITEDLY shouts "I'll get it!!" when you drop a knife, and is very upset when you don't let him...GET OUT.
Sandy tells Jamie to go out and play, but he decides to go talk to Teddy instead. And yes, Teddy is his imaginary friend, voiced through his teddy bear, and with Jamie's voice.
This is a lot of time spent not doing a whole heck of a lot, but it's decent enough character building. It slowly builds up all the quirks of Jamie in a decent way. My biggest complaint is when we cut away to the librarian, and her niece who keeps also bullying Jamie. It's more character stuff, but we get enough to know who they are, during the other scenes.
Over breakfast the next day, Jamie tells Sandy about His Secret, he has a hole in the woods, that has creatures living inside it, that he calls tra-la-logs. And I am not typing that every time. They are trogs. Let it henceforth be known.
Sandy doesn't really take him seriously, since it sounds like more of his childish fantasies, but he rushes out to the woods, and we get to see them. Which doesn't prove they're real, just that JAMIE sees them...
After spending some time at a football game and meeting Sandy's boyfriend, we spin around doing more character stuff, the librarian's niece playing a prank on Jamie...you know, the way they treat him, it's understandable why he snaps. I honestly can't say the inevitable murder spree is surprising.
Sandy's cleaning up, confused at Jamie having nudey mags and still playing with stuffed animals, and also the bear suddenly moves on its own, which leaves me with many questions that go unanswered.
Later, she questions Jamie, concerned that he has no friends, but hey, he's got his bear, and his pets, and the trogs that he can talk to! And again, I relate waay too much to this kid.
Sandy grabs an encyclopedia or something, flips through it, and has Jamie read out about troglodytes. She also says that 'trolls' are in the book too, and they exist only in fairy tales, and that's all the trogs are. Um. Are...are we insinuating that troglodytes aren't real?
We get MORE character stuff and interactions, and if this wasn't so well acted, I'd be bored as hell. Also, with all the 'sohrry's I keep hearing from Jamie, I knew instinctively this was a Canadian production. On top of that, the pacing, the style, the look of it, this almost feels like a refugee from the 1970s more than an 80s movie.
Jamie's also trying to figure out what the trogs eat, and not having much luck, and they probably don't have a lot of choices stuck down in the hole. Which raises so many more questions like where they even came from, but don't get me started.
He finally clues in on hey, maybe they eat meat, and he bops on down to the butcher shop to pick up as much cheap meat as the money he has can buy. He throws it all down the hole, and they gobble it up. Man, you gotta spread that out and make your money last.
Since he pissed away all the meat, and money, he goes and steals some from Sandy to get his second batch. Well, what are you gonna do tomorrow, pal??
He asks Teddy for advice, and the bear promises to think of something, and hoo. Jamie has issues, doesn't he? The casualness and earnestness of the conversation is a little chilling.
In case that wasn't clear enough already by the previous 45 minutes, Jamie plays a prank on the librarian, phoning up with a recording, that her niece has been kidnapped, and demanding she strip in front of a window to get her back, while taking pictures.
He tries to come up with more ways to feed the trogs, from stealing an entire side of beef, to dragging a cow to the hole, until he relents and lets Bessie go home.
After the wacky trying to grab random animals montage, he asks Teddy for advice, and he suggests, muuuurder. Jamie agrees, but only to killing bad people. Now, we are Venom.
Little Dexter Morgan's first victim is naturally, Abergail..wait really? That's her name? I refuse to accept that spelling. Ahem. Anyways, he lures the librarian's niece out there by preying on her vanity, saying he knows a trail that no GIRL could ride on her bike. And thus we see the buildings of a little sociopath, using emotions they don't quite understand, to make others do their bidding.
Abergail storms out of the woods after he steals her bike, and stomps right at him and into the Pit and HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THAT GIANT HOLE.
From there, he goes to the old blind lady in a wheelchair who was mean to him earlier, and takes her chair, pushes her ALL the way to the Pit, which we have been told is a mile or so away, and dumps her in.
And I'm gonna be very un-PC for a moment at just how much this cracks me up. I do not support or like this content, but it is shot so over the top. And the idea of him pushing her out of the town, into the woods, through the forest trail, with her shouting the entire way just...yeah.
From there, we get treated to what is essentially an extended murder montage, which makes me forgive the long build up. Mostly. It's hilarious, over the top, and it just keeps going as he grabs all the people who have been mean to him throughout the movie, and Sandy's boyfriend too.
After he takes care of most everyone, he can't think of anyone else to murder, but Teddy has a few ideas to put into his head.
Namely, Freddy and his friend Christina, who punched Jamie earlier. Jamie gets into a ghost costume and attends a costume party and waaaait a second.
Oh I am so happy I get to dust this off, because I love this image, and it has been too long since it's been used.
The scene plays out exactly the same, with no additions, so that was padding. But at least it gave us some death to start the movie, because it would've been a long slog with NOTHING until the murder montage, otherwise
It does at least continue beyond Freddy's death, as he takes out Christina too. The trogs are eating good tonight.
Meanwhile, oh hey, Sandy has realised her boyfriend is missing, and confronts Jamie about it. He taunts her, so she slaps him. He tells her its the only way he could feed the trogs, she STILL doesn't believe him, and she agrees to go with him to see them.
Sandy tries to convince Jamie to let her call the scientists in, since this is a major find, but he's reluctant. And then she slips and falls in the Pit, getting eaten up by the trogs.
Jamie's parents decide to return back to the movie, and the police come to inquire about the missing babysitter. The kid gives a bad description of the 'kidnapper' and the car, and they actually somehow find the guy. Including the photos Jamie took of the librarian, and the little girl's tutu.
Wow. This is...Hannibal Lecter levels of pre planning and framing. I'm really impressed at our budding baby sociopath.
Since he's killed all the bad people in town, and Jamie's not about to bend his morals, he goes out to visit the trogs and tell him he's done killing for them! And thus the movie ends and ahahahaha, nope. Jamie tosses a rope down the Pit so they can take care of themselves.
"Hey, I'm done doing your murders, but here, I'll leave a rope here so I can unleash you upon the entire town!"
Jamie keeps seeing the bloody spectre of Sandy around, and he talks to Teddy about it. Teddy tells him its just a manifestation of the kid's guilt. He didn't PUSH her in, she tripped, and he TRIED to help her... Dude, Teddy is pretty damned insightful.
And with that, Jamie pretty much falls out of the final 15 minutes of the movie as we deal more with the cops with their investigation, the trogs running rampant around the edges of town, and the manhunt to destroy the creatures. So uh...we're just gonna forget the whole plot of the movie for this now? A bit late in the game to pull a Simpsons plot switch, yes?
So really, we spend an entire last act just watching the trogs murder and be hunted, with every familiar face in the movie up to this point completely shoved aside?? This is a major pacing problem. Jamie's story just kinda ups and...disappears?
Hello random people we've never met before, but need to be introduced because the movie already killed everyone else and we need a final act.
The trogs beat feet back to the Pit, jump in, and the hunters all arrive, shooting them very very dead in a hail of bullets. Then bring in the bulldozers and dirt to fill in the mass grave.
We should really be done now, but the movie gives us one last scene of Jamie, since this is HIS FREAKING STORY being dropped off at his nana's farm and meeting the girl next door. They instantly hit it off, and YAY he will finally have a real friend!
They wander off into the woods to play, and they come across the Pit 2...and the girl pushes him in, since she's the female Jamie, knows the trogs around these parts, and is feeding them.
Wow, this raises so many MORE questions. First of all, what a coincidence. And B) how has no one discovered these things yet? And 3) Who will take care of Teddy?? Will no one think of Teddy?!
Video: It looks pretty good, considering the sort of movie it is. Maybe a little on the dull side, but that's more the time it was made than anything else.
Audio: A little soft in the audio, but it does the trick.
Body Count: A nice pile of bodies this time out!
1 - Two and a half minutes in, and already Freddie gets shoved in the pit.
2 - Abigail gets fed to the trogs after a LONG break, but brace yourselves...
3 - Old blind woman in a wheelchair gets shoved in the hole
4 - Sandy's boyfriend goes to the endzone and falls in the hole.
5 - Freddie's friend Christina gets added to the hole after the redone Freddie death.
6 - Sandy slips and falls in the hole.
7 - Random bits of meat found dead.
8 - A random girl mostly intact found nearby.
9 - Random swimmer lady gets taken
10 - Random swimmer dude gets tackled.
11 - The great tra-la-log massacre
12 - Jamie gets shoved to his own fate.
Best Corpse: I won't go with the one that made me laugh the most, that's wrong. Instead, I'll go with Sandy's boyfriend who went running for the catch, and straight into the pit.
Blood Type - C: It's perfectly serviceable, with bits of blood when the trogs get hungry, and especially in the scenes with Sandy being eaten they really go for it. Still, it's not a lot, and there's a few points for the monsters, but we never get a great look at them.
Sex Appeal: There's some bare breasts sprinkled throughout the film.
Drink Up! Every time someone says Sohrry.
Video Nasties: Here's the scene of Jamie kidnapping an old woman in a wheelchair...
Movie Review: There's some decent work being done here, although if you take a step back and look at the larger picture...this really doesn't work. It should be about whether the monsters are real, and honestly, the big reveal should be that they AREN'T and Jamie is very troubled, and made these creatures up to excuse his actions. Which sure sounds familiar to last week's movie, yes? Dropping every familiar character for 15 whole minutes in the final act is a mess, it takes a long time to get to the good stuff then rushes through it. I feel like this movie was caught between the transition from the 70s to 80s, as sensibilities changed, and deeper character pieces of the 70s gave way to the flashier 80s. It tried to serve both, and ended up excelling at nothing. But it's still a lot better than some things I've seen, and it could have been worse. It's not bad, but it's very, very flawed. Three out of five dropped knives.
Entertainment Value: If this movie has any strengths, and it actually does, they lie in the performances of Jamie and Sandy. The entire movie, or at least most of it until the final act, hinges on those characters. Jamie's acting is very good, and really sells this mixture of innocence, trying to figure life out, and failing. He plays well off of Sandy, and they have some chemistry together. There's some good camp and silliness to it, and thankfully the slower first half is well done and interesting, so it's still entertaining. Four out of five cows.
Tra-la-log, tra-la-la-log, tra-la-log, tra-la-la-log...