Director – Brett Leonard
Cast – Jeremy Slate, Cheryl Lawson, Stephen Gregory Foster, Danny Gochnauer, Geha Getz, Joan Bechtel, Mara Everett, Jack A. Sunseri
Release Year – 1989
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I first heard about this film from my favorite reviewer, Fright Master, quite some time ago. My interest finally got the best of me, and I found this lesser-known flick much easier than it thought I did, but more importantly…I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. While it takes a good while to get “going”, The Dead Pit brings back memories of the gory and cheezy films we all love to see, and wish would come back again.
This flick begins with a brilliant yet maniacal doctor named Dr. Gerald Swan who’s research has turned from studying the living, to studying the dead. His colleague, Dr. Colin Ramzi discovers the horrors Dr. Swam has done in an underground layer referred to as “The Dead Pit” and shoots him dead when he plans to make him his next specimen. Dr. Ramzi then boards up and seals the underground layer, with plans of no one ever knowing what happened down there. Fast forward 20 years later and an amnesia patient named Jane Doe(haha) has arrived at the hospital(now for the criminally insane). During a hypnosis session to help bring back her memory an earthquake rattles the school…opening the vault leading to “The Dead Pit”. Dr. Swan has been re-animated, and begins to wreak terror on the hospital staff and anyone else who gets in his way until he finds his next specimen…Jane Doe.
Simply put, this flick kicks ass! The storyline is an awesome one, especially if you are into the “crazy doctor obsessed with death” type flicks like Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. The first half of the film can feel a bit slow at times, but it does give us some cool kills from Dr. Swan as he does away with the hospital staffers who fall victim to his experiments. This section of the film plays off much like a slasher film, and only gets more fun when the last 30 minutes kick in. Why is that? Well, because Dr. Swam decides to call upon all of the dead souls and bodies he left in “The Dead Pit”, which turns this film into an even GORIER zombie film. Yes that is right, this flick is part slasher, and part zombie film! I really can say I have not seen these two sub-genres thrown into the same flick, and it worked beautifully for this one.
Writer/director Brett Leonard broke onto this scene with this flick, his debut effort, and he did a fantastic job not just with its cheezy yet cool story, but with its direction too. He brings much cheeze and gore into this flick, and executed his zombie scenes brilliantly. I was actually beginning to think to myself that this film should have been an all-out zombie film from beginning to end, simply because of how awesome his zombie action was. His usage of Dr. Swan was really sweet as well, and he came off somewhat Freddy Krueger-ish with his mannerisms and cheezy one-liners. No, they were not the funny type of one-liners like Freddy per say, but cheezy and awesome one-liners that left a smile on my face each and every time. Plus, we get some very nice scenes of the very beautiful Cheryl Lawson running around helplessly in her underwear. She really made me wish that films these days gave us nice and curvy actresses instead of the skin-and-bones actresses we get nowadays.
Overall, this is a fun and enjoyable watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre. Keep in mind that this flick can feel a bit slow during the first half, but you will be heavily rewarded ones things get “going” and the carnage ensues. If not for Cheryl Lawson in her underwear, at least we get an awesome antagonist, great gore, cheezy dialogue, and a one-two punch of slasher and zombie elements thrown into the same film, now how awesome is that?!?