According to Ponty, he’s already got several of his worst film reviews typed up. I wish I could claim to be so prepared. My methodology has been to watch a bunch of movies, and to select those that are particularly bad for review.
That might be a lackluster way to go about this process, but it’s how I picked this week’s film, The Pit (1981). I’ll strive for a more intentional approach as we get into the truly terrible stinkers, but I hope readers will still appreciate the badness of the movies selected.
The Pit is a Canadian film about a disturbed little boy, Jamie, who hangs out with a perverted teddy bear. That’s where the similarities with 2012’s Ted end. There is also a hole in the nearby woods—the titular pit—full of orange-eyed, carnivorous creatures, which Jamie calls “Trolologs” or “Trogs.”
Everyone in town hates Jamie, for reasons never fully explained. It’s insinuated that he is a pervert, but it really just seems like no one likes him because he is a weird, annoying kid. He keeps a terrarium full of toads and snakes, and is obsessed with naked women, particularly the idea of seeing his teacher and other adult women in the film naked. He also whines the whole time, and has extremely odd reactions to the world around him.
Of course, he’s living in the early 1980s, when everyone was—if film is to be believed—a lot meaner than they are now. A local bully punches him in the nose just because he asks to join the guy’s club. An equally annoying little brat, the red-headed Abergail (that’s not a typo, that’s her name) treats him with hostility, and rigs her bike to fall apart when he sits on it.
Jamie’s father is emotionally distant and his mother is overly protective. Despite his “mature” tastes, Jamie is still is tucked in at night (he’s twelve) and sleeps with his stuffed bear, Teddy.
Teddy talks to Jamie, urging him to feed the Trogs in order to satiate their hunger, thereby forestalling their escape above ground, where they would surely wreak havoc. At the same time, Teddy convinces Jamie to hit on his babysitter, who is apparently the perfect woman (in other words, she’s a mildly attractive babe who doesn’t immediately dismiss Jamie as a weirdo) and to trick Abergail’s hot aunt into stripping in front of the window. Teddy is pleased with the pictures, and says, “I’m going to look at these a lot,” a line that is unintentionally funny.
So, Jamie sets about buying raw meat for the Trogs. After running out of his own cash, he steals money from his babysitter’s purse. That only lasts so long, so Teddy convinces him to lure “naughty” people to their deaths.
Jamie proceeds to feed Abergail; the babysitter’s boyfriend (who is actually a nice guy!—he dies playing catch with Jamie); an old lady in a wheelchair; the bully; and the bully’s girlfriend to the Trogs. At that point, all the mean people are dead, and Jamie takes his babysitter to the location to prove the Trogs’ existence.
The babysitter urges Jamie to report the existence of these creatures to paleontologists, but Jamie refuses. In their spat, the babysitter accidentally falls into the pit, and the weak Jamie is unable to pull her back up.
Heartbroken, Jamie lowers a rope into the pit, allowing the Trogs to escape. They soon wreak havoc, killing and eating whomever is unfortunate enough to cross their paths. Some local rowdies and the authorities track the Trogs back to their hole, and blow them all away.
The film ends with Jamie moving in with his grandparents. He meets a girl next door, Alicia, who plays chase with Jamie. Alicia lures Jamie to another pit, and pushes the pipsqueak in.
What to say about this film? There were elements I quite liked. Early in the film, there was quite a bit of mystery about the exact nature of Jamie’s weirdness. It’s clear he’s not just an oddball with an interest in herpetology, but a deeply disturbed little boy. The nature of the Trogs remains mysterious, and it’s unclear whether or not Teddy’s personality is inside Jamie’s head, or if the bear is some kind of possessed entity (the film muddies the waters—Teddy turns his head independently at one point after the babysitter leaves the room, but another time, his voice is shown as coming from a tape recorder).
Unfortunately, the movie falls apart after that. Like a lot of these bad films, it tries to do too much. It’s trying to be The Omen (1976), Child’s Play (1988), and The Land That Time Forgot (1974) all in one. There are some good elements in this movie, but there are so many of them, it can never really develop any of them well.
I did appreciate that the movie didn’t try to psychoanalyze or overexplain either Jamie or Teddy too much. Nowadays, there’d be a whole backstory about some dark cult leader that put his soul into Teddy, and we’d be treated to a whole, detailed backstory about some tragedy in Jamie’s life that turned him into a weird little pervert. Or there’d be some explanation about Jamie dissociating and developing a second personality in the form of Teddy—maybe the bear he got from the mental institute his parents put him in as a child.
Fortunately, we’re spared all of those clichés, and the story overall isn’t terrible. But by the end of it, you’ll want to push Jamie into the pit, too—along with all the other characters, and that creepy teddy bear.