Directed by: Brett Leonard
Written by: Gimel Everett and Brett Leonard
Starring: Cheryl Lawson, Stephen Gregory Foster and Jeremy Slate
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Iím not sure when or where I first heard about The Dead Pit, but it was quite some time ago, Iím certain about that. A low budget zombie cult classic, I could picture the cover art in my mind - you could make the zombieís eyes glow by pressing a button! If that wasnít what reeled me in, Iíd have to take a stab at the possibility of a Stephen King mix-up. His similarly titled The Dead Zone warped my intelligence, and in searching for the Masterís film, I put The Dead Pit as a viewing I must seek out. I was pleased to later learn, when King material was growing wearisome on me, that The Dead Pit was not at all what I had imagined as far as its source would go. The resurrection of deceased humans however, was just what I had pictured from the glances I took when living as an impressionable youngster, but the tweaks and elements that made this stand apart from other creations of its ilk were just what the doctor ordered Ė red-eyed Dr. Colin Ramzi that is.
The morbid and insane Dr. Colin Ramzi (Danny Gochnauer) performs deadly operations on the crazy people at his mental hospital, but is shot dead by his co-worker Dr. Gerald Swan (Jeremy Slate) when he is found out. Swan then isolates Colin and the bodies in the basement of the hospital, where it is then closed down and abandoned. Twenty years later, a Jane Doe (Cheryl Lawson) is brought to a functioning building on the mental hospital grounds, where she swears to Dr. Swan (yes, he still works here) that her memory was forcibly taken from her. Soon after, an earthquake rumbles the groundís surface, breaking open the seal of the basement, unleashing an undead Ramzi. Jane is made comfortable as best as the staff can try for her stay, but constant visions about the evil doctor mixed with cast disappearances send Doe into a state only watchers can call Ďmadí. But Jane wonít be held here any longer. She and her patient friend Christian (Stephen Gregory Foster) must stop the powerful dead doctor before he summons the living dead from his psychotic past, who dwell among The Dead Pit.
The plot is a little flimsy as you can tell from the description. A lot of happenings are a bit too neat, and when the film wraps up, some questions are still left up to the viewer to decide. Did Jane lose her memory recently, or has she always had this problem? How come this earthquake is the one that breaks the seal, or do we assume thereís never been one before? Thereís a lot of extending your beliefs required in order to fully experience the popcorn fun that The Dead Pit can be. Besides, itís a zombie movie anyway. You didnít really think that youíd need your brain, did you? Not all the time at least. For about a third of a million dollars, the makers really have gone a long ways in producing a quality horror outing that doesnít blend in with assortments of others. As I presumed, acting is lacking in scenes, but the lead performers have it, and even Nurse Kygar (Joan Bechtel) has made her purpose plentiful at times where...sheís just creepy! And sheís not even our villain!
Before any zombie mobs can appear, we must have a forward by the leader of the dead crowd, Colin Ramzi, replacing creepy blue eyes with creepy glowing red ones. How he managed to come back from the dead or use horrific powers from beyond is never explained nor nodded to. Just, donít ask questions. He kills some staff members with a pick and other doctor tools, all while taunting our heroine with his presence or, maybe a little bloody head. Even though she sheds some skin in the role, Cheryl Lawson is a fitting confused member of the main female club. She can scream and run around the hospital in a rather short white top and bikini, so pamphlet complete! Jane Doeís an angry, but suitably so lost cause, and once we find out that her hypnosis doctor Gerald Swan is a complete jerk, all evidence points to her as the one who will save the day, as if you didnít suspect it already.
Down the deserted hallways we go, where red and blue lights shine through the windows at night after scenes of dark delights are brought upfront. No comedy here. All violence is graphic, sadistic and cruel. Even if some effects are of a cheesier factor, The Dead Pit never once jumps the line into trash territory. Janeís brief moments of memory with her as a little girl are at first light in nature, with her mother calling out to her, so contrasting that with the grim hospital adds another dimension to the picture altogether. And itís 1989, so of course you have to have some religious reference with a crazy nun and holy water swished in. Though Colin Ramzi is a unique and efficacious antagonist, who roams the abandoned building where he was locked up for two decades, there is still a missing feeling you should get when leads are seen running away from their killers. You should feel anxious for their escape, but the way Ramzi chases Doe, which is actually a fast pace walking speed, doesnít conclude a fear that one should grasp during a watch.
The best scenes that made me feel excited and filled with life were the ones where zombies actually appeared, at the final third portion of Dead Pit. Smoky green at the base of the zombies, when Jane Doe has been captured by Ramzi and set strapped on a table near the pit of undead, itís the point of the feature where you tell yourself, ďnow things are about to really get messy.Ē I mean, nothing is truly set above the bar as the hospital is located away from major society, so the sense of terror isnít so high pitched with a minimum body rate. The Dead Pit still succeeds with its gory sequences, some creativity with exposed brain manipulation, and troublesome climate. With the most vicious scenes accompanied by a memorable beating score, Dead Pit is a very easy watch that can be seen as director Brett Leonardís first but definitely not his weakest show. Adding a twist at the end which viewers will probably guess about halfway through, it isnít blasted out of the water by any means, because its mission is to have fun. And try your best not to; I dare ya. Miniature setting models are in this year!
Code Redís deserving uncut DVD of The Dead Pit has an audio commentary, cast interviews, and a trailer taking advantage of the thrilling score job. The mono audio for this film is a bit of a shame. I felt that it could have used a better sound, but hey, weíre not all magic like Colin. The picture has the same problems past Code Red DVDs like Sole Survivor had, which are blue-ish blacks and lighting inconstancies, but other than that, itís a favorable release that this company should be proud of. A collection addition indeed. The torture chamber of Dr. Ramzi haunted Jane Doe along with his other doomed patients, but since thatís all water under the bridge now, you can be haunted in the safety of your home. Or just amused. Dead Pitís use of a seemingly once real hospital adds to the authenticity of its subject matter, making the mutilation experiments down below an even juicier delight. No one dip here. Zombierific. Drop in for the long haul: twenty years and counting. Buy it!
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