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The Pit and the Pendulum (2006)

Posted on Sep 10, 2008 by | 5 comments

Unfortunately for Anna she works in retail. This means she already has to deal with the looming threat of Christmas, as even now retail stores are beginning to shuffle Christmas themed merchandise onto the shelves, thus allowing the holiday’s yuletide reach to skip right past Thanksgiving, leapfrog Halloween and nestle right up next to Labor Day.

Luckily for her she has a totally righteous boyfriend. For our younger viewers righteous is not being used in a religious sense (though I would argue that I’m divine as well) but rather it is 80’s for 1337. But the point of this introduction is not about me claiming I rule, but by proving it. You see this week I decided to give Anna an early Christmas present.

Now this year will be our third Christmas together, and I have yet to fail in finding her a fantastic gift that she didn’t know she truly wanted. Two years ago I surprised her with a 5lb bag of her favorite candy and some cool fossils for her to display, while last year I got her two totally awesome Hieronymus Bosch statues to add to her collection of action figures.

This year’s initial gift was something I discovered a few months back when I stumbled upon its website. At the time it was merely being shown on the festival circuit so I had no way of viewing it, so I patiently waited for what I hoped would be an imminent DVD release. Sure enough, a few short months later the DVD release was announced and I made sure to order my copy right away. So rather then keeping it hidden from her for four long months I decided I would just give her the gift early, which had the added bonus of allowing me to review The Pit and the Pendulum for this website.

Now it could be argued that the gift is self-serving, but aren’t they the best kind? But there was one small snag in my plan that I didn’t quite fully anticipate. You see, I knew that The Pit and the Pendulum was a short film, hence the website name, but I wasn’t sure how short of a film it was. I figured it would be in the neighborhood of 20 minutes or so, but what I got was a cul-de-sac of seven minutes. But what a seven minutes it was.

Now due to the relative shortness of the film and the truck load of extras included on the DVD this will be a slightly different review then what I normally would write, focusing as much on the extras included as on the action film itself.

The Pit and the Pendulum follows a victim of the Spanish Inquisition as he is brought to trial and sentenced to a fate in the dreaded dungeon. Locked in darkness and struggling to maintain his faith and sanity, he begins to realize the terrible fate his captors have in store for him.

Opening with a blindfolded man who is slowly but surely walking to his doom, accompanied by an ominous priest and a perfectly eerie score it doesn’t take long for The Pit and the Pendulum to grab hold of your interest and imagination. Screams ring out from every crack and the shadows practically dare you to run for cover. But there is no where to run for our narrator. He knows not his crime, but is assured of his guilt by the priests who have brought him here.

The Pit and the Pendulum stays relatively close to the original Edgar Allen Poe tale, though it does shorten up the events for lack of time. The narrator of the film is constantly struggling to find what he did to deserve this as he also fears what horrors await him.

If there is one complaint I have about the film is that it is far too short. Director Marc Lougee has perfectly captured the feel and tone of the short story, and the look of the film is pitch perfect in every way. I was completely absorbed with this film, and wished I could have spent more time in this dark and depraved world.

But while the film didn’t linger long enough for my taste, the extras on the film resulted in an impressive feast o film making delights. With numerous crew interviews detailing several of the many steps to create this fantastic film, The Pit and the Pendulum DVD is practically its own personal master’s course on film study. While the interview with director Mar Lougee on the construction of the puppets and how they work is required viewing, the interviews with animators, screen writers, the composer and other production designers are both fascinating and educational.

But my personal favorite is the interviews with the members of Urban Post Production and their demonstrations on how they created the sounds used in The Pit and the Pendulum. These are hardcore special effects and sound geeks who let it all out and nerd out for your own personal enjoyment. Far from being a mere advertisement for their sound effects studio, both interviews clearly demonstrate just how much care and dedication the pour into jobs they so clearly love.

In addition to the multiple crew interviews, The Pit and the Pendulum DVD also contains the now standard crew biographies, concept art, story boards and production stills from the film. But it also includes a short introduction to how the 5.1 surround sound was mixed for the film. And perhaps the greatest extra of them all, The Pit and the Pendulum is Region free.

While the feature’s length may turn off some potential viewers, the loaded extras that offer up both entertainment and insight are incredibly rewatchable, and paired with the outstanding short film makes The Pit and the Pendulum a fantastic addition to my, I mean Anna’s, home DVD collection.

Matt Gamble
I review movies. I run a movie theatre. I annoy people. I let my dogs lick my face whenever they want. Sometimes I'm even a halfway decent human.
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  1. Short and atmospheric sounds better to me than padded and drawn out. There’s nothing that kills the intensity of the story faster than a bloated running time. I’m not put off by the running time, and the extras sound great.

  2. The length definitely works well for the film, and my complaint is really more just my own selfishness in wanting to see more of the world the film created. It is a great little film, and would make a fantastic double feature with The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb. Which, if you haven’t seen that yet, you really need to as quickly as possible.

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