Thursday, September 9, 2010

It’s a Dead Dead Dead Dead Pit

The Dead Pit
Dir. Brett Leonard

I get the whole willful suspension of disbelief thing because The Dead Pit is a movie about a mad scientist making zombies out of the corpses of mental patients. I do. But there are so many points in this film that hinge on the staff of the State Institution for the Mentally Ill making colossally bad judgment calls it becomes laughable. Like the orderlies who shove a mental patient into a maximum security room without bothering to confiscate that iron bar he’s carrying. Or the fact that male and female patients are kept on the same floor in unlocked rooms and allowed to roam the halls unescorted at night. Or that the hospital director finds a human organ on his breakfast tray and waves it off like it’s an everyday occurrence.
In fact, the bad decisions begin immediately with a 20-years-ago prologue in which the hospital director finds his chief brain surgeon, Colin Ramzi (“I’ve done life; now I’m doing death!”), in an unauthorized basement lab performing questionable experiments on the bodies of patients. Rather than alert the authorities, the hospital director (played by Jeremy Slate, who grumbles like a cut rate Peter Graves) decides to simply shoot the surgeon and wall the lab up himself.
And everything’s hunky dory for a couple decades until a mysterious amnesia patient named Jane Doe, who has a penchant for wandering the halls late at night in bikini underwear and midriff tops, is checked in just as an earthquake unseals Ramzi’s secret lab.

Zombology: Though they take their sweet ass time showing up, the zombies of The Dead Pit, created by Ramzi who’s become a glowing eyed, clawed monstrosity, himself, during his 20 years of undeadishness, are pretty standard genre fare. Gray faced and glistening like slugs, the zombies come eventually come climbing out of the titular pit to overrun the hospital grounds with much cracking of skulls. Though bodies are not consumed, the undead do fetishistically crack open the noggins of their victims and tote around their brains for reasons nobody bothers to explain. The zombies are also unfailingly polite. Though they’re pounding at the hospital director’s door at one point, they genteelly step back to allow him to rattle off 10 minutes of dramatically appropriate exposition uninterrupted.

There are a lot of cool perspective shots salted through the film, but that can’t excuse some of the ridiculous plot contrivances and some really shoddy model work late in the film that simply haven’t aged well. Also, the plot twists are painfully obvious (you don’t think there could be some sort of relationship between Jane Doe and Dr. Ramzi, do you?)
And for that, The Dead Pit sucks 45 percent as bad as Hell of the Living Dead.

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