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A Movie A Day: THE PIT (1981)
They don’t eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first 2009 Horror Movie A Day. [For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.] So, I’m dropping the title “Horror Movie A Day” out of respect for Brian Collins’ blog with with same title which he has been running 365 for a few years now. I initially titled this column HMAD as the horror diversion of my A Movie A Day column last year. Horror Movie A Day seemed fitting, but Collins’ blog did start first, so I’m just going to revert it back to my A Movie A Day title. We’ll just have to take it as AMAD: Halloween Edition! On to today’s movie, THE PIT! Hrmm… Yeah, so this one didn’t quite work out. I mean the movie, not the write-up... I think. I watched this film before I boarded my plane to Ireland and now I write this up from my hotel room before venturing out into Belfast to find my adorably accented Irish wife. She is here somewhere, I know it. It’s very possible I’m going to gloss over this movie. Hell, I kinda glossed over myself while watching it. It’s not a very good movie. It’s the kind of flick you see with an interesting premise and flawed execution… It’s the kind of movie they should be remaking, in other words. THE PIT focuses on a bullied kid who is, I think, autistic… or maybe just a weirdo. Like all kids in these kinds of movies he has to have no friends so that he’ll listen when his teddy bear starts talking to him (in a voice that sounds strangely like his own), urging him to push these bastard kids into a hole he found in the woods filled with trapped carnivorous mutants. See, awesome premise. Could be a really fun, dark crazy early ‘80s horror movie, but for all the promise the film feels relatively toothless, playing more like an after school special that dips into weirdness. The Pit actually has some entertainment value to it, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested. This one feels like a slightly better assembled BEWARE! CHILDREN AT PLAY. The Troma flick had a much bigger WTF?!? ending, but was horribly hobbled together whereas THE PIT is a more competent film without anything as attention-grabbing happening as the ending of Beware!

Now I’m struggling for something else to say and I’m just drawing a blank. I can’t tell you if that’s because of a jet-lagged, tired brain failing to recall anything worth mentioning from the movie or if it really is that forgettable, but either way I think I’m going to end this pretty quickly and talk about a movie that’s an easy comparison to THE PIT, but 1000 times better. I’m talking about a movie that is actually creepy, has great effects, decent kid acting and has a pitch black tone that fucked me up big time when I was a kid.

I know there’s been some discussion about THE GATE in the talkbacks, so you’re going to have to take my word for it that from the moment I locked in this movie (about a month ago) I had “The Gate” penciled in next to it for my recommendation title. When I met Randy Cook in New Zealand he was spearheading bringing Gollum to life for the LOTR movies. As much as I loved his work there our first conversation turned to THE GATE very quickly. He did all the stop motion stuff in the movie and he had to answer for freaking my shit out. Horror movies weren’t scary to me as a kid. Sure, the jump scares would startle me, but I hardly ever had the severe, deep-rooted fear that a lot of people experience when they watch these kinds of movies. THE GATE was an exception to this rule. As an adult looking back on it it’s not so bad, but there was something about watching THE GATE as a kid that really put the fear into me. The story was a big part of that, for sure. Our main character is a boy probably around my age (or slightly older) when I first saw it. Stephen Dorff plays the main kid. He moved on up to play the villain in the first BLADE and has recently worked with Oliver Stone and Michael Mann. So, I could easily see myself in the lead’s shoes and when things get really fucked no one is safe… his family pet isn’t safe, neither is sister or best friend. The flick is essentially a siege film except it’s demons from hell that are on the attack. These Randy Cook effects are definitely creepy, but it’s not them that necessarily get me.

Hell has a sort of influence around the portal that is opened (due to Heavy Metal music, of course) in this kid’s backyard, so it can manifest horrific nightmares. The one that really got to me was when Dorff think his parents have returned home and then realizes a bit too late they’re not his parents. That really fucked me up as a kid, turning my image of the protective parental unit into creepy demon apparitions from hell. The story is a major reason why this movie worked so well for me, but what sends it over the edge for me is the tone. It just feels hopeless. What can these kids do against the power of hell? It’s eerie throughout, almost dreamlike as if their house has turned into a place of limbo between the living world and dead world. Plus this movie isn’t afraid to pick off our kid leads and when one of them is taken they do return as evil versions of themselves. Luckily this film is finally seeing a widescreen release on DVD this month… tomorrow, in fact. The bad news is you get a hilariously awful cover. Look up at the original poster art… I’ll wait. Yeah, pretty neat right? Now look at this:

I’ll have to suffer the horrible DVD cover, but I will own this title. From the eyeball in the hand to the evil dad screaming “Yoooouuu’vvveeee beeeeeennnnn BBAAADDDDDD” to the Barbie leg in the eye to the fucking horrifying “Workman” zombie guy that busts out of the walls to a crazy finale involving a huge model rocket and an even huger demon creature this movie is a personal favorite. Call it nostalgia, but I still dug the movie when I revisited it a couple years back, so it's not all rose-tinted remembrances.

However don’t even think about trying to get through the sequel. Gate II does not exist in this dojo as they say in the talkback.

Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles: Tuesday, October 6th: BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)

Wednesday, October 7th: BRAIN DEAD (1990)

Thursday, October 8th: VISITING HOURS (1982)

Friday, October 9th: MACABRE (1980)

Saturday, October 10th: PRIVATE PARTS (1972)

Sunday, October 11th: ROAD GAMES (1981)

Monday, October 12th: DEAD END DRIVE-IN (1986)

I know DEAD END DRIVE-IN might not be fully horror (more Aussiesploitation from the great Brian Trenchard-Smith), but it’s been one I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Plus it follows up ROAD GAMES, another Australian made horror film with Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacey Keach, really well. Tomorrow we jump from kids to Henenlotter. See you then for BRAIN DAMAGE! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

AMAD Halloween Spectacular 2009: October 1st: Nothing But The Night (& The Wicker Man)
October 2nd: Beware! Children At Play (& The Devil Times Five)
October 3rd: Cameron’s Closet (& Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood)
October 4th: Afraid of the Dark (& The Lady In White)
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!

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