Jamie Benjamin has a problem: His stuffed bear “Teddy” is a pervert.
But Jamie has another problem: A group of man-eating troglodytes has taken residence in a pit behind his house.
So what happens when a boy and his sentient, paranormal teddy bear comes in contact with a race of crypto-zoological apemen? Well, they feed them people, of course. That’s the gist behind 1981’s “The Pit,” an offbeat Canadian horror film from director Lew Lehman.
In the production, Jamie (as played by Sammy Snyders) is beaten up by bullies at school, made fun of by girls in his neighborhood, and humiliated by adults who catch him sneaking photos of women to his bear. His attempts to creep on his babysitter are foiled both by his parents, who force him out from under the kitchen table so he can’t look up her skirt, and the babysitter’s boyfriend, who steals her attention away from him. Fortunately, Jamie’s teddy bear has a murderous streak, and helps him feed people to the monsters.
Sound like fun?
Well, it sort of is, and isn’t. The deaths are entertaining, but not particularly clever. The babysitter’s boyfriend falls into the pit when he’s trying to catch a football. A girl rides her bike in while chasing the boy. And a kid almost willingly jumps in when he’s told there’s treasure there. The only person who puts up any fight is a ballerina, who runs away, but loses interest halfway through the chase and basically allows herself to be fed to the monsters. The only person who shows any adverse reaction to being eaten is the babysitter, who falls into the pit through her own clumsiness.
Yet, somehow, this movie still works. It mixes the killer toy and prehistoric survival genres with a sort of whimsical abandon, and makes the perversions of an adolescent and his stuffed toy the axis by which its strange world spins. But there is also the atmosphere.
“The Pit” is somewhat reminiscent of all those low budget children’s movies from the '60s and '70s (I used to catch them weekday afternoons on Nickelodeon in the early '90s). They weren’t cleverly shot, or photographed, but their plain cinematography somehow made them more real than their polished brothers on the big screen. And this movie works in that same cheap format.
The movie, however, would have worked better if the monsters were, well, less real. According to some sources online, the teddy bear and troglodytes were both originally supposed to be figments of the boy’s imagination. Instead, in the finished film, the teddy bear clearly moves when the boy is not around, and the troglodytes escape the pit and eat teenagers when the boy leaves. The original intention would have been better.
Unfortunately, a film must be judged in the way it exists, and paranormal teddies and cannibalistic cavemen don’t mix.
“The Pit” is currently available for free on YouTube. Used copies can also be purchased on Amazon.com.
Cinema sect is a weekly column by N-D News Editor Matt Fritz, featuring analysis and reviews of cult horror, science fiction and exploitation films from the depths of cinema history to the present.