Friday, June 16, 2017

Just Desserts – ALLIGATOR

I love an intricate story.  Movies that painstakingly set up your expectations only to cleverly swerve into mysterious new directions can be exciting and innovative.  I’m thrilled by a good surprise or a smart twist.  Those movies can require a big investment of attention, though.  They can be a little exhausting.  Sometimes you just want a movie about a big alligator that eats jerks.  Lucky for you, 1980’s ALLIGATOR gives you just that.  

The Capsule:
After a heartless dad flushes his daughter's live pet down the toilet, Ramon the baby alligator is left to wander the lonely sewers of Chicago.  Twelve years on, Ramon has grown into quite the big boy, thanks to a steady diet of hormone filled dog corpses that the crooked pharmaceutical company dumps into his tunnels.  When sewer workers start getting fished out in bits and pieces, homicide detective David Madison (Robert Forster) is brought in to get to the bottom of things.  His first trip into the sewer yields revealing clues in the form of his partner being eaten by Ramon.  No one believes his story, not his gravel voiced boss (Michael Gazzo), not the press, and especially not the crooked Mayor (Jack Carter), at least until Ramon bursts up through the sidewalk and starts gobbling up people left and right.  When David fails to locate Ramon quickly enough, the Mayor fires him and brings in smug, racist big game hunter, Col. Brock (Henry Silva) to get the job done—which he does, as long as the job was to feed the alligator.  It’s up to David and perky herpetologist Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker) to stop the oversized beast’s reign of terror, after it gobbles up every deserving victim in town.  

ALLIGATOR is another proud contender in the beloved sub-genre of JAWS rip-offs, where an assortment of deadly shark substitutes are inserted into the same basic plot.  Other vicious variants include smaller fish (PIRANHA), larger fish (ORCA – okay, not really a fish), bears (GRIZZLY), and cars (THE CAR).  They are fun because they all try to shoehorn some of the JAWS staples (dismissive city officials, cynical hunter, disastrous community celebration, etc.) into sometimes wildly inappropriate settings, but each one has its own unique flavor.  ALLIGATOR moves the action straight to the mean streets of Chicago (actually Los Angeles).  

One of the best things about this version is the lead actor, Robert Forster, playing the Chief Brody role.  Forster is always a pleasure to watch.  He brings friendly, blue collar charm to all his characters, from his leading man days of the ‘70’s and ‘80s, up to his later supporting roles, like JACKIE BROWN.  His depiction of detective David is perfect for the tone of the movie, with enough dry humor to make him fun, but not enough to turn the whole thing into a joke.  He can make self-deprecating jokes (there’s a running gag about his receding hairline) without coming off like a sad sack.  He is manly enough to be a tough guy, but sensitive enough to have a sweet relationship with Marisa (the lady version of Hooper, though thankfully not a lady version of Richard Dreyfuss).

The other great thing about ALLIGATOR is the refreshingly straightforward script.  Written by genre scribe extraordinaire, John Sayles, the story unselfconsciously delivers the goods.  If a character is shady, he is guaranteed to die violently and usually as a direct result of his own actions.  Wondering what happened to that little girl whose dad flushed Ramon down the drain 12 year ago? Yep, it’s Marisa the gator scientist.  She even mentioned that she had a baby alligator when she was a kid.  If someone makes a passing comment about methane pockets in the sewer tunnels, you can be damn sure it comes up later in a big way.  This script does not have time for clever connections or sly twists.  It’s the anti-Shyamalan.

I really appreciate the hardline stance the movie takes on jerks.  The closest it comes to being subtle is the shifty pet shop owner played by Sydney Lassick.  He seems harmless enough, but there is something a little off about him (because he’s Sydney Lassick).  Soon enough, he’s out pet napping pooches to sell as test subjects to Helms (James Ingersoll), the despicable pharmaceutical scientist who is so evil, he only experiments on puppies.  The pet shop owner meets his toothy end while disposing of hormonally altered dog corpses in the sewer, which is the reason Ramon grew so large in the first place.  The only part of the body left to find is his leg, still wearing an alligator leather shoe.  Double irony!

The next deserving victim is the sleazy journalist, Kemp (Bart Braverman), who goes out of his way to bring up David’s traumatic past (ha ha, you got your partner killed!) in every news story.  He sneaks onto crime scenes, stages photos, and slathers the movie with a thick layer of smarm whenever he’s on camera.  Kemp is exactly what President Trump thinks all reporters who don’t work for Fox News are like.  I’ll bet he has the clip of a screaming Kemp being devoured playing on a loop on his phone during every press conference.  Just kidding!  Trump doesn’t give press conferences.

The gator doesn’t dine exclusively on assholes, though.  Kelly (Perry Lang), the fresh faced rookie who volunteers to fish around in the tunnels with David, gets gobbled up pretty quick (not helping David’s reputation of being hard on partners).  The many nameless cops and civilians who fall prey to Ramon couldn't have been all bad.  There is even a cute little kid who gets pushed into a pool where the man-eater is chilling and disappears in a cloud of red.  JAWS rip-offs are classically merciless on adorable moppets.  

That said, Ramon eats a lot of assholes.  The bigger they are, the more satisfying their death scene.  They don’t come much bigger than the legendary big game hunter, Brock.  He’s equivalent to the Quint character, minus any redeeming qualities.  Henry Silva always had a talent for playing reprehensible folk, and he really takes it up a notch with Brock.  He actually breaks up the standard JAWS trifecta of Lawman/Scientist/Hunter because the Hunter is so obnoxious that the Lawman and Scientist don’t want anything to do with him.  Not only is Brock arrogant, sexist, and lecherous, he is super racist.  In one scene, he hires a few African Americans from the neighborhood to be his bearers, literally to carry all his shit.  The motherfucker even calls them “natives”.  However much money the Mayor coughed up for this guy’s services, he seriously overpaid.  Brock tracks Ramon into an alley, but is completely surprised when the giant bursts out from under a huge trash pile and chomps down on his ass.  Some great white hunter he turned out to be.  I hope his bearers got paid in advance.

The cherry on top of the carnage pie, though, is the outdoor wedding.  It is the perfect storm of scumbags.  After discussing their illegal business dealings, Slade (Dean Jagger), the greedy, amoral head of the pharmaceutical company, invites the Mayor to his daughter’s wedding.  Slade introduces him to his soon to be son-in-law, who turns out to be—wait for it—Helms, the despicable head scientist who started the whole mess to begin with.  
Naturally, Ramon is instinctively drawn to this literal buffet of bastards like a hipster to mustache wax.  What follows is an orgy of well-deserved death.  Helms gets thoroughly chewed up (he is not getting that tuxedo deposit back), the Mayor is torn into while pleading to be let into Slade’s limo, and Ramon flattens the old man’s car with him inside.  Several incidental party guests get taken out as well, but given that they were there at Slade’s invitation, they couldn’t be all that innocent.   At least the bride makes it out alive, and is left weeping over the loss of her douchebag groom.  Trust me, lady, you dodged a bullet there.  You should be thanking the alligator.

This movie just goes to show you don’t need an elaborate plot or a unique concept to make an incredibly entertaining movie.  The fact that Sayles struck gold a second time using the same basic premise a couple of years later with PIRANHA is further proof.  All that is really needed is a director with a steady hand, (Corman vet Lewis Teague, in this case), a snappy script, and a few charismatic (or quirky) leads.  Oh, and never underestimate the appeal of comeuppance.  Mean people don’t always get what they deserve in real life, but in the movies, karma is an enormous, sharp-toothed bitch.

C Chaka

Friday, June 9, 2017

Roll With the Punches - ONLY GOD FORGIVES

I’m a big proponent of going into a movie with no expectations.  It’s not always possible, of course.  The themes of certain movies are a given.  The latest STAR WARS movie will contain a star at some point, and at least some form of warfare.  Superhero movies will likely not dabble too deeply into the existential nature of life (Ang Lee’s THE HULK aside).  Even with these movies, though, it is important to go in with an open mind.  Building up a very specific level of expectation inevitably leads to disappointment, or worse, rejection of a movie without fully experiencing it on its own merits.  Stay loose, roll with the punches.  Almost all movies work better when viewed with an open mind.  Some movies absolutely demand it.  Trying to make Nicolas Winding Refn’s ONLY GOD FORGIVES conform to any kind of expectation will simply break your brain.

The Capsule:
Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a modest drug trade out of a Bangkok kickboxing ring, along with his repulsive, vile brother, Billy (Tom Burke).  When Billy kills an underaged prostitute, he runs afoul of mystical god cop, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), who facilitates the scumbag’s very deserved death.  Julian is reluctant to claim revenge because he is familiar with his brother, and Jesus, did that fucker deserve to have his head caved in.  That wasn’t a question.  This is a question: Who could have raised such a horrendous piece of shit? We learn the answer when Julian’s mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas!) arrives from Miami.  Crystal is the worst human being on Earth, even worse than her prostitute murdering son because she made him.  Crystal very much wants revenge and cares nothing about how many people get killed in the process.  So, poor Julian is stuck between an immovable object (Chang) and an intolerable force (his mom).

If Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and Dario Argento had an orgy while on acid and watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s EL TOPO on a continuous loop, the resulting child would be this movie.  ONLY GOD FORGIVES is straight up nuts.  Not lowbrow nuts (we have no money or script and the director is just going to wing it), but highbrow nuts (we gave the director too much money/control and we have no idea what the hell is going on).  The basic plot is pretty straightforward, more or less, but the way Refn gets there is anything but.  With all the trippy visuals, deliberate pacing, and ominous music, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is a dream sequence.  Maybe all of it is a dream sequence.  It doesn’t matter.  Don't try to figure it out, just float along with it.

If you can't stomach the story, the visuals alone should be enough to get you by.  It was hard to select screen shots because practically every frame in this movie is a work of art.  Cinematographer Larry Smith worked on Kubrick’s last film, EYES WIDE SHUT, and the influence is instantly apparent.  The Bangkok of this world is filled with an unnatural, vivid, and precise beauty.  Even the ugliness, which this film has in spades, looks gorgeous.  Refn is such an astute visual storyteller that the film could be viewed with no dialogue at all and still make just as much sense (which is to say, not that much).  You would miss all of Kristin Scott Thomas’s jaw-droppingly offensive dialogue, though, so don’t do that.

Refn’s movies have always focused more on antiheroes than traditional good guys (see VALHALA RISING, BRONSON, DRIVE).  ONLY GOD FORGIVES warps the concept of a protagonist even farther.  There are characters so unspeakably horrible that the merely awful ones come out looking pretty good.  

Julian is the most sympathetic, because anyone forced to spend time with Crystal deserves our pity, but it is hard to call him the protagonist since most of the movie revolves around his inaction.  He barely speaks, mostly avoids violence, and is only peripherally involved (and fully clothed) in the movie’s joyless sex scenes.  It’s kind of hard to watch Ryan Gosling playing such a depressingly pathetic loser (as opposed to THE NICE GUYS where he is a lovably pathetic loser).  

Kristen Scott Thomas, who by all accounts is a decent person, deserves an Oscar for her transformation into Julian’s heartless mother.  Seriously, it’s more impressive than the transformation in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.  Crystal is like Tony Soprano, but with less charm and humanity.  Unlike her male counterpart, though, she never even lifts a finger to put the hurt on anyone.  She doesn’t have to. She has perfected the violence of words.  Vulgar, demeaning, and tailored for maximum damage, her words cut deeper than knives.  Even the most hardened gangsters in Bangkok are terrified of her.  One guy endures being impaled by spikes, having his eyes sliced, and his ear drums pierced just to avoid doing something that would get her mad at him.  Sticks and stones may break your bones, but that’s preferable to getting a earful from Crystal.

There is no doubt that Julian’s spiritual and physical impotence is due to his mother.  She has him completely twisted around her finger.  The whole reason he is exiled in Thailand is because he killed his father at her request.  In the very first moment of their reunion in her Bangkok hotel room it becomes clear that Crystal has a very inappropriate relationship with her son.  This is probably the only time seeing someone rub up against Ryan Gosling has come off as gross.  I mean, I haven’t seen LA LA LAND, but I’m willing to bet it doesn’t have as much suggested incest.

Julian and Crystal’s awkward relationship leads to, in my opinion, the most amazing part of the movie.   Julian, in an utterly hopeless attempt to gain his mother’s approval, goes to high class call girl, Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam), and asks her to accompany him to dinner with his mother and pretend to be his actual, non-paid girlfriend.  Mia looks like she would rather he just shoot her in the face, but feeling sorry for him, she agrees.  So in the middle of this incredibly stylized, hyper-violent crime story, it takes break for a classic sitcom moment.  What follows is like an episode of Growing Pains shot in the Ninth Circle of Hell.  

To start the night on a classy note, Crystal breaks the ice by causally calling Mai a “cum dumpster.”  It manages to get worse from there.  She thanks Mai for her condolences regarding Billy and then proceeds to go on, in detail, about the size of her dead son’s cock.  To be fair, she also admits that Julian’s cock size is pretty decent, just nothing compared to Billy.  Julian spends the dinner looking down at his plate hoping for a sudden aneurysm, but Mai stands her ground with Crystal.  She doesn't speak out, because that would be akin to going onto a pro-Trump forum and announcing “You know, I think you guys didn't give Hilary a fair shot.”  Nothing productive would come of that.  Everything is expressed through Mia's defiant stare, unwavering against even the most offensively scalding comments that Devil Mom can spit out.  Mai is one of only two people in the film who do not wither under Crystal’s verbal venom, and she comes off as being the one truly admirable character. 

The most fascinating and utterly confounding part of the movie is Chang.  Everyone else exists in this gritty hyper-reality, but Chang is straight up otherworldly.  He just appears at the initial crime scene like the Spirit of Justice.  All the other Bangkok cops treat him with  reverence, like he is an absolute authority.  He allows the murdered prostitute’s dad to bash Billy to death, then he cuts off the dad’s arm as penance for pimping out his daughter in the first place.  I know it’s a foreign land and all, but that just does not seem like standard police procedure to me.  Plus, he magically summons his sword from behind his head.  So, yeah, he's hard to pin down.

Other times, though, Chang seems like a somewhat normal person.  He has a nice little house and a loving family.  He enjoys dinner with cop friends.  At one point he shoots someone with a gun, so it’s not all magic sword business.  After moments of extreme violence, he unwinds by singing karaoke to a throng of captivated policemen.  Well, maybe that’s not exactly normal, but he seems to be more man than metaphor.  

Chang is another bit of unexpected casting, because for an unflappable god cop, Vithaya Pansringarm seems more like a socks and sandals granddad.  Looking at him, you would expect him to be the frustrated chief at the police station, pounding his desk and warning the hot shot new guy that he’s gone too far.  Instead, Chang is a total badass, supremely confident and really scary.  When Julian challenges him to a fight in a misguided attempt to protect his mother, Chang absolutely wipes the floor with him.  Julian's skills are impressive, but he doesn’t even land one punch or kick.  The fight is completely legit, no extreme close ups or fast cutting to hide anything.  It is shot nice and wide so you can see the action, and it is choreographed so well that you believe this unassuming retiree could beat the shit out of a professional kickboxer.  Of course, it all goes down in front of Crystal, because Julian clearly hasn’t been embarrassed enough in front of his mother.

It is far from a happy ending [Spoiler] but at least Crystal doesn’t make it out.  Chang finally confronts her at her hotel room, and after trying her hardest to throw her son under the bus, she finds the one thing sharper than her tongue is Chang’s sword.  On the way out, then entire management staff of the hotel gives Chang a huge fruit basket in appreciation.  Okay, they didn’t show that part, but there had to be a few high fives going around.  What we do get to see is Julian discovering the body.  He calmly slices open her stomach and sticks his hand into her uterus.  Hey, we all find closure in our own way.  Who am I to judge?

This kind of film is not for everybody.  That’s true for most of Refn’s films.  They are not movies to go into with preconceptions.  I remember hearing a story about a woman who went to see DRIVE and got so upset that it wasn’t like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS that she tried to sue the studio for false advertising or crushed dreams or something.  I would have paid good money to see her reaction to this movie.  Hopefully someone asked her, “Hey, do you want to go see that new Ryan Gosling kickboxing movie?” and recorded the results.  I should check YouTube.

C Chaka

Friday, June 2, 2017

Monster Rollercoaster: THE PIT

Tone is key to good storytelling, especially within film.  An inconsistent tone can undercut suspense, blunt the impact of a death, or make jokes fall flat.  That is what makes horror comedies so hard to get right.  Make it too silly and you lose any potential for genuine scares.  Make it too harrowing and the jokes could come off as mean spirited.  Balancing different tones takes a deft touch.  Some directors, like Taika Waititi, are masters of tonal shift (HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE flows through comedy, drama, action, and heartbreak as effortlessly as water).  Many directors never get there.  In my opinion, if you can’t handle the subtlety of a seamless tone shift, go as far as you can in the other direction and make your lane changes as audacious as possible.  Morph your musical into a slasher film midway and see what happens.  It may not result in a critically acclaimed success, but chances are anyone who sees it will remember it, for good or for bad.  Just look at Lew Lehman’s 1981 psychological horror/bad seed/evil toy/monster movie THE PIT.  

The Capsule:
Twelve year old Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders) has it rough.  Everyone in town thinks he’s a twisted little weirdo—which he is, but they don’t have to be such dicks about it.  His parents are emotionally distant and try their hardest to be physically distant as well, leaving him with a continuously revolving roster of babysitters for weeks on end.  His latest caretaker, Sandy (Jeannie Elias), a college student experienced with troubled youths, is unexpectedly nice to him.  So much so that he forgets about his stalker crush on the town librarian (Laura Hollingsworth) and instantly falls into creepy child love with her. Oh, and Jamie has conversations with his stuffed bear, Teddy, who is either a projection of his imagination, or a vessel for pure evil.  And it is also worth noting that he is caring for a pack of very real bloodthirsty monsters in a pit in the woods that only he knows about.  As his social problems continue to mount, Jamie realizes he can kill two birds with one stone by providing the Tra-la-logs, has he calls them, a healthy diet of asshole townsfolk.  While initially successful (by his standards), things eventually get out of hand and even worse, out of the pit.  

THE PIT is a runaway train of tone mutations.  In the beginning it has the feel of a coming of age film, which slips into uncomfortable pyscho-sexual territory, wobbles around with the supernatural, becomes a revenge flick, then takes on a junior serial killer vibe, before turning into a monster bloodbath.  If it is on the map, this movie has drunkenly swerved through it.  Look no further than the opening scene to demonstrate what kind of madness you are in for.  The movie was obviously sold on the whole monsters in the pit angle, but since no one gets killed until almost an hour in and they don’t even show the pit until the twenty minute mark, someone decided to jump start the action by lifting an ENTIRE sequence from later on when Jamie lures some victims to the pit and make it a cold open.  The scene just starts.  You have no idea who any of these people are or what the hell their deal is.  Jamie is introduced in a faceless Halloween costume.  There is a flashback to a scene that hasn’t happened yet.  And the full scene plays out again an hour later where it was supposed to.  It’s kind of amazing.  

We get our proper introduction to social misfit and future bully killer Jamie in afterschool detention, repeating a sentence on the blackboard over and over, Bart Simpson style (perhaps this was Matt Groening’s secret inspiration). 

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Jamie, as every single person in town hates him.  Some have legitimate reasons to dislike him. Others are hostile on sight, reacting like he’s giving off some kind of abuse pheromone.  When he politely introduces himself to an older kid on the school playground and asks to join his club, the kid just hauls off and punches Jamie in the nose.  The kid didn’t actually say it, but we can assume that his answer was a “no.”  

Then we are introduced to Abergail (Andrea Swartz), an adorable redheaded little girl who, in any other problem child movie, would be the problem child.  She screams at him for admiring her bike, then wheels around taunting him that his dad is going to put him in an institution for being such a weirdo.  Later she apologizes to him for being so mean and offers to let him ride her bike, only to bend over laughing when the bike falls apart and knocks him on his ass (she hatches impressively elaborate pranks for being such a little turd).  She even adds a surprisingly cutting level of venom to her clunky, eight year-old insults, like when she calls him a funny person, or, my favorite, “Well, if it isn’t Clumsy Stupid.”  Jamie has his problems, but my god, Abergail is a pint sized ginger Satan.  

Adults who should know better are just as bad.  Even blind old Miss Oliphant (Lillian Graham), whose nurse purposefully rams her wheelchair into Jamie’s feet while he’s standing on the sidewalk, loudly complains about what a horrible child he is and that he’ll probably grow up to be “one of those… hippies”.  

Before you can become too sympathetic to poor Jamie, we find out his extra-curricular activities include swinging naked from the trees and sending anonymous, sexually explicit artwork to Marge, the librarian.  At one point the little perv goes so far as set up a fake ransom call to Marge claiming to have kidnapped her niece Abergail and blackmails her into stripping at the window so he can take pictures from behind the bushes.  What a scamp.

The majority of the movie revolves around Jamie’s relationship with Sandy, who really needs to screen her babysitting gigs more carefully.  Jamie’s mother even warns Sandy that the kid is going to crush hard on her because he’s at that age where he’s starting to notice girls and also he’s a junior sexual predator.  She begins to get the idea when she wakes up in the morning to him standing at her bed, staring at her exposed nipple.  When she gets upset, he explains that he was just watching her sleep, as if that would reassure her.  

It’s a foregone conclusion that Jamie would fall for Sandy since she is the only (real) person in his life that doesn’t treat him like shit.  She calls him out on his bullshit, at least the stuff she knows about, but she also genuinely wants to connect to the little misfit and help him through his issues.  She does need to get better at establishing boundaries, though.   Things get super uncomfortable when Jamie talks her into washing his back in the bath (“but I’ll be all covered in suds” should not be a compelling enough argument).  The awkwardness only rises as, during their tub side conversation, Sandy begins to suspect that Jamie and his mother have an even more inappropriate bath time routine.  

Honestly, I would have liked this movie even without all the other crazy shit, because this relationship is so interesting all by itself.  Sammy Snyders’ performance adds an authenticity to Jamie.  He’s a twisted little freak, but his reactions are believably childlike.  It is understandable that Sandy would treat Jamie’s talk of Teddy and the Tra-la-logs as purely imagination because that is exactly the kind of stuff a lonely, hurt little boy would come up with.  And apparently, in the original script, that’s all it really is.  The fantastic elements happen in Jamie’s mind.  

Of course, that’s not what we get in the actual movie, and that decision changes a compelling but oddball story into absolutely legendary realms of absurdity.  

Take Teddy.  Jamie’s wicked little companion is an average, ratty looking, stuffed toy.  He only speaks to Jamie, and only in voice over, which is a slightly altered version of Jamie’s own voice.  All of Jamie’s worst behaviors are at Teddy’s suggestion.  Jamie is obviously projecting all his dark and inappropriate thoughts to his imaginary friend.  There is even an ironic moment when Teddy tries to convince Jamie that the vision of one of his victims is all his head.  Except there is one scene where Sandy is leaving Jamie’s empty room and Teddy, sitting alone on the bed, turns his head as she leaves.  That is the only time Teddy ever moves on his own and there is no follow up or explanation at all for that scene.  What the fuck, THE PIT? 

The pit monsters are no surprise, but are just as confusing.  Jamie decides early on he needs to feed the Tra-la-logs (the questions of what the beasts ate before he found them or why the hell they are living in a pit in the first place are never addressed).  He starts with chocolate bars (not well received), before switching to raw beef from the butcher shop.  When he runs out of meat money, he tries to coax an uncooperative farm cow into the pit.  Teddy convinces Jamie start feeding them the town’s most numerous food source:  jerks.

Jamie devises a series of clever ruses to lure in victims, mostly predicated on their inability to look down while walking (they would have probably died from falling into open manholes or elevator shafts eventually, anyway).  Naturally, the first in line to become a monster snack is little Abergail.  She died as she lived, insulting Jamie.  Next, Miss Oliphant gets wheeled into the pit.  Sandy’s football playing boyfriend is next (go long, Allen).   

Finally we get back to the scene from the beginning, where Jamie lures in the school bully and his girlfriend with the promise of “jewels and stuff” left by a robber (not the brightest of bullies).  Up until this point, all the deaths had a sort of triumphant revenge of the underdog feel to them.  As soon as he goes after the bully’s complicit but terrified girlfriend, the music and tone become much more serious and suddenly Jamie looks like a serial killer.  He goes so far as to frame Sandy’s new boyfriend for all the disappearances, and even plants the nude pictures he took of the librarian on him to boot.  The little mastermind probably would have gotten away with it if the the sheriff wasn’t too lazy to bother investigating the crimes at all (hmm, maybe this is where Matt Groenig got the idea for Chief Wiggum as well).

After the [spoiler] unintentional, and seriously gory, death of Sandy, Jamie has had enough of killing.  He throws a rope into the pit and frees the Tra-la-logs to fend for themselves.  Now the movie becomes an old fashion monster rampage.  The hairy beasts chow down on a smorgasbord of cyclists and skinny dippers before the sheriff gathers together a mob of shotgun toting hicks to hunt them down, instructing them “don’t think, just shoot.”  Have I mentioned the sheriff is a really terrible elected official?  The mob find the Tra-la-logs cowering in their pit and blasts them into chunks.  I’m not even sure anyone got a good look at the creatures.  The sheriff just writes them off as wild dogs and has all the evidence of the undiscovered species immediately bulldozed over.  I’m sure that cuts down on the paperwork.

If you have any interest in seeing this movie, do yourself a favor and skip this paragraph, because I’m going to [spoiler] spoil the most perfect ending in all of cinema.  Jamie’s parents, possibly suspicious that everyone connected to their son is now presumed dead, pawn him off on his grandparents in the country.  Things seem to be turning around for the little sociopath.  He even meets a girl his age, Alicia, who doesn’t immediately insult or physically assault him.  She is actually nice to him and asks if he wants to play.  As he is chasing her into the woods (it’s just a game, he’s not trying to kill her, I don't think), they come across a very familiar looking pit with very familiar noises coming from it.  “They’re Tra-la-logs,” Jamie mansplains, “they eat people.”  Alicia sweetly replies, “Yes, I know,” and shoves Jamie into the pit.  Freeze-frame on Jamie’s terrified face and The End.  Death by irony!  And being torn apart by monsters.  The only way it could have been better is if Alicia pulled out a demonically possessed stuffed unicorn and started talking to it.

First time director Lew Lehman never made another picture, but since THE PIT feels like at least four different movies in one, I guess he felt he didn’t have to.  Taken individually, any one of those movies would be pretty entertaining, but when mixed up all together, the resulting lunacy is unforgettable.  Also incomprehensible.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun, at the very least.

Nice job, Clumsy Stupid.

C Chaka