THE PIT (1981)
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Caught up with this Canadian horror flick for the first time, just recently and have to say not only is it really out-there story-wise, but features one of the creepiest kids I’ve ever seen in a movie. Twelve-year-old Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders) is a strange, perverted boy that obviously has no friends and gets picked-on in school, when not being punished for bringing in nudie magazines. He has a teddy bear that he talks to…and it talks back…and he’s discovered a pit in the woods that is home to a group of hairy, humanoid creatures he dubs Tra-la-logs….no, I’m not making this up. Twisted Jamie is delighted when his parents go away and nubile and pretty Sandy O’Reilly (Jeannie Elias) comes to stay over and babysit. Now Jamie bides his time between watching her sleep and shower and luring those who have wronged him to the pit as food for his new friends. Ah, the life of a typical twelve-year-old! What horrors are in store for sweet and unsuspecting Sandy and who will next fall victim to his vicious pets?
As written by Ian A. Stuart the story is obviously all over the place and he really has created a disturbing kid in the perverted, vengeful Jamie. The character is very unsettling and you like him no more than the other kids and adults in the neighborhood. As directed by Lew Lehman, though, this is a very slow paced and strange flick that is actually very by-the-numbers despite all there is for a filmmaker to exploit. There are some goofy moments, as the film has a touch of twisted humor, and some very unsettling parts, too, such as Jaime’s habit of watching his pretty sitter when she is vulnerable, such as in the shower or asleep. How this girl stays in the house with him after the first night is beyond me. Then there is the bizarre twists of these creatures he finds, which provide some surprisingly gory moments when Jamie (all too easily) begins to lure bad kids and mean adults to the pit as snacks. Despite all there is to enjoy here, it still seems like Lehman could have had a lot more fun with the oddball story. The film could have taken some of it’s bizarre plot elements a lot further and it is the sheer absurdity of the story and creepiness of it’s main character that make it as entertaining as it is. The flick definitely needed a bit more reveling in it’s exploitation elements as the direction is a bit too laid back, even with that tinge of humor, for a story like this.
As for the cast, Snyders gives us one creepy kid. This perverted and homicidal kid is really disturbing. He thinks nothing of killing those who he sees as having wronged him and his sexual advances on the adorable and likable Sandy are really unsettling. As for Sandy, Jeannie Elias gives us a very endearing young lady who is becoming well aware that her charge is not an ordinary kid. She tries to deal with him as best she can and it makes the character even more likable that she works so hard to deal with Jamie’s creepy behavior.
Overall, the flick is creepy entertainment and even has some gruesome moments, but is held back, somewhat, by the need for livelier direction. With an audacious plot like this and with such an outwardly disturbing main character, it seems the filmmakers could have really gone for broke and made this a real hoot. It does creep us out and has it’s entertainment value, but at times, almost seems like it’s holding back while it should take the ball and run with it. Definitely worth a look for 80s horror fans, but at the same time, could have really taken itself into midnight movie territory, if it just had a bit more fun with it’s perversions and absurdities.
2 and 1/2 Tra-la-logs.