Dead Pit (1989)
Directed by Brett Leonard

Starring Cheryl Lawson Danny Gochnauer Jeremy Slate Stephen Gregory Foster

After a VHS release in 1989 that featured a memorable video box -- I think it either had flashing red eyes or would make a sound when you squeezed a zombie's face or something -- "The Dead Pit" drifted out of print, where it remained for almost 20 years. Then, in 2008, horror revivalists Code Red DVD remastered and finally re-released the film to DVD.

Well, there was a reason this film had remained out of print all those years. It just isn't a very good movie, even if you love bad movies. But it also isn't total, absolute crap either.

I'm going to recommend it, strictly as an artifact of an era. It was one of the last horror movies of the 1980s and it enjoyed a wide VHS release. It is also a zombie film -- another plus -- but it's special effects are pretty weak.

The film opens in a "Re-Animator"-style hospital setting where evil experiments are being conducted on insane asylum patients. Dr. Ramsey (Danny Gochnauer) is the evil psychiatrist doing the occult/medical/brain experiments on the inmates. He's also dumping their bodies into a "dead pit," hence the title of the movie.

After a "good" doctor (Jeremy Slate) opts to kill the mad occult psycho psychiatrist and then cover up the pit, 20 years pass without any drama at the mental institution -- until there's an earthquake, and a screaming amnesiac named Jane Doe (), who happens to have a psychic powers and a psychic link to the Dead Pit, shows up.

Zombie-like appearances of the deceased evil doctor, now with glowing red eyes, lead to further patient, nurse and orderly deaths. The middle of the film mostly consists of Jane Doe dealing with recurring nightmares and the evil doc haunting the halls of the asylum.

Eventually all the corpses of the dead pit emerge for a lumbering, brain-eating, zombie onslaught on the asylum. Jane Doe, meanwhile, befriends one of the more normal patients who is also a bit heroic and has a British accent to remind us just how heroic he is.

The effects are nothing to write home about. And the movie does include a little bit of sleaze, which helps differentiate it from much of the horror dreck heading direct to DVD these days. I also liked the climax, involving blessing the water in a water tower before blasting it to create a flood of holy water -- effective in killing off occult zombies.

All in all, pretty bad, but watchable. Director Brett Leonard went on to helm the mediocre "Lawnmower Man."

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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