Into the Pit
Review by Brian J. Dell
“Into the Pit” bills itself as “the shocking story of deadpit.com,” Deadpit being an internet radio show devoted to horror films. Truthfully, it doesn’t disappoint in the shock department, but the shocks are not the kind you might expect from a movie obsessed with horror. Beyond a few brief clips of genre movies, you won’t find much in the way of blood and guts here.
The shock comes from the subjects of this documentary- Aaron Frye and Wes Vance, aka Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian. As hosts and the sole driving force behind Deadpit’s internet phenomenon status, the film introduces them as an oddball pair of young horror fans living in a conservative locale. In spite of this backdrop (or perhaps thanks to the opposition of it) they manage to build up a sizable online following for their self-produced radio show. The real jaw-dropper has nothing to do with the lurid genre they’ve chosen, but instead has to do with their continually growing success.
Interviewing film legends like George Romero, John Carpenter and others is no small feat, and exactly how they achieved this seems elusive. Wes is a tough character to pin down, for instance. He has an irrepressible sense of humor, and seems to take a slightly more active role in the production of Deadpit, partly evidenced by his webmaster duties. He went through a tough time in life when his father experienced serious health problems. He likes wrestling a lot.
Aaron’s bio is fleshed out a little more with what serves as the dramatic arc of the film: aside from doing the show, he is also a college student and substance abuse counselor, and feels his life being pulled in different directions. As the success of the show grows, so too does the pair’s obligation to put more time into impressing their audience. Aaron, however, feels that he has a higher calling in his substance abuse work. As the film closes, he still faces a tough decision, and any viewer can likely empathize with his situation. With drama, “Into the Pit” achieves a thoroughly satisfying narrative.
There’s a lot of fun in the sequences where the duo team up. We first get to watch them perform some of the Deadpit theme song, which is surprisingly good and darkly humorous. They later move on to a tune called “Dancing with a Corpse,” which is borderline hilarious thanks to a falsetto vocal thrown atop metal music. Wes and Aaron seem at their most cohesive, strangely, as musicians. In the film, their radio banter is sometimes disjointed and often just odd, but musically they create some genre gems.
We later see them star in a horror film, directed by a local independent filmmaker. This too has somewhat hilarious results, thanks to seemingly inept cinematography and a clip that might justly be considered one of the worst sex scenes ever shot. Their film misadventure recalls some of the grief that befell Wisconsin’s similarly comedic duo of Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank in American Movie.
Frye and Vance also trade barbs with Uwe Boll, one of the most loathed directors on the planet, and this provides funny material as well. When Boll unloads on the two during the end credits, it closes the movie on a high note.
Into the Pit’s shortcomings are relatively minor. One scene where Aaron describes some of the local history of coal mining is meant to give the audience a sense of the characters upbringing, but this culture does not feel very influential to the horror radio team and the scene ultimately throws off the pacing. Coming in at a substantial 95 minutes, this is one segment that might have been left on the cutting room floor (so to speak, in the digital age.)
Due to production problems which were addressed by the crew after the screening, Into the Pit also changed narrative focus many times, and in retrospect that is apparent in the film. Aaron’s conflicted future is a solid hook, but might have had more weight if explored further.
As mentioned earlier, it is also somewhat vague as to how these two really gained influence and success. There is certainly a lot of apathy facing any creative endeavor, and the audience can only guess that the driving force behind their notoriety is the strength of their friendship. They must spend huge amounts of time developing the show and promoting it, though it seems like they just sit down in front of microphones, speak in weird voices, and call up horror celebrities.
Regardless, the unspoken message of the film basically boils down to what people can achieve if they are dedicated and believe in each other, which may come off as truly shocking to anybody who has been down a similar path but not had the good fortune of Aaron and Wes. Into the Pit is a funny, poignant, and slightly meandering film, and its flaws only make it that much more true to life.