Directed by Brett Leonard [Other horror films: The Lawnmower Man (1992), Hideaway (1995), Man-Thing (2005), Feed (2005)]
The Dead Pit is an interesting movie, and I don’t think it’s spoken about near as much as it should be. Far be it for me to call it a classic, I will say that, though I’ve only seen it twice now, it’s an extremely fun and somewhat unique experience from the late 1980’s, and by-and-large, I love it.
Star Cheryl Lawson was never really in much, and her only other venture into the horror genre was The Vineyard (1989), but she did reasonably well here, and she got topless once, so who would complain? Seriously, I thought her performance here was good, and she worked well with Stephen Gregory Foster (who himself is a bit of a nobody, but his character here was by far the best). Jeremy Slate was solid in his role, and while he didn’t do much, I liked Danny Gochnauer’s look in the movie.
There’s a lot of atmosphere here, and the opening sequence, a nine-minute origin story to the titular dead pit, was fantastic, and really brought the intrigue into the movie quick. After we finally get the title (in a really hideous text, making it one of the more questionable things in the movie), we’re introduced to a creepy old psychiatric hospital, a seemingly demonic, insane doctor, and a pit of bodies hidden in the basement of one of the old buildings. Talk about a great set-up.
There’s only one place where the movie starts feeling a bit drowsy, and that’s when it turns from an almost slasher/demon type-story into a typical zombie movie. It doesn’t finish off that way, and the ending itself is pretty solid (along with an expected, yet still cool, flashback reveal), but still, a generic zombie massacre, even if it comes with okay gore, didn’t really gel with me, though it makes complete sense in the context of the story.
Another thing I liked here, and that was the color scheme. There are times when green and red lights are used to good effect, and while it’s not nearly as artsy as something Argento might do, it still brought a little flare to the film.
I don’t hear The Dead Pit brought up that often, which I think is a shame, because while a few parts might be hokey (the glowing eyes, for instance), it has a lot going for it, and I genuinely think it’s a solid movie, and one of the better flicks from the late 1980’s.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.