Wednesday, October 14, 2009

17 Days to go: The Pit (1981)

The Pit is awesome. I could, and probably should, end the review there. This is the kind of picture that could never be made today. It stars Sammy Snyders as a twelve year old kid, named Jamie, whose only fucking friend in the whole world is a god damned evil teddy bear named Teddy. Oh sure, it's probably just all in Jamie's head, right? That's what I thought until the thing's eyes glowed red in the very first scene. Later, we see it's head turn when little Jamie isn't even in the room. Jamie loves talking about his friend Teddy and, later, about a pit full of trolls. Kids got an incredibly active imagination, huh? Nope, all real.

Shit man, Teddy is pretty much one of the greatest, although sadly underutilized, characters in moving picture history. The thing is a fucking pervert. He convinces Jamie to blackmail a neighbor into stripping in front of her open picture window (if she doesn't comply, they'll murder her kid) so Jamie can snap some photos. Later, we see Jamie and Teddy looking at the photos together. Teddy proclaims that he's "going to look at these all the time." Unfortunately, Teddy is a fairly minor character. Probably due to a limited effects budget. Every picture could use a little Teddy.

As great as Teddy is, Jamie's only a rung or two beneath him. Jamie's an odd kid. I've heard the word "autism" bandied about in a few reviews. I suppose it's possible. He's got one friend that's supposedly "imaginary". The one girl on his block that's his age is constantly making fun of him while her mother completely endorses her behavior. There's an old woman that gets pushed up and down the street in her wheelchair that says, about Jamie, "that boy ain't right." Kid can't catch a break. Even his own parents abandon him for an indeterminate amount of time (weeks?), leaving him in the incapable hands of his attractive babysitter, Sandy. Sandy studies psychology in school so she assumes she can handle Jamie. Jamie immediately falls in love with Sandy and before she realizes what's happening, he's convinced her to give him a sponge bath ("my mom does it for me."). This kid's got more guts than I ever had.

I guess there's a plot in here somewhere. It involves a pit that Jamie discovers at the end of a wooded path. In the pit, live four or five troglodytes (or "Trogs"), basically hairy trolls. Jamie takes an interest in them. No one believes him, except for Teddy. The Trogs are hungry. Jamie takes it upon himself to feed them. At first, he buys up all the steaks from the butcher shop. Then he tries to rob the delivery truck. Jamie runs out of steaks. That's when he comes to the realization that pretty much everyone in town hates him (little girl up the street, lady in wheelchair, babysitter's boyfriend, bully that won't let him in his club, etc)...So? It might take a little more prodding from Teddy to do what's on his mind. Not much.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that the picture is no masterpiece. I'm not even sure the word "good" applies. What it entertaining as hell. We got a great, awkward performance from Sammy Snyder as the troubled kid. Some scenes, in particular the ones where he leads his victims to the pit, are side splittingly hilarious. There's an underlying creepiness throughout the whole thing. Of course, that's to be expected in a picture that has a scene where a twelve year old stares at his babysitter's exposed breast while she sleeps. Quint over at the Aint it Cool News wrote sort of an anti-review of the picture. His heart just didn't seem to be in it. He compares it to an "after school special that dips into weirdness" (which isn't a wholly inaccurate description) then dismisses it outright. The message of this particular after school special would be something like "be nice to the weird kid down the know....the one that can't stop staring at your tits" or maybe "don't befriend a pit full of fucking trolls". I think I saw that one when I was a kid.

I could relate to this kid. I was a quiet kid early on, spent more time alone than with others. Spoke my first word later than what's considered "normal". I even had crushes on a couple of babysitters. Despite all that, I turned out alright. Other than the parts where he peeps in on naked women and causes the deaths of several of his neighbors, I'm not so sure he's that different from you or I. I can't really vouch for you, to be honest. Sorry. This is one of those pictures where, after it was completed, pretty much everyone involved called it a career. What's the point in continuing? This shit can never be topped.

Seriously man, it's good. There, I said it. It is good. I've almost got myself convinced. The ending, where poor Jamie is, once again, abandoned by his parents (this time, left in the incompetent hands of his grandparents), is delightfully warped. It's perfect for viewing with friends and booze or alone and sober. Teddy wants you to watch. Teddy wants you to turn off whatever motherfucking thing you're watching and put this shit in. Now.

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