Monday, April 23, 2018

Actually, It's an UNdead Pit

Earlier this year, Long Island said goodbye to 112 Video World, the magical realm of VHS tapes that once filled my childhood weekends with everything from hot new releases to Gourmet Zombie Chef From Hell. As we film fans of the '80s mourn the loss of those strip mall palaces, we must accept that the world has changed and while there are no more physical doors to open to find our long-lost movie treasures on shelves, Amazon Prime continues to answer the call, no matter how shoddy the video quality might be.

Quick Plot: We open on a montage of mental patients doing all the typical things mental patients of movies made in the 1980s do. Somewhere between the drooling and head banging, the institution's senior psychiatrist Dr. Swan discovers one of his doctors, Dr. Ramzi, is conducting dangerous experiments on his patients. Luxuriously slow motion violence ensues. 

Twenty years later, a pretty young woman dubbed Jane Doe (stuntwoman Cheryl Lawson) is admitted to the same facility due to her amnesia and possibly, ability to cause earthquakes with her temper. Before long, Jane begins to see visions of the long-dead mad scientist. Not so coincidentally, a wave of violence spreads throughout the hospital. 

Well, WE know there's violence as patients and nurses are brutally torn apart by Dr. Ramzi. Only Jane seems to witness said murders, while the rest of the staff thinks little of its population dwindling. 

Eventually, Dr. Ramzi (or his ghost or whatever) uses Jane to awaken an army of zombies, who promptly chomp their way through everyone but Jane, Dr. Swan, a mad nun with a talent for making holy water, and Chris, Jane's inmate pal who happens to have a talent for bomb-making. Who says you can't make quality friends in '80s mental institutions?

The Dead Pit is the directorial debut of Brett Leonard, who went on in the '90s to specialize in the ubiquitous subgenre of technology amok movies (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) and later, the very small niche of obesity-based horror (Feed). The Dead Pit is unmistakably '80s in its parts. Just try to add up the high-waisted panties, Fulci-esque undead, cranky mental asylum nurses, and obvious-but-surprise parent reveals and not calculate 1989.

That's the strength of The Dead Pit, which ultimately isn't a very good movie. It's made on the cheap and shows it, but seems to understand that its audience is there to see messy-faced ghouls hold slippery butcher shop animal parts up to the camera for their closeups. 

What a golden age of cinema. 

High Points
There's certainly some smiles to be had when watching the gooiest of '80s practical zombie effects

Low Points
You know, if you're picky, the script and acting and blah blah blah

Lessons Learned
Not remembering your past doesn't make you crazy (though constantly shouting that at people evaluating your sanity just might)

Double the time, double the money

Junk drawers of '80s era psychiatrists were typically stocked with scotch and loaded revolvers

Eh, The Dead Pit will certainly scratch your itch for 1980s horror, but it doesn't really crush it in the zombie department. It's a decent way to pass 90 minutes on Amazon Prime, but it won't necessarily leave you with anything special after. 

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