The Dead Pit (1989)

DVD Cover (Code Red DVD)
Genres: Horror, Slasher Film, Supernatural Horror, Zombie Film
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Brett Leonard Brett Leonard
Jeremy Slate Jeremy Slate
Cheryl Lawson Cheryl Lawson
Stephen Gregory Foster Stephen Gregory Foster
Danny Gochnauer Danny Gochnauer
Geha Getz Geha Getz

5.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: June 19, 2008
Creating brilliant cover designs has become something of a lost art over the last decade or so - honestly, have you seen any DVDs recently that have made you want to purchase them based on the cover art alone? It seems like the vast majority of DVDs being released today go the "floating heads and a review blurb" route, but if we're lucky, we might get something that will pull a "Hey, that's sort of neat" reaction out of us. Things were different back in the eighties... much, much different. Back then, cover art was just that: art. Even the shittiest release on the shelf would have an awesome cover, and that brings us to tonight's film.

You see, when The Dead Pit was originally released on VHS, the cover featured a zombie crawling out of a hole in the ground, and just to make things more interesting, his eyes would blink red. Yes, this was one of the few battery-operated movie covers that I've seen in my time, and really, who could pass up renting something like that? That badass cover was still fresh in my mind after almost two decades even though I couldn't remember a damned thing about the movie itself, so when I saw that it was finally getting a DVD release, there was no way in hell that I could pass it up.

The storyline... damn, the storyline. Before I get into that, let me point out that this is one of those movies where things happen simply to advance the plot. Now, I realize that plot advancement sort of comes standard with just about every release, but this is one of those movies where you just have to accept that things happen with little rhyme or reason. When you see a doctor murdering patients and throwing their bodies in a pit, you'll find yourself wondering why he's doing that. By the time you realize that the filmmakers are asking us to accept him coming back from the dead to fuck with the heroine before going back to his final resting spot so that an earthquake can resurrect him once again and allow him to raise his army of the dead in an attempt to slaughter the entire cast, you just won't care about silly things like continuity or plausibility. Would you believe that director Brett Leonard's next film would be The Lawnmower Man?

So, we kick things off in a mental institution, where we witness the classic case of "Good Doc" and "Bad Doc" play out before our very eyes. It seems as though Dr. Colin Ramzi (Danny Gochnauer) has taken a fancy to shoving icepicks through the eyes of his patients before taking them down to the cellar and literally playing with their brains, and after he finishes with them, he nonchalantly tosses their bodies in a huge pit before moving on to the next victim. It should go without saying that this doesn't sit too well with Dr. Gerald Swan (Jeremy Slate), who promptly pulls out his trusty .357 and puts a bullet between Ramzi's eyes when he discovers what's going on. Instead of bringing this grisly discovery to the attention of the authorities, he simply leaves Ramzi's body down there with his victims, slaps a fresh coat of paint over the door, and forgets all about it until...

Twenty years later, a patient is admitted to the institution with a severe case of amnesia. Well, it seems like amnesia to all of the sane folks at this fine establishment, but Jane Doe (Cheryl Lawson) insists that somebody has cut her memories out and stolen them. Obviously, nobody is buying her story, but demolition expert Christian Meyers (Stephen Gregory Foster) lends a sympathetic ear and... wait, demolition expert? You think there's any chance that will come up later on in the film? Anyway, Jane starts having ghastly visions and terrifying dreams, and when an earthquake breaks the seal (you know, that coat of paint) it allows Ramzi to come back from the dead and continue his reign of terror. Even though he's a ghost and can appear and disappear at will, he has no problems picking off patients and staff members one by one. Then, after he's had his fun, he does some mumbo jumbo down in the basement and brings his now-rotting victims from twenty years ago back to life as the walking dead so that they can completely stamp out any trace of life in this hospital.

If it seems like the filmmakers took an insanely simple storyline - zombies rise from the dead to terrorize patients at a mental institution - and made it needlessly complicated, you're right. Would you believe that director Brett Leonard's next film would be The Lawnmower Man? Oh, right, I pointed that out already. Now, let it be known that I have nothing against zombie films that try to stray away from the usual formulas, but this storyline was just unbearable. Making it even worse was the fact that I saw some potential in this plot; granted, it's a little far-fetched, but wasn't everything in the eighties? However, when you're already tripping over plot holes before the freaking intro credits have finished rolling, you know you're in trouble.

Alright, so the storyline was laughable at best - pass on this one, right? Well, not so fast - The Dead Pit does have its moments and it's not a complete waste of time. You don't go into a horror film like this for life-changing storylines, and if you can accept that, you'll find that there's actually some good stuff in here. It starts off as a supernatural slasher film, and this piece of the film comes with everything you'd expect from a genre release of the eighties: cheesy one-liners, inventive kill techniques, and of course, buckets of blood. There's also those dream sequences that I mentioned up above, and while they really have no place in the storyline itself, they're nice to look at (wait until you see the "death by hose" scene). It's not the best thing you'll ever see, but you could do much worse.

The film then turns into your standard zombie flick after an hour or so has passed, and again, you really can't complain too much about the way that this was handled. The zombie makeup effects are a little lackluster, but their creepy movements and some surprisingly good lighting effects more than makes up for that. Of course, there's also some good gore effects once they get their hands on the living, and again, it's not the best zombie film that you'll ever seen, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

As the star of the film, Cheryl Lawson is... well, she looks good in a tank top and panties (her attire of choice for seventy percent of the film), and she sure does have a set of pipes on her. I don't want to be mean, so let's just put it like this: this was her first film, and after starring in it, she'd go on to have a few minor roles here and there before becoming a stuntwoman (you might have saw her work in Spider-Man 2 and The Scorpion King). Got an idea of how captivating her performance must have been? Alright, the rest of the cast wasn't much better, and in some cases, they were worse. You don't go to a horror film (and certainly not an eighties horror film) for great acting, but sometimes, you just can't help but notice how awful it is.

So, bottom line: is it worth your money? That depends on what you look for in a film. If you want a strong storyline with interesting characters and surprising twists, stay far away from this release. If, however, you want a film that you can poke fun at while downing a couple of cold ones and if you want to see some slightly above average gore effects, give it a shot. Don't rush out to purchase it, but if it's a slow release week and you're itching to spend some money, you could do worse. It's not a horrible film, but it's not a particularly memorable one either. 5/10.
grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 06/19/2008, 03:16 PM
I have the VHS with the blinking eyes, the lights don't work anymore and the protruding zombie is cracked though..
Zombieboy #2: Zombieboy - added 12/30/2008, 10:31 AM
I have that VHS tape also! One of my prizes. Bless the 80's for their packaging!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Death by hose scene...awesome. Great panties ;)
I loved how the zombies moved. It made them scary. Having grown up less than 6 miles from a huge abandoned insane asylum, this was a fun one. FINALLY a dvd!
Hellknight03 #3: Hellknight03 - added 07/02/2009, 09:45 PM
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