Director – Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Man-Thing)
Starring – Jeremy Slate (My Name is Earl, Starman), Cheryl Lawsom (Reckoning, Virtuosity), and Stephen Gregory Foster (Baywatch, Joan of Acadia)
Release Date – 1989
Rating – 3/5
Blu Release – 2.5/5
Genre – “Drop in anytime”
I grew up on 80s and 90s movies. When I was younger I would rent any genre from the local video store. I honestly didn’t give a fuck if it was horror, sci-fi, comedy, action, and so on. I was a cinema fan. When I started to obsess over horror in the early 2000s I found myself drawn to 80s horror. The style, the music, the sets, and the practical effects usually make for a fun time.
Several years back I came across a DVD of the 1989 Code Red release The Dead Pit. I had never seen the film before but the price was super cheap on the DVD so I grabbed it. I never found the time to check it out. A few weeks back Code Red partnered with Dark Force Entertainment to re-release the film on blu with a collectable glow in the dark sleeve and I was lucky enough to get a copy.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows a Jane Doe who is being taken to a mental asylum until she is able to regain her memory. The asylum is a strange place and she tries to survive but she keeps feeling as if something sinister is lurking in the basement. What she doesn’t know is that a doctor was killed there 20 years prior by the active doctor after it was discovered that he was doing inhumane experiments on the patients trying to cheat death. Her arrival coincided with an earthquake that has stirred the Earth beneath the asylum and waking the dead doctor along with his legion of undead mental patients. **Spoiler Alert**
Horror flicks from the 80s have a certain charm about them. Some horror fans refuse to admit that some movies from this decade were bad so they say shit like “the movie is so bad that its good” or “its bad but so much fun.” I have a hard time with labeling movies like that. If I had fun with the movie then I consider it a successful film. A movie’s intent is to entertain the viewer.
The Dead Pit is one of those movies that horror fans either love or hate so when Dark Force and Code Red announced a blu release of it was met with skepticism and excitement. Some of my horror friends that liked the film was actually pretty excited for this release while others scoffed at the idea. When Dark Force initially announced the blu release they wanted to do a light up sleeve similar to the old Frankenhooker VHS from back in the day.
Sadly, this fell through and they went with a glow in the dark slip with an embossed cover. This was cool when I was in elementary school and it was a Goosebumps folder but as an adult I can’t justify spending $35 for a bluray with an embossed glow in the dark slip that will fade and flatten over time when you put it on the shelf with other films in your collection. Hell, $20 for the movie I just watched was pushing it. The movie was fun once I reached the 45 minute mark but up until that point I felt like it was a huge mistake throwing it in the bluray player.
The acting in this one is rather rough even when compared to the no budget horror films that I typically review. The cast doesn’t feel attached to their characters and their performance reflects that. Many of the scenes that has something pivotal to the story lacks the desired impact because the cast is just lazily going through their dialogue. With that being said, Cheryl Lawson is a screamer. She puts every fiber in her being into her scream. It’s so loud that it will quickly get on your nerves and force you to turn the volume down.
The story for this one does not work for a film that is an hour and forty minutes long. I liked the story as a whole but the first forty minutes is a pain to sit through. The undead mental patients in the basement was a fucking cool angle but the movie takes way too long to get any momentum and is rather predictable once we get to the meat of the film. A good 30 minutes or so could be shaved off this film to make it more enjoyable. There was several times I caught myself falling asleep and had to get up to walk around. A movie should not put the viewer to sleep. With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the last 30 minutes of the film as predictable as it is.
Finally, the film does have some on screen death but it’s not the deaths that draws the viewer’s attention. It’s actually the effects for the evil doctor’s crude experiments on his patients. These effects are fucking fantastic and a few of the gags actually had me rewinding to take a better look at. I was not expecting this quality of practical effects from this oddball horror film. Overall, The Dead Pit is far from perfect but it was well worth my time. The blu release from Dark Force and Code Red does not justify the $35 price tag. The glow in the dark embossed slip will not withstand being placed on a shelf with other blus and the special features are minimum. If the film is released late in a standard blu for $15 or $20 I would suggest picking it up.