Ah 1981. The hallowed halls of Montour High School in the sprawling Pittsburgh suburb known as Robinson Township. The hallways teeming with Jordache jeans, shoulder pads, and feathered hair. Your olfactory nerve awash in that heady mix of Aqua Net and Love’s Baby Soft. Hell’s bells I couldn’t get outta that place fast enough. But the year was not without its high points, one of which being The Pit.
Things start strong. A kid dressed up like a ghost pushes some other kid into a big hole. Then we jump right to the big yellow title graphic. Turns out that kid is Jamie, a 12-year-old Toronto lad living in Wisconsin. He’s routinely bullied by just about everyone who comes in contact with him.
But let’s don’t rush into feelin’ all that badly for the lad. Jamie, it turns out, is a budding sexual predator and all-around fucking weirdo hard at work on that coveted Sociopath Merit Badge.
In his very next scene he’s doing some pre-Bart Simpson writing on a classroom chalkboard. He’s later seen peeping through a window into the school library so’s he can watch the librarian open a picture he sent of her face pre-Photoshop pasted on a nude cut from an art book.
Jamie’s parents don’t know what to do with or about him. Even his own father refers to him as a nut case. Dig that ol’ neurotypical 80s diagnostic terminology. Naturally, they pursue the only logical avenue available to them—go on a trip and leave him in the care of a sitter, a nominally vetted psych student named Sandy O’Reilly. That very evening whilst Sandy has dinner with the family, Jamie drops his napkin in the classic attempt to look up Sandy’s skirt. What a prankster.
When he’s not busying himself being a pervy little creepazoid, our boy’s an otherwise insufferable brat whose only friend is a stuffed bear creatively named Teddy who talks to Jamie in what sounds like a more subdued but sinister version of Jamie’s own voice. About 24 minutes in, we get our first look at the denizens of the titular pit, a bunch of carnivorous, trolly, gobliny lookin’ things he calls Tra-la-logs, possibly some goofy bastardization of troglodytes I suppose.
There’s a good deal of disjointed weirdness to this movie as well. The score is just odd, kind of incessant, yet strangely enough kind of effective. There’s also some sick dark humor delivered as one-liners from Jamie. At one point, he tries to pull an uncooperative cow to the pit but gives up, saying “Aww, I didn’t wanna hurt you anyways.” Kid’s all heart.
Beyond that, The Pit becomes a morass of creature feature, psycho evil child, revenge tale/slasher flick (at one point Jamie lures 5 people to their deaths inside of 10 minutes), and wildly uncomfortably sexualized coming of age. This in fact sets up one of the cringiest bits of this entire hot mess.
Y’see, Jamie seems well on his way to becoming the subject of a Dateline investigation complete with voiceovers and commentary by Keith Morrison. There’s one especially squirmy scene in particular when Sandy gives him a bath—bad enough itself, but in addition to his delightful qualities described above, Jamie also looks like he’s closer to 14 or 15 than 12. It seriously makes your skin crawl, therefore, when he asks Sandy “Do you like washing me?”
Predictably, complications arise due to the need for the Tra-la-logs to be fed. Not the least of these complications is being Sandy’s boyfriend, the obstacle in the way of Jamie’s psychosexual fantasies.
Equally predictably (and at the behest of Teddy) pretty much all of Jamie’s tormentors end up pit-iably. Ultimately, the net of suspicion starts to close, and since Jamie can no longer bring food, he leaves the lil critters a rope. Cue bloody rampage. Stop here to avoid the spoilers.
The cops slaughter the varmints and fill up the pit whilst, inexplicably, Jamie is sent off to live with his grandparents. No sooner does he arrive than his grandfather introduces him to the girl next door, Alicia. She immediately suggests they run off to play and that he can chase her.
She leads him to, as fate would have it, a pit in the woods full of, as fate would have it, more Tra-la-logs. The final freeze frame is Jamie’s face as Alicia topples him into the pit. Ah yes, that vicious “Horses Of Diomedes/evil you do returns to you” irony I love so much.
So yeah, overall The Pit is one batshit little flick, while it has no idea what it wants to be, remains lotsa fun and manages to avoid ever going completely off the rails. Not bad. To paraphrase The Delfonics, “Tra la la la la la la la log means I love youuuuu!”
BODIES- 14 onscreen
Streaming- AMC+, Filmrise, Roku Channel, Shudder, Tubi, YouTube