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The Pit Has Some Depth, Some Flaws

November 6, 2008

THE PIT (1981)
d.  Lew Lehman

A B-Movie at its core, The Pit belongs less to the Monsters From Hell genre than to the Kids From Hell genre, along the lines of The Bad Seed or The Good Son. It tells the story of an adolescent loner, Jamie (Sammy Snyders), whose only friend is his teddy bear, Teddy, and who crushes big time on his new house/babysitter (Jeannie Elias) all while harboring a secret about a pit in the middle of the forest, and the creatures that reside within (he calls them “Trollogs” but in the credits they are “The Trogs”).

He Grows Up To Be Sylar

He Grows Up To Be Sylar

The movie is at its most successful when negotiating the painful pangs of adolescence that Jamie experiences. He borrows books about art nudes from the library, keeps a skin mag under his mattress, and likes to blackmail the Librarian into taking her clothes off so he can take Polaroids. He also has a difficult time fitting in and making friends either at school or with his neighbors, mainly because he lacks a number of social skills. Even the elderly find him distasteful.

And with good reason, too. This kid is pretty creepy and intense in his isolation. You know he’s got problems because he has a reptile tank and talks to his teddy bear.

It isn’t until Sandy, his new babysitter, shows up does there seem to be some hope for this kid. College educated with a psych major, she seems to size Jamie up real good and treat him with some respect. He of course repays her kindness by dropping a napkin under the table at dinner time for an upskirt peek, by watching her while she sleeps with one breast exposed, and often sneaking into the bathroom while she’s taking a shower or half-dressed. Ah. Pubescence!

Feeling that he can trust her, he decides to let her in on his secret. Out in the woods is a pit in the ground where four creatures dwell. He calls them Trollogs and they look like mutant pekingese on hind legs; he treats them like pets and discovers that they like the taste of raw meat. Of course she doesn’t believe him.

Jamie at first steals money to feed the creatures, but when he is found out by Sandy, he has to resort to other means. That’s when he decides to trick those who have persecuted him into following him into the woods…

This Creepy Kid Is Really Evil

That Is So Evil

On the surface, this film follows a very predictable path. However when one of the main characters gets fed to the creatures, the film flies off that set path and manages to surprise in a manner I didn’t think possible for such a b-film.

As I mentioned before, the most interesting aspect of this film is the psychological underpinnings of pubescent angst that is explored here (it certainly isn’t the rather lame man-in-suit Trogs). We have Jamie (ego) who, on the one hand, talks to his imaginary friend, Teddy (the super-ego), and on the other hand befriends the Trollogs (the id) in the pit. Teddy is the voice of reason while the Trollogs are all unrestrained appetite. Jamie looks to both for direction in his life, but constantly feeds his id until they are unleashed and freed from the dark pit of his consciousness.

The only thing that can restrain his id, in movies such as these, are several hunters armed with shotguns who blow the Trogs away. Alright, so there was almost a thesis there.

Anyway, worth seeing for some interesting ideas, some decent performances, a creepy super evil kid and his cute as a button babysitter, and especially to see a Trog rappel a rope like a commando. **1/2 stars.

This movie is paired with another 80s b-film, Hellgate, which may be next, or it might be the Japanese horror anthology Three… Extremes.

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