Back on Blu-ray: THE DEAD PIT Rises Again

THE DEAD PIT is re-released on Blu-ray from Code Red, Dark Force, and Kino Lorber

The ghoulish 80s zombie classic The Dead Pit is back on Blu-ray in a new edition from Code Red, Dark Force, and Kino Lorber.

(Note: While the film is stylized as simply “Dead Pit” on its poster and materials, the consensus seems to be that the official title is “The Dead Pit”.)

Twenty years ago, a string of grisly murders took place at a state mental institution, but was quietly covered up — a pit full of corpses left to rot in the basement, and the access door simply walled over.

In the present, a “ Jane Doe” (Sarah Lawson) with memory loss arrives at the institution. But she claims she’s not amnesiac — the last thing she remembers is that her memories were intentionally stolen from her by a mad doctor who surgically operated on her brain. The story unnerves Dr. Gerald Swan (Jeremy Slate), who finds it eerily similar to aspects of the events of twenty years ago — a mystery that he solved, and subsequently covered up.

In addition to her memory loss, Jane Doe sees gruesome visions and eerie premonitions, dismissed by her caretakers as hallucinations. But something evil, she knows, is stirring in — and beneath — the hospital.

Like most low-budget 80s flicks, this one has some gratuitous T&A that’s far from politically correct. Lawson’s character spends much of the film in barely-there PJs (skimpy panties and a crop top). In one particularly mean-spirited torture scene, she gets sprayed with a hose with predictable results. On a positive note, the wardrobe was in part her own contribution — she suggested the midriff-baring top because she felt her costume looked too frumpy.

But what’s genuinely surprising about The Dead Pit is how wonderfully it sets a mood. The script is pure B-movie schlock (that’s not an insult, just a recognition). However, it’s so effective at style and tone that it elevates the film to something special, more than just a forgettable or disposable horror movie.

The filmmakers definitely understood the assignment; Dead Pit has an air of nocturnal surrealism, culminated from number of different aspects working in concert. The eerie location, a real abandoned institution, does a lot of the heavy lifting, to be sure. Add to that a hazy, uncertain air permeating the cinematography, stark lighting, dutch angles, and dreamlike score — it’s a waking nightmare.

The Package

The Dead Pit has previously been released on Blu-ray, but for this edition Code Red and Dark Force have the distribution support of Kino Lorber, making it more accessible.

The new edition is packaged with a slipcover (for the first time on Blu-ray, I believe) and includes a new commentary.

It’s noted as being a 2K Scan from original negative with “extensive scene-by-scene correction”, and it looks pretty solid.

Special Features and Extras

New to this edition:

Audio Commentary by Brett Leonard, Gimel Everette, and Jeremy Slate

Carryover featurettes:
Legacy DVD features are included, albeit in very poor (low resolutions, heavily interlaced) quality.

Interview with Writer/Director Brett Leonard (21:07)
Brett comments on the film and, perhaps most interestingly, the famous VHS packaging with light-up eyes that doubtlessly helped drive a lot of its viewership. Toward the end of the interview he also pulls in actor/writer Randell Fontana for some additional comments.

Interview with Writer/Producer Gimel Everett (10:55)

Everett describes how she got involved with the film, the writing process, affection for the zombie genre, the film and its stars, and small-budget challenges of getting the film made.

Interview with star Cheryl Lawson (12:32)

Lawson, who has somehow only gotten more stunning and graceful with age, describes the circumstances that led to her casting, her experience on the film, and her subsequent career which includes a turn into stunt work.

Interview with Star Jeremy Slate (13:35)

Slate, who was on board the film essentially since before its inception, describes all kinds of interesting remembrances — how he met writer-director Brett Leonard, and the circumstances which led to the creation of the film (which was built around the location), getting “brained” in makeup, working with Cheryl Lawson, screening the film for his pal Wes Craven, and more.

Theatrical Trailer (1:51)

Promo Trailers — trailers for Death Ring (2:46), Guyana, Cult of the Damned (2:30), and Insect (2:06)

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and web display.

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