I Get The Pit! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Sweet, I think Kino released this blu just for me!  =)  I'm a big fan of The Pit; but it's a pretty weird, under-appreciated little flick.  If you told me I was one of only five people on Earth who liked this movie, I wouldn't be at all surprised.  But I really like it!  It's just twisted enough to walk a very fine line of humor and darkness.  It's definitely one of those, "they sure wouldn't make this movie today" kinda flicks.  And this isn't just The Pit's blu-ray debut, it's the first time we're getting it as a special edition, with extras to attempt to explain the bizarre, unfathomable thinking that went into making this film what it is.
It's about this 12 year-old boy who everybody picks on and treats terribly, from the other children playing cruel tricks on him to the adults in his life treating him like trash.  It seems he's been stigmatized as a "troubled" kid, but the isolation's starting to turn him genuinely weird.  Plus, he's dealing with all the regular life issues we all face in our awkward tween years, becoming an adult.  Having to let go of childish things, developing a sexual nature, and having an evil teddy bear that tells him to act on all his worst impulses.  That's already enough for a movie, but we haven't even gotten to the titular pit, which he finds in the woods.  It's full of hairy monsters he calls "tra-la-logs," who eat people.  So, you know, he's got a lot going on in his life when his parents decide to go away on an extended trip, and leave him with a babysitter who's earning her psychology degree by babysitting problem children.  He develops a crush on her while she has no idea what kind of mess she's slowly unraveling.
This is a real "I can't believe what I'm seeing" movie, but it's also quite intelligently written.  There's some very interesting, honest human psychology going on here that most movies don't have the nerve to get into.  And there's also fun and dark flights of fancy.  According to interviews, both online and on this blu, the original screenplay went for a darker, more realistic approach, and the director gets some flack for playing fast and loose with the material.  But personally, I'm glad for all the changes, because it sounds like it would've been a more conventional psychodrama/ horror movie.  Still worth watching, I'm sure; but the fact that this movie travels even further in almost every direction makes it much more fun and surprising, going just far enough to not lose the strength of the core material, even if it does make some pretty liberal license.  The cast is solid (especially that kid), the music has a fun, old school Hollywood feel, and the cinematography and special effects are a little pedestrian, but fine in service of a story that doesn't need the attention being taken away from it anyway.
The Pit has only been released on DVD once before, as part of a 2004 double-bill with Hellgate (another weird, 80s horror that I'm not overly impressed with, but it does have its moments) from Anchor Bay.  It's a flipper disc and completely barebones apart from a stills gallery and a two-page insert with each film's poster art.  I had to get it, though, just to have this movie in my collection and at least see it in widescreen.  But now it's out in HD, and in a special edition thanks to this brand new blu-ray from Kino released just this week!
2004 Anchor Bay DVD on top; 2016 Kino blu-ray below.
This isn't the same old scan just slapped onto an HD disc, this is an all new 2k restoration.  It's clearly taken from the same print, though - note the identical bit of green vertical damage on the trunk in the second set of shots.  And boy, is it clearly taken from a print.  It's super contrast-y, grainy and probably crushing a few blacks.  It almost looks like 16mm here.  But it's still a huge step up from the DVD, which was really soft in comparison.  The blu is much sharper and clearer, and dials down the reds, which were a little too strong, I think, on the DVD.  I'm sure it could still look a lot, lot better if they had the original negatives, but again, compared to the DVD, it's a big step up.  The framing's adjusted slightly, too, and presented in 1.78:1 on the blu, where it was matted to 1.85:1 on the DVD.  And yes, I did point out a little damage earlier, but it's very sporadic.  You'll notice some flecks and scratches here and there, but it's not a terribly damaged print.

We're given a simple 2.0 track in DTS-HD.  There's a little bit of hiss, but the audio is pretty robust and the score sounds great.  No subs.  Sorry hearing impaired viewers; your money's no good here.
Possibly the most compelling aspect of this new release, though, is the collection of special features.  First, we get a pretty good, informative audio commentary by Paul Corupe of canuxploitation.com and Jason Pichonsky of depthsploitation.com.  The real coup, though, are the on camera interviews.  First, we get Sammy Snyders, the kid himself.  He has a long chat, telling us a bit about his career before and after the film, but mostly The Pit itself, which fortunately he remembers quite well.  We also get a fun, if shorter and breezier talk with his co-star Jeannie Elias.  Most fascinatingly, we hear from the screenwriter himself, Ian A. Stuart, who talks all about the ideas he put into the film, as well as everything they changed.  He seems to think nobody will understand the film without his original ending; but I disagree, I think people get it as-is, even if it's a little more abstract and there's no coda to spell everything out.  Still great to hear his take on it all.  And finally, we hear from the composer, Victor Davies.  This has a rather distinct, orchestral (for 80s horror) score, so I was glad to hear how that came about, though it was a little disheartening to hear that he didn't seem to care much for the film itself.  Neither did Stuart, for that matter.  But, I get it; this is definitely not a film for general audiences.  Anyway, that's about it except for a healthy collection of bonus trailers.  They stills gallery from the DVD was dropped, but there wasn't much terribly interesting in that one, anyway.  They actually had more interesting behind-the-scenes photos incorporated into the interviews.
So if you've got the DVD, go ahead and chuck it.  This is a huge improvement; and if you must have Hellgate, Arrow's actually released a much fancier special edition DVD of it in 2014, with a blu-ray edition coming out at the end of this year.  But I doubt very many people have the DVD, and I don't foresee this flick being a big seller on blu, either.  And that's a shame, because this is a delightfully insane film that's only appreciated by a teensy, tiny devoted cult audience, of which I am one.  So if anyone at Kino reads this, at least know that I'm super grateful for this release.  Thank you, guys.


  1. I wonder if they mention in the commentary if that this was filmed between sept and oct 1979, but not released until sometime in 81. it looks so 70's too..

  2. I just saw this for the first time a couple of weeks ago at an Alamo Drafthouse screening and loved it. The ending is dead-on perfect.

  3. It looks sharper indeed but way too contrasty and the colors look much more natural on that dvd sadly.