The Dead Pit (1989)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took the movie The Snake Pit and combined it with Dr. Butcher, M.D.? No? Well, you’re not the only one. But somebody did, and that somebody would go on to direct Lawnmower Man.

In this movie, a psychotic surgeon who works at a mental hospital is murdered by his colleague for his unauthorized surgeries that he’s conducting in the basement. The psychiatrist who kills him then seals the basement, but 20 years later a Jane Doe arrives, and an earthquake breaks open the doorway. First, the dead surgeon begins appearing and murdering the staff and patients at the now run-down facility, but once he’s built up enough power, he instead unleashes his horde of zombie patients to go after everyone.

Of course, it’s up to Jane Doe to stop the mad surgeon. Oh, and she has a friend: a fellow patient in the psych ward who happens to be relatively sane but is a demolitions expert who enjoys blowing things up. These are the kinds of people who are handy in a pinch, and he is. There’s also a crazy nun, and once Jane Doe and the Bad Bomber discover holy water works on taking down zombies, well, guess who’s gonna blow up a water tower?

Yes, this is all ridiculous. You get a bit of gore involving people’s brains being exposed, stuck with needles, or pulled out. There is a fair bit of blood too, and the zombies are just covered in it. One dude takes a dental drill to the eye, and more than once, you get to watch a lobotomy in action. But there isn’t the usual biting or any of that nonsense; these zombies want brains, but purely for ceremonial purposes. They just kind of walk around holding them up and don’t ever do anything with them.

Oh, and the mad surgeon? He’s got some kind of Satanic power coming from his ring or something like that. At least, I think that is what is happening. After all, holy water takes him down, his eyes glow red, and his power transfers when someone else wears his ring at the end. This begs the question, “Why would you put on a dead evil surgeon’s ring?” Some horror movie decisions I will never understand.

The Dead Pit isn’t special, but it’s weird, and it looks like it was filmed with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens. I kinda like that, it makes it feel way more late 80s/early 90s, which is compounded by the hairstyles and design of female underwear. The movie is a little sluggish, but once it gets going, many of the main characters’ decisions are understandable, and some are downright smart. I’m always surprised by good choices, and the Bad Bomber here knows just what he’s doing. He’s also not afraid of the Zed word, which I appreciate. Really, he’s the best part of the movie…well, that and the underwear. This isn’t the first film I’d recommend folks who are looking to go off the beaten horror path, but it isn’t the last either. If you can though, go watch The Boneyard. Now that’s a horror movie I’d recommend to folks. Plus it has a mutant zombie poodle.

“When the dead start walking, you’d better start running…” is a painfully bad tagline.

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