The Pit & The Pendulum DVD Review

The Pit & The Pendulum DVD Review
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Updated: 03-03-2010



2009's The Pit & The Pendulum opens on a group of strapping, buff, and buxom 20-somethings emerging from a nondescript sedan and stepping into the grounds of a magnificent estate boasting an all-brick mansion — and an all-brickhouse proprietor in the form of JB Divay (Lorielle New).

We soon learn why they're there. As if the group may have forgotten on the car ride there, one of them whips out the newspaper ad they've all answered, and reads it aloud: "Looking for study subjects for hypnotherapy study." Then another one looks up at the bright sky and announces, "It's unnaturally hot." Cue the unnaturally hot chick to emerge from nowhere and introduce herself as the sixth study subject — Alicia (Danielle Demski) is a local girl who tells the boys and girls all about JB's father, a tetched prof who ran unorthodox hypnotherapy studies out of the lonely mansion/ex-asylum. Alicia is sort of going undercover in plain sight, hoping to catch JB up to her daddy's old tricks.
Once JB gathers her doomed drove and has them standing in semi circle around her in the drawing room, each introduces themselves and tells her what thrills them. Pretty Vincent (Tom Sandoval) and Trevor (Michael King) like to wrestle. "We'll be wrestling man-to-man," they announce (and sure enough, about 45 minutes into the movie, we see it. And see it. And it again in slo-mo). Alicia likes bungee-jumping. Smiley Gemma (Amy Paffrath) is a diver, and her creampuff cousin Kyle (Bart Voitila) is a storm-chaser. Serious Jason (Stephen Hansen) is a long distance runner (hm, I wonder if this talent will come in handy later on?).
The group asks JB about her dad and his extreme experiments, and she obliges with a long, windy explanation. Then says, "But enough about him, he's dead now. All gone!" …Or is he? Actually, that's never a question in the film — the suspense-free, exposition-heavy flick leaves nothing and no one to the imagination. It's clear JB is murderously crazy, and she's going to use every one of her subject's favorite thrills against them as a form of torture.
While schlockmeister writer-director David DeCoteau is known for his cheap n' easy (and often gay-themed) horror flicks and remakes (Food of the Gods is up next… I shudder to think of what's on that menu), I wouldn't have minded at least a false sense of scary in the beginning. But no. The over-lit, overly clichéd, over-acted The Pit & The Pendulum starts dumb and stays that way.
I did find a few things to like about the movie. Probably stuff I shouldn't have even observed in such detail, but there are so many run-on scenes of people standing still or sitting and talking, I can scarcely be blamed for noticing the makeup and hair is fantastic. The score is mostly standard spooky piano stuff, but the sound design is standout (especially if you have a four-speaker surround system; there's good separation) — the ticking clocks, beating hearts, whipping wind, banging pipes and creaking floorboards add welcome atmosphere to an otherwise static exercise.
For those hoping, there is indeed plenty of softcore gay and lesbian sex in The Pit & The Pendulum, not to mention a pervasive auto-erotic asphyxiation theme. The acting is rigor mortus stiff to say the least (with a cast whose resumes include Evil Bong 2 and Puppetmaster 10, what can one expect?), and main baddie New is no exception (and she's no Vincent Price, either! Although the story is based on an Edgar Allen Poe tale, it's the 1961 film directed by Roger Corman and starring Price which is best-remembered by movie lovers).
New isn't half bad when she only has a few words to string together, but she's given very long speeches to spout throughout the film. Her cadence is off and it's full of misplaces pauses, as if she went to the William Shatner School of Acting. However, I must confess she does have a villainous voice and a compelling, almost feline look about her — the camera likes her. I'd be willing to give her another shot, if I could see what she can do with a decent director and better script.
The Pit & The Pendulum DVD includes unedited, all-shaky b-roll "behind the scenes" of the filming. We see lots and lots of a boy/girl arm-wrestling scene, a topless male wrestling scene, and a lesbian kiss rehearsal.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson


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