BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
When Canadians do horror, good things tend to happen. The Pit, directed by Lew Lehman, is a great example of that statement. Released in 1981, this low budget horror film tells the tale of a weird kid who stumbles upon something stranger than himself deep in the woods behind his hometown. It is a b-movie that delivers one surprise after another. You think it’s going to trudge off in the most rudimentary of ways possible as solely an exploration of youthful weirdness and puberty and then – BLAMMO! – the film deals one unexpected shock after another, winding up to be an unforgettable experience. It's cult following is serious and much-deserved.
Going in, I had somewhat low expectations. I knew The Pit was about a social misfit that plagues the women in his town. I also knew there was a mystery attached to it, but that’s where my knowledge of the film began and ended. Due to its limited availabilit, I had never seen it. And maybe my lack of knowledge raised my reactions to its supernatural surprises. Whatever the reason for it, Lewman’s film absolutely casts a solid spell.
The film is quite clever. It begins with the child creep at the center of the narrative (who is dressed as a ghost for a Halloween party) luring a few of his classmates into the woods. “I have sumtin’ to show ya,” the kid beneath the shapeless white sheet says over and over. With threats to kick his ass if he tricks them, they eventually take his bait. His hook ends with a healthy shove into a very deep pit. Startling, yes, but it is what gobbles them up from within that pit that will terrify you the most. You see, the weirdo is wildlife zookeeper intern of sorts.
Filmed in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, I was immediately drawn in by the familiar look to the buildings that comprise its Main Street. Jamie's hometown was MY town when growing up. Many old main streets look this way, complete with a city building in the center of town. It’s charming and is a perfect backdrop to this wicked tale of over-sized critters and creeps.
Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders of Hucleberry Finn and His Friends television fame) is one odd duck. He’s only 12 and already has a VERY unhealthy fascination with women and their bodies. He also hears verbal commands from his teddy bear. So, yeah, we have a 12-year-old who routinely sneaks into bathrooms to spy on showering women, cuts out pictures of nude women in books and magazines he then mails to other women in the community, and hasn’t a single friend in town talking to his teddy bear. It’s not a good combination.
With a target firmly attached to his name, Jamie gets put-down and bullied by everyone in the small town. From the kiddos at school to the old ladies in wheelchairs, no compassion or understanding is tossed to him. Only his new babysitter, Sandy (Jeannie Elias), treats him with any amount of respect. She’s also nice to look at. Jamie often drops things to get a good glance up her skirt. Thinking she has the patience to work with him, she agrees to watch him for an extended amount of time when his parents leave for a couple of days.
Jamie kicks his weirdness into high gear. He has to. His recent discovery in the woods – weird creatures with yellow eyes deep in a pit – must be fed. He steals from Sandy, listens to his teddy bear, and runs ragged around the town looking for raw meat to plop into their reaching clawed hands. When he runs low on funds, his teddy bear suggests he start using all the people who teased him as food for these creatures. Jamie does exactly that. One bully after another is pushed, dropped, or rolled into that deep and dank pit.
The noises and screams heard over the ripping of flesh and crunching of bones will disturb you for days on end. But when will the sacrifices stop? That’s the territory the b-movie explores with deadly precision. Kino-Lorber, amping up their b-movie releases, has seen fit to issue the film on blu-ray this week. It is, in fact, a delicious treat that fans of schlock will want to taste for themselves.
Complete with a shocker of an ending, The Pit is one hole that will never be filled. Why would we want it to be? Explore it at your own risk because the Tra-la-logs ARE real.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 96 mins
Director: Lew Lehman
Writer: Ian A. Stuart
Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits
Tagline: Jamie wouldn't kill anyone... unless Teddy told him to!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Abergail's missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren't they? And Freddy and Christina... They don't eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?"
Theatrical Distributor: New World Pictures
Release Date: October 23, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 18, 2016
Synopsis: A solitary and strange preteen boy wreaks revenge on his harassers when he makes a disturbing discovery in the depth of a forest..
Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray - October 18, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Kino-Lorber puts The Pit out on blu-ray with a fine 1080p transfer. The first thing you will notice is the amount of grain in the picture. That upgrade comes at a time when the film’s original print fade was noticeable, so there is a brightness to a lot of the frames. Skin saturation is of quality here, so are the details in the shoot. This includes the over appearance of the terrifying tra-la-logs. They are upscaled, too. A lot of details went into the fuzzy mugs and there’s not a lot of screen time for them. What we do get to see of them in this new transfer is superb, though. The sound – presented here in a 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix – adequately handles the creepy aspects of the film.
There is a good commentary from film historians Paul Corupe and Jason Pichonsky attached to the release.
Kino continues to supply their lesser-known titles with some quality supplemental items with this release. With The Pit, you get new interviews with both Sammy Snyders and Jeannie Elias. Both talk about making the movie, their career, and their experiences with the shoot. They even wax poetically about the town they shot the film in. Screenwriter Ian Stuart’s new interview is a definite must-see, though. He’s pretty dry, but he reveals much about the film, his intention in writing it, how it changed, AND the face of how the nude scenes were shot because the director’s wife wouldn’t let him shoot them. Interesting stuff indeed. The final interview is with composer Victor Davies, who discusses his role in designing the film’s score.
- Sammy Snyders Interview (16 min)
- Jeannie Elias Interview (7 min)
- Ian Stuart Interview (13 min)
- Victor Davies Interview (8 min)