The Dead Pit (1989)

“The Dead Pit” is one of those late-’80s horror movies that I used to see on the video store shelves as a child but for some reason I never got around to despite regularly raiding the horror section. Watching it as an adult, I almost wish I hadn’t actually bothered: It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s nothing particularly special. Mind you, there are some striking touches here and there: The story is solid and rife with potential, lead Cheryl Dawson is not half-bad as our damsel-in-distress, and there’s some style here and there that precludes you from dismissing it outright. However, it’s about 20 minutes too long, with several scenes that are redundant and repetitive, and a climax that goes on and on as you fight the impulse to check your watch every so often. There are some budget restraints that limit the movie’s scope (including largely limiting the action to the inside of a psychiatric hospital, which is relevant to the story but also overly stately as a setting), but director Brett Leonard has a sharp eye for shot composition: There are some striking images and sequences once in a while that catch the eye, like when the zombies rise from the “dead pit” and a memorable shot of the zombies running in a hallway that recalls a famous scene from Lamberto Bava’s “Demons,” so it’s not totally a waste of time, it’s just on the underwhelming side. If I did half-stars I’d give it two and a half, but it’s closer to a two than a three in my opinion.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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