Sunday, July 26, 2009

Trollog La La Laaa

The Pit is the kind of movie creative preteens write on their first brainstorming session slumber party. It’s bad, but in a somewhat heartfelt, let’s-make-a-horror-and-use-our-toys-and-friends kind of way. Which would be great if indeed it was a film made by eleven year olds.

Prime example: the film opens on Halloween with our soon-to-be anti-hero dressed like a ghost. Naturally, such a costume involves the draping of a sheet with eye holes cut out. Please, real cyberspace people, tell me this: have you ever seen a child wear a sheet and call himself a ghost on Halloween? And no, Charlie Brown and Willow Rosenberg do not count. Maybe I haven't been trick-or-treating on the right blocks, but I truly do believe such a costume choice is reserved exclusively for the fictional media world.

The world of The Pit, however, is not quite the cliche it could be. Sure, there are snotty red-headed girls and gobbling wood creatures to be found, but it would be unfair to call this odd little 1981 non-classic trite. It's terrible in many ways, but with exception, I can't deny the sheer weirdness that went into every frame.

Quick Plot: Sixth grader Jamie (Sammy Snyders) is a bit of a troublemaker, but not quite in an innocent Bart Simpson way (although his school punishments do indeed include writing his wrongs on the chalkboard after class). Peeping on neighbors, cutting out naughty pictures from library artbooks, and sexually harassing every female over the age of eighteen are just a few of his boyish quirks, so naturally his parents decide to take an extended vacation and leave him in the care of a well-permed college student. All would be fine (well, maybe just slightly awkward, as we do have to sit through an inappropriate bath scene that predates even the birth of the young actor in Nicole Kidman’s Birth by twelve years), were it not for...The Pit!

Deep in the woods, a very precariously placed hole has captured Jamie’s attention. Inside live the trogs or trollogs or very cheaply made molish monsters with glowing eyes and num-num voices. With the help of his sinister teddy bear, Jamie realizes that in order to keep his only friends happy, he’ll need to deliver some fresh and live meat.

You’d be amazed how easy it is to trick a few locals into certain death. Once the thrill of crank calling kidnapping threats and luring librarians into stripping wears off, Jamie moves onto nastier pranks, like tipping wheelchair-bound old biddies, football captains, and mean-spirited bullies into the mouths of his carnivorous prehistoric pals. Yes, this plot point produces the best ten minutes of screentime (certainly of the movie; possibly of 1981) and no, the budget was not big enough to actually show us any of the munching.

I imagine The Pit began as an earnest horror film before its filmmakers realized their artistic and monetary limitations. Instead, the film wiggles into black comedy, although the humor is never sharp enough to get earned laughs. Still, it does involve an evil kid, ominous teddy bear, and trollogs. Were you expecting Casablanca?

High Points
The death of a seemingly protected heroic character is a pleasant surprise

A wicked little ending almost makes it worth holding out for the last scene

Low Points
The trollogs are, not surprisingly, MST3K-ready. Remember those popular Halloween costumes from the late 80s, which were basically cheap jumpsuits paired with what were most likely toxic plastic masks? If this weren’t 1981 and five years before its premiere, I would swear that the trollog design was just a dressed up version of a Kmart quality Critters outfit

An evil teddy bear? Why else would I rent this movie? Hence, I was more than a tad disappointed that Teddy (because what other name could he have?) didn’t do much more than speak in Jamie’s narrated voice

Lessons Learned
Abergail may sound like an interesting name to bestow upon your child, but before you sign that birth certificate, try to hear it said in a whiny prepubescent voice and consider just how annoying it is

Three children can disappear in a small town, but the authorities only step in when a cute babysitter is involved

Trollogs see in sepia

For a local sheriff, nothing is more embarrassing than calling the feds in to investigate missing persons; asking the local townspeople for some vigilante backup is far more reasonable

Not smart enough to be disturbing and not quite dumb enough for so-good-it’s-bad nostalgia, The Pit is reserved for an audience that prefers a grungy Cathy’s Curse to a slick Dolly Dearest . It’s a dreadful film, but its pure bizarreness and shy sleaze makes it somewhat interesting. Best of all, The Pit is on a double DVD with another goofily subpar (and somewhat more watchable; review forthcoming) 80s horror film, Hellgate. As cheap cheerful crap goes, you could certainly do worse.


  1. I have been curious about this one for awhile now. It sounds like the monsters may be similar to those in TROLL 2-- one of my all time favorites.


  2. It's not quite in the same popular realm of film hell as Troll 2, but the entire film does have a similar feel (only with less vegetarianism). The Pit is a little more twisted sexually, but the light violence and yes, cheesy little goblins would make this a good double bill choice with the fellows of Nilbog. It's not quite as over-the-top bad, but it's close.