Reviews

Reviews

The Pit

The Pit

Lew Lehman

Canada, 1981

Credits

Review by Thomas Scalzo

Posted on 20 December 2004

Source Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD

When twelve-year-old social reject Jamie Benjamin stumbles across a deep pit housing centuries-old troglodytes, he takes it upon himself to see that the creatures are well fed. But the finances of a twelve-year-old go only so far. After stealing both money and meat prove to be dead ends, Jamie decides to take the advice of his perverse teddy bear and lure all the unfriendly members of town into the inescapable bowls of The Pit.

One of the odder horror film antagonists you’ll likely come across, Jamie Benjamin is in actuality more of a victim of circumstance and manipulation than a cold-blooded killer. Ignored by his parents, raised by a string of negligent babysitters, shuttled from town to town and school to school, and unable to establish any significant human relationships, the boy inevitably develops an intense, unhealthy bond with his teddy bear. Just what Teddy’s specific motivations are remain unclear, but his perverted, murder-hungry attitude coupled with Jamie’s mounting frustration with society makes for a fascinating horror dynamic.

And while viewing the elaborate get-them-in-the-pit plans of Jamie and Teddy is great fun, particularly watching the old woman in the wheelchair get hers, it’s also worthwhile to keep an eye out for the slew of subtly ridiculous lines the film has to offer, especially any and all utterances by Jamie’s latest babysitter. From the paradoxical claim that “it’s bedtime and bath time as well,” to the confusingly sexist remark that “women nowadays can do things for themselves,” her character is never at a loss for bizarre statements.

Unfortunately, The Pit falters a bit during the end of the film’s second act, when the action is dominated by a full police investigation into the unsolved deaths, and Jamie and Teddy are conspicuously absent from the screen for a sizeable chunk of time. In and of themselves, these law enforcement scenes are entertaining enough, involving bungling cops, topless girls, and rampaging troglodytes, but directing viewer attention away from the most compelling aspect of the film, the relationship of Jamie and Teddy, is simply unforgivable.

Nevertheless, The Pit has, to date, consumed nearly ten hours of my existence, and I do not doubt but that I’ll watch it again sometime in the near future. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why the story of an awkward twelve-year-old, his teddy bear, and a pit full of ancient creatures has such a hold on my imagination. Yes, the murderous teddy bear is strangely compelling, and yes the deaths at the hands of the trogs are consistently entertaining. But there is something else at work here. Maybe it’s the pleasure of reveling in a film so representative of the endearing innocence of early ’80s horror, or perhaps it’s the singular performance by Sammy Snyders as Jamie, pulling off scene after believable scene with nothing but a teddy bear to work with. Whatever it is, The Pit stands out as a truly original film, and one not easily forgotten.

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