Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Dead Pit (1989)

Title: The Dead Pit (1989)

Director: Brett Leonard


Most first time directors begin their careers with a zombie film. Why? I don’t know, I guess it’s a cheap way to make a first feature film. And lets face it,  if you do things the right way,  you will more then likely make your money back cause cheap yet entertaining zombie movies always make their money back. Just ask George Romero, Zack Snyder or Dan O Bannon all of who started their directing careers with zombie movies. You can add director Brett Leonard to that list.

Story is about this demented doctor called Dr. Ramzi who enjoys experimenting with his mental patients. He likes to open up their brains and play around with them. Then, when they die, he throws them into this pit he has. Why does he have a dungeon with a supernatural pit in the basement of the psychiatric ward he works in? I don’t know, but just go with the flow here, this movie is filled with nonsensical bullshit like this! The crazy doctor is soon discovered by a colleague of his and is shot in the head and thrown into his own pit (read: express way to hell). He is locked away in the basement of the psychiatric ward where he conducted his twisted experiments. Apparently, that’s where the horror ended. Every dead body sealed and forgotten forever. Now, many years later an earthquake has unleashed his madness once again and he is looking to wreck havoc and exact his revenge upon those who shunned him.

So begins this movie. And it showed promise too! The first few minutes of this movie reminded me immediately of  Stuart Gordons Re-animator. You know, the kind of movie that opens with a bang and has this bombastic opening sequence that sets us up for what’s to unfold during the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, this movie kind of disappointed me. I was looking forward to it because I’ve enjoyed some of Brett Leonard’s other films. Lawnmower Man isn’t perfect, its CGI effects might look dated by todays standards but it isn’t completely unwatchable either. I considered Virtuosity a one up on the whole Lawnmower Man concept. I haven’t seen Man Thing, but I don’t hear good things about it. Haven’t seen Feed either. But hey at least his keeping himself busy directing the last Highlander movie Highlander: The Source. Unfortunately, that latest venture into the real of the immortals is one of the worst in the whole series. As you can see, Leonard’s list of achievements isn’t all that great. His unimpressive status still remains that way as far as I’m concerned. But what about The Dead Pit, his first feature film?

The Dead Pit was one of those straight to video movies with a cool cover art. The box had this cool aspect to it, it had a zombie on the cover coming out of some pit, and when you pressed the box in the appropriate place, the zombies eyes lit up with red lights! Great idea to get you to notice the box at the store! Did it do justice to the movie? Well yeah, there are zombies, they do come out of a pit, and one of them has his eyes light up red. But was the movie any good? Not really. Main problem for me was that the script had way too many plot holes. First off, we have a cool villain in the form of the crazy doc who likes to perform weird experiments on his mental patients. But why does he perform said experiments? Who the hell knows! He simply states that he does them because he is now “interested in death”. What?!! That’s it? Usually a doctor/scientist will have some scientific reason for his research. Like Dr. Herbert West in the Re-Animator films who conducted his experiments to try and discover the secret to immortality. But the crazy doctor from The Dead Pit? What’s he interested in discovering? Who the hell knows!! As far as I could tell, he was simply interested in opening up people and twisting their brains around with acupuncture needles! Sorry but that’s all I could get from watching this movie.

The villain is too underdeveloped. I mean, he is an interesting visual. He looks like a zombie doctor, who walks around with this needle like thing that he inserts into your eye socket. He looks evil as hell because his eyes light up red, and he looks all demonic and all, plus his got a bullet hole in his forehead and long ass demonic looking finger nails which adds to the crazy visual, but the character itself is shrouded in mystery. And not the kind of mystery that is left unsaid so it could be further developed in future movies, but underdeveloped in the sense that it had a very lazy screenplay which didn’t give us a hint into this evil characters psyche or who he was. For no reason at all, the doctor can and does resurrect the dead. No explanation is given. He can just, right out of the blue bring back people from the dead. So now you can add supernatural powers to this crazy doctors abilities.

But the problems don’t stop there. Why are zombies walking the streets for him? What is his interest in doing this? I don’t know!! But o.k., lets put the villain aside for a second. We also have the story of Jane Doe, a girl who is found wandering the streets not being able to remember who she is or anything about her past. Problem for me with this part of the movie is that it was so cheesy! The psychiatric ward she was in was not believable at all, more then anything, it was a cartoony place where we get the cliché-ish evil orderly/nurse and even worse, I thought it was hilarious that the patients in this psycho ward can walk in and out of their rooms without any kind of supervision. So we have various scenes of Jane Doe walking around the ward without anybody in the facility giving a flying fuck. Isn’t this supposed to be a place for wackos? And they are allowed to just roam free through the hallways and come out of their rooms as they please? Even funnier is the fact that Jane Doe is a major hottie! And funnier still is the fact that she walks around said ward in her ultra sexy undies. I don’t mind seeing a hot chick in a horror movie, but It just felt so forced, they simply let her walk around in her undies so we (the drooling males who are most likely to see this kind of film) could check her out. And what a fine body it is! Its one of the assets of the film, there’s one gratuitous nudity sequence in which a nurse hoses down Jane Doe and the pressure of the water is so great that it rips of Jane Does shirt and we see her glorious boobies! Holy testicle Tuesday! Great scene, but so unnecessary and obviously placed there for drooling teens and fan boys such as myself. *snicker* This is one of those movies in which the leading lady walks around naked for most of the film, so at least you have that.

Anyhows, not all is bad in Deadville. This movie was a bit boring for its first half which basically consists of the character Jane Doe having these nightmares, and though I love nightmare sequences as much as the next guy, gotta admit they felt a bit redundant. You know? First we get a nightmare sequence, then a little talk with the shrink, then nightmare sequence again…then another talk with the shrink and so on it went. To be honest, it was kind of obvious the filmmakers were very much influenced by A Nightmare on Elm Street, with the evil crazy doctor playing the Freddy Kruger role. The evil entity that visits you in your nightmares! But, finally things get interesting when the dead come out of the pit and start stalking the residents of the psycho ward. So finally, the film turns into a zombie film! But why are the zombies here? And why are they killing? And why have they been resurrected and why? Why? Why? Lots of shit happens, but, unfortunately not a whole lot of it has any reason.

Good thing this movie has going for it is we get some cool zombies and make up effects. The zombies rip open peoples skulls and rip out their brains and eat em! We get a couple of melting zombies. The one major gore sequence that is truly memorable is these sequence in which the Evil Doctor opens up a guys skull and starts doing acupuncture on his brain! And you get to see how the guy reacts to the different stimulations being done to his brain with the needles, so sometimes he laughs, sometimes he cries...really strange sequence, and its the one that I truly liked. Seriously! Can’t say you see that everyday now can ‘ya? Still, this film functions as a funny venture into 80s cheesy straight to video low budget horror films. Its got that sleazy feel to it, you know, lots of gratuitous nudity, a memorable looking villain, nonsensical violence…cheap looking sets, cheap looking everything. But one that’s cool to make fun off as you watch. Nothing more.

Rating: 2 out of 5

The Dead Pit


I Like Horror Movies said...

I have to agree here as well, I wanted to like this one more than I did, but it is riddled with flaws with only a few gory payoffs. I do like the red eyes in any film though, they always creep the shit outta me

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, that image with the crazy doctor with the demonic red eyes I liked, but its ultimately a dissapointing film.

This director has had many duds in his life...I mean, that recent Highlander 5 The Source...my god, what an embarassment!


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