The Pit aka Teddy – Canada, 1981 – reviews

‘Jamie wouldn’t kill anyone… unless Teddy told him to!’

The Pit aka Teddy is a 1980 Canadian horror feature film directed by Lew Lehman from a screenplay by Ian A. Stuart. The movie stars Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits and Laura Hollingsworth.

A novelisation by John Gault was published by Bantam Books in 1980. The movie was belatedly released on 23 October 1981.

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Buy novel: Amazon.com

Ian A. Stuart’s original screenplay was considerably different from the final film. In his screenplay, protagonist Jamie was younger, and the Tra-la-logs creatures were figments of his imagination. When Lew Lehman signed on to direct, he made Jamie older, the monsters real, and added more humour to the original script. Stuart has expressed dissatisfaction with the final result [read Cinemachine interview].

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On October 18, 2016, The Pit was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber with the following special features:

  • Brand New 2K Restoration
  • Interview with Star Sammy Snyders
  • Interview with Star Jeannie Elias
  • Interview with Screenwriter Ian A. Stuart
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Jason Pichonsky
  • Trailer

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

Plot:

Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders) is a misfit twelve year-old boy, hated by both his classmates and the adults who live in his small town. When he encounters other people, they tease and ridicule him. His only friend is a stuffed bear named Teddy, with whom he regularly holds conversations.

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The audience hears Teddy’s voice as he talks to Jamie. On the cusp of puberty, Jamie develops an unhealthy obsession with girls. Thus, when his parents go away on a business trip and leave the attractive psychology student Sandy O’Reilly to babysit him, he falls completely in love/lust with her.

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During one of his conversations with Sandy, Jamie asks her if she can keep a secret. Jamie reveals that in the forest, he has found a pit full of mysterious creatures, which he calls “Tra-la-logs”. Although he decides to take care of them by feeding them raw meat.  Teddy suggests feeding the people who tormented him to the Tra-la-logs, and Jamie takes his advice…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

The Pit isn’t scary, but it requires a post-screening shower to fully shed its grand emphasis on uncomfortable topics, doing a fine job prying into an adolescent mind on the verge of complete psychosis. The traditional warning to impart would be to not watch the film alone. The more honest advice would be to not watch it with people who might judge you.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com

“Though it would have been an even more entertaining experience had the tra-la-logs escaped their pit a half-hour earlier in the picture, digging through these layers of peculiarity is ultimately a rewarding and entertaining experience, and a good example of the sort of movie people mean when they say, “they sure don’t make ’em like that any more! ” Canuxsploitation

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“There’s some aspect of the movie that don’t make a lot of sense (why don’t the police get involved after he essentially sexually abuses a woman?), while there’s a few shifts in tone between comical and creepy that don’t sit right. However, the film does pick up a little towards the last half hour, when a major character is offed and the creatures get out of the pit. The effects are passable but rather cheesy and there’s not a lot of gore.” 80s Fear

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Buy on DVD with Hellgate: Amazon.com

“Jamie’s pervy, mean-spirited ways are exactly the reason that this movie stands out. He’s one of the weirdest ‘killer kids’ in the pantheon of killer kid movies and the fact that he communicates to a weird talking teddy bear (whose head spins around, no less!) just sort of adds yet another layer of ‘wtf’ to his character.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The main flaw is having both the teddy bear and the trogs in the same movie – what does one have to do with the other? The actual trogs look good, like dwarfish apes with orange eyes. It’s also got some nudity and a ridiculous but fitting coda. Willard is a prototype.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“Maybe it’s the pleasure of reveling in a film so representative of the endearing innocence of early ’80s horror, or perhaps it’s the singular performance by Sammy Snyders as Jamie, pulling off scene after believable scene with nothing but a teddy bear to work with. Whatever it is, The Pit stands out as a truly original film, and one not easily forgotten.” Not Coming to a Theater Near You

” …cheesy and amateurish at times, as though it’s been written for the generation that preceded the target audience of the film. It almost makes The Pit feel like some G-rated family movie that’s hit the crack pipe. Trog-vision occurs when we see events through the eyes of the trogs as the screen is tinted orange and is distorted and generally the scenes are backwoods slasher influenced in terms of killer POV shots. ” Oh, the Horror!

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“In many ways this movie feels quite dated, but that doesn’t matter when the end result is so strange and strangely special (I enjoyed the movie but I know of a few folk who love it). I’d even have to say that the movie seems to revel in willingly defying/breaking conventions, something else which adds to its appeal.” For It Is Man’s Number

The Pit still works best as a metaphor for both coming-of-age/puberty and maybe also child-abuse. If you look hard enough, you might see Jamie’s possessed teddy bear as representative of the damaged child in him and the monsters in the pit as his own demons just waiting to be unleashed. The very last scene seems to fit this view (kid with personal demons gets comeuppance from another kid with her own personal demons).” Horror Fan Zine

The Pit is far and away one of the most baffling and intriguing titles from the exploitation independent era; an adolescent revenge fantasy (not uncommon to the genre) by way of fantastical fairy tale (there are monsters and a living doll) filtered through the uncomfortably sleazy eye of a hacky director whose primary concern seemed to be including as much gratuitous nudity as possible, or at least show his actresses doing aerobics or jogging.” Matthew H, Cinemachine

“A perverted look at a perverted kid … The perversity never really gels, with Sammy’s abnormal sexuality shallowly explored. The story picks up steam once the beasties escape the pit and reign munching terror on delicious humans.” John Stanley, Creature Features

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Buy VHS: Amazon.com

“Ultimately, The Pit suffers for its bipolar focus; executed more seriously (and given pacing), the murder sequences could have mustered some tension but fall flat as they are. Still, Snyders and Elias deliver decent enough performances considering the material, and the turnabout ending is a nice capper.” The Terror Trap

The Pit suffers from a disjointed plot and an inconsistent tone (it veers from humor to horror with mixed results) but it’s loaded with enough random weirdness to qualify it as a minor classic.  I’ve never seen a movie before or since that combines killer kids, talking teddy bears, and carnivorous cavemen so effectively.” The Video Vacuum

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Cast and characters:

  • Sammy Snyders … Jamie Benjamin
  • Jeannie Elias … Sandy O’Reilly – DeadlineNomadsTutenstein
  • Sonja Smits … Mrs. Lynde – VideodromeDeadly Nightmares TV series
  • Laura Hollingsworth … Marg Livingstone
  • John Auten … Library Janitor
  • Laura Press … Mrs. Benjamin – Goosebumps TV series
  • Paul Grisham … Freddy
  • Wendy Schmidt … Christina

Filming locations:

Although it is a Canadian production, it was actually filmed in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Image credits:  Cinema du Meep | Cinemachine

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Trog

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