The Pit 1981

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I don’t know about you but from what I can gather most people I know shared a classroom with at least one creepy kid. Actually I think my one had more than its fair share: there was the boy who would just appear next to a pack of girls grinning until they all turned round to see he was holding his chap in his hands. The girls would all run away screaming, saying what a weirdo he was, but this only seemed to make him happier. Maybe he wasn’t creepy at all just vying for girl’s attention the only way he knew how.

Stranger still was a little boy would only ever play by himself in the corner of the playground. In primary school the children were a generally decent bunch so tried to engage with him, but this boy would always shovef them away, insisting that he was too busy to play with the likes of them. I always figured this was his way of expressing his awkwardness in social circles. However in high school, when kindness gave way to bullying and this isolated boy was beaten mercilessly for being different, I tried to make friends with him again, and still he only wanted to be by himself, playing his own weird games. He really did seem to me tom be a freaky child, but in hindsight he was probably suffering from some form of autism and no one knew well enough about it to diagnose him.

At least he wasn’t as creepy as the boy in The Pit. The lad I knew at school was certainly weird but he never tricked people into being pushed into a pit to be eaten by some weird glowing eyed troglodytes.

The Pit is a frankly bizarre and incredibly old fashioned B-movie which is pretty much unique, very subversive and would have freaked the shit out of me if I had seen it as a child. As an adult it is of course absolute nonsense but it still has enough going for it that if you are in the right frame of mind is pretty entertaining in a twisted kind of way.

I’m not sure what the frame of mind the film makers were in when they came up with this madness though.  The original screenplay by Ian A. Stuart was written as a psychological horror about a small boy who talks to his teddy and imagines the whole there-are-monsters-living-in-a-pit-out-back storyline. This in itself is pretty dark and according to the writer was an incredibly serious affair. However the director, one Lew Lehman, obviously read the script, signed on the dotted line and then, as is often the case with directors who sign on direct one script, throw that script out and make something completely different.

First of all he made the small boy a twelve year old, played by a kid who looks about fourteen. He still acts like an eight year old, playing with his teddy and getting excited about yellow bicycles, but now he’s at that “difficult age” so he’s also got loads of porn under his bed and likes to watch his babysitter in the shower. The boy, Jamie, is played by some crazy kid called sammy Snyders who either was a genuine weirdo or the finest child actor of his generation. Okay maybe that’s a little exageration, his line reading can be somewhat stiff here and there and he walks like he’s never had legs before but this just adds to his overall oddness. The icing on the cake, so to speak is the nasty blonde bowl haircut he sports, it makes him look like an alien pretending to be a human child.

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Things begin with his parents pissing off to Seattle to have a look at a new house, leaving Jamie with the babysitter. This babysitter may be twice his age but he’s already got the hots for her. He manages to persuade her to wash his back in the bath, which is quite a coup for a twelve year old boy with uncontrollable hormones. “Don’t worry,” he says “everything will be covered in soup bubbles.” That will be his raging hard on he’s referring to then.

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Anyway, he explains to his teddy bear, imaginatively called Teddy, that he’s in love with her and will try and get her somehow. Teddy is a good mate obviously and says “yeah, yeah you are a catch and a 24 year old hottie will totally want to nail you,”or something like that. Teddy himself is also way up there on the creep factor, looking like he’s been dug out of a grave. The fact that he moves about when Jamie isn’t even in the room doesn’t help endear me to him.

Jamie tells Sandy the babysitter that although he may be a super freaky kid he doesn’t need any friends because he’s got Teddy, of course, and a bunch of Trolls living in a pit in a forest nearby. Weirdly Sandy doesn’t believe him.

The trolls or troglodytes or blokes in hairy suits are both ridiculous and brilliant at the same time. When you first see them you are like “oh shit, right so he’s not just making them up” and in the darkness of the pit they are like an evil version of the banana splits. For those of you unfamiliar with that great children TV show of the seventies here they are:

banana

And here are the troglodytes:

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Of course the problem with a monster movie is that sooner or later you have to get a proper look at the monsters. Well with Jamie’s help they do eventually get out, and in broad daylight no less and really its just a goofy dwarf in a suit from then on in. Obviously you can take that however you want to, but it ain’t high art I can tell you that for nothing.

However despite all this monkeying around with silly monsters there is an overall dark thread running throughout the film. This is all down to Jamie, its not like we are seeing the film from the babysitter’s perspective with her as the heroine, we are following Jamie and his weird day to day life. No one likes him or has much sympathy for him. The crippled neighbour in a wheelchair hates him, the kids at school punch him in the face and laugh at him. Even his parents don’t want to spend any time with him and who can blame them. With his pet toads and snakes, weird teddy bear and crazy haircut I wouldn’t want anything to do with him.

This of course makes it easier for him feel nothing for the victims he lures to the pit to feed to the troglodytes. He shoves the bully down there, tips the old lady in the wheelchair straight in and even the girl who laughs at him. “You are beautiful but when you are old enough the older you will still laugh at other people’s pain. You aren’t beautiful on the inside so its best you don’t grow up” he says as he removes the skirt from her unconscious body before tossing her into the pit to be eaten alive.

Oh yeah, he removes her skirt before hand because he may be only a child but he’s also a massive pervert. Apart from the relentless leering he does at Sandy he also has designs on the local librarian. He phones her and tells her that he’s kidnapped her niece and unless she stands by the window and gets her whammers out he’ll kill the niece. This is, of course, a lie. He’s not kidnapped anyone and despite disguising his voice it is obvious it is him talking. Still the librarian for reason best known to herself complies with his demands and takes her top off at the window. The plan falls apart when the niece shows up alive and unkidnapped but by that point Jamie has got a couple of Polaroids that he’s “gonna look at a lot,” so he’s happy

I’m not even sure what any of that has to do with trolls living in a pit in your back garden and I suspect no one else did whilst making the film. But its interesting that whatever the hell they were thinking they had the mentality to think that hairy monkey men and twelve year old boys looking at women’s breasts was what an audience wanted. Maybe the director also had a creepy kid at his school when he was a child and was basing it on him. Or maybe HE was the creepy kid and was making a biopic about his own childhood. Who knows? Its mad as birds whatever the case.

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