Pin (1988)

OCTOBER 31, 2010


Happy Halloween! I did a good job picking a movie today I guess; while most of the movie-watching world was subjecting themselves to time honored favorites or maybe finally checking out a classic they've heard about from their friends ("Hey, it's Halloween, maybe I'll finally watch The Exorcist..."), I of course have to watch something I've never seen before, and at this point, there aren't a lot of classics I've missed. But Pin turned out to be an original and fairly creepy movie, improving my "HMAD on Halloween" record after the previous two duds (last year's barely horror Elsewhere and 2008's awful Teenage Zombies).

If you liked Magic you'll probably dig this "younger" version. It's similar in that they try to hide whether or not Pin actually has a life of his own for a while, and eventually Pin and his owner are dressed alike, but there's one key difference - Leon (our "hero") is not trying to hook up with an old flame. Instead, he has really creepy and overprotective tendencies toward his sister (Hey-O!), nor does he use Pin to get revenge or anything. Pretty much the entire movie takes place in the family home, and you get the idea that if Leon's sister moved away, he'd just sit around talking to Pin for an eternity. Having a life, apparently, doesn't seem to be high on his list of priorities.

And damn if that thing ain't creepy. It starts off as a medical dummy of sorts, with the insides visible due to translucent "skin" (their father is a doctor - they don't just have this thing for the hell of it). And it's anatomically correct, something we learn in two rather icky ways. In the first, the father (Terry O'Quinn!) is telling them about the birds and the bees, something the little sister takes a keen interest in (she says something to the effect of "I'm going to be good at it!", and later becomes a bit of a slut in high school, though this plot point is largely forgotten). And Leon spies his father's assistant using the damn thing as a dildo, which freaks him (us) out. For a while I thought this would be some Cronenberg-ian dummy horror movie, but thankfully (or not, depends on your tastes) Pin's "sex life" is phased out of the movie after the first 20 minutes or so.

But it gets even creepier-looking later, when Leon dresses it in their father's clothes and molds a clay face over it. I mean, Christ, look at this thing!

And he's always got it propped up on chairs and shit - imagine coming home and seeing that goddamn thing sitting there! He also gives it a wheelchair, which he controls himself (by this point we know it's just Leon making it do stuff). In one of the film's few horror-terror scenes, he has it chase around a would-be girlfriend, and it's the stuff of nightmares. I kept thinking of “the uncanny valley”, a theory that the Japanese devised a while back that posits that the closer a robot looks to human, the less an actual human is likely to "trust" it. Same thing goes for cartoons (which is why Final Fantasy's humans are less identifiable than say, Goofy, even though we can't even identify what the hell he is). And with this movie, we can add full sized medical dummies to the list. And it was creepy even in its "invisible skin" mode.

Back to O'Quinn, since I have Lost on the brain, I was tickled with him being a father to a kid with an unhealthy obsession with his sister, since he was very much a father figure to Boone on that show, and Boone, of course, totally boinked his sister (OK, step-sister, but from the time they were like 8!) right before they got on the plane. The man has a niche.

Creepy dolls and the looming threat of incest aside, it's a very subtle (read: kind of slow, but in a good way) film, the type we never really see anymore. There really isn't a lot of action, and even the big moment in the climax is kept off-screen in order to preserve a (not very surprising) surprise for the final scene. It's all about the performances, and David Hewlett (who also appeared in the Cronenberg-ish Splice) is terrific as Leon, spending the entire movie on that thin line between tragic hero and crazed villain. A minor twist involving the sister's boyfriend allows you to keep your sympathy for the guy right to the end, and the opening prologue (when Leon and his sister were children) is brief but long enough for us to get the impression that his closed off upbringing was unhealthy and likely to blame for the way he is.

There's also a wonderfully low-key "subplot" of sorts involving the plastic on the furniture. Their overbearing mother demanded to keep the plastic on, and when she died, the first thing Leon did (to his sister's delight) is tear all the plastic off so they can sit comfortably for once. It comes full circle with the final scene where if you're paying attention you can see that the plastic is back on, now that Leon is no longer in control. It's probably the saddest part of the whole movie, and yet director Sandor Stern doesn't make too big of a deal about it. I love that sort of thing; nowadays someone would probably point it out in dialogue, because most modern filmmakers assume their audiences are idiots (and are correct, for the most part).

I do have one question though - the opening title has ellipses after the title ("Pin..."). Why? Is it supposed to be like a stern, authority figure's way of saying it, like SNL's "Gilly..."? Like, "Pin... what are you doing?" Or was the credit creator just messing with us? Perhaps the DVD commentary can explain, as it has one, yet I opted for Netflix instant, which turned out to be a bad idea since it was a shit transfer (full frame, very lo-res). It also completely stopped playing twice for no discernible reason. All hail this alleged "better" way of watching movies!

What say you?


  1. Loved this creepy little flick. I reviewed it not too long ago, and I'm even currently using a skinless Pin image as my blog's masthead! I totally missed that whole "plastic on the furniture" thing at the end. Which is why you have nearly 600 followers, and I...don't. Haha. Great write-up, as always.

    My review (if you're interested)

  2. The ellipsis might be because the title on a lot of posters (maybe just in the US; not sure, because I'm in Canada) was "Pin... A Plastic Nightmare." I know that sounds like a tagline, but it was presented as a part of the title. So that could be it.

    Anyway, I agree with you - solid movie.

  3. I also caught this one recently, during my annual October horror movie marathoning. I very much enjoyed it, but thought it came apart a bit during the second half. After a real creepy, tense first half, it seemed to me that, right where the movie should have ratcheting up the tension and weirdness, it slows down. It gets lost in too many tedious scenes about the sister's new boyfriend, and the brother's weird behavior starts to get repetitive.

    But that ending was pretty awesome.

  4. The review makes me want to watch it, but I hate hate hate Netflix instant.

  5. I always took the ellipses in the title to imply that the name isn't complete, that it is in a state of transformation, like Pin...occhio becoming a real boy. That's what the story is, a twisted version of Pinocchio.

  6. Good call on the plastic furniture covers. Completely missed that. Also missed the reverse Pinocchio concept. I guess I expect so little from these kinds of movies I turn off the subtext analyzers. Lesson learned. Also, IRC the little sister's line (when she is like 8) is "I can't wait until I get the need. I have a feeling I'm going to like it ALOT!" I remember because it was so fucked up. haha.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget