Leon and Ursula have had a special friend since childhood, Pin, the medical dummy their doctor father uses as an aid when teaching them everything they need to know about how to become fine upstanding citizens. There is one problem, Pin isn’t real, but Leon seems to have an issue with grasping that message and will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting his ‘only friend’.
Mental health issues, creepy dummies, strange sibling relationships.
|Andrew Neiderman||…||(based on the novel by)|
Ursula (as Cyndy Preston)
Stan Fraker (as John Ferguson)
Leon – Age 13
Ursula – Age 11
Leon – Age 7
Ursula – Age 5
Eddie Morris (as James Stern)
I have to admit I was a bit excited when I heard that Arrow sister label Arrowdrome were re-releasing this little late 80’s Canadian produced oddity. This is one of those guilty pleasures films I hold dear to my heart. While lacking in most things required in a successful horror; atmosphere, tension, shocks, gore, sleaze, or violence (well it has these but in very moderate levels), Pin makes up for that in one thing alone, complete lunacy. This has to be one of the oddest genre films ever to have come out of the 80’s; that is if you could even qualify it as that.
In an attempt to ‘educate’ siblings Leon and Ursula their father Dr Linden uses a life-size anatomical model (nicknamed Pin from Pinocchio) to voice the things he may otherwise feel uncomfortable saying. The way in which he does this is via some unnervingly professional ventriloquism; sounding his thoughts through the medium of Pin in a strange little voice. While little Ursula grasps the idea behind this, Leon thinks the dummy is alive. Here lies the axis on which the surreal genius lies. Pin has so many moments of absurdity it is literally a feast for people who like strange bizarre comedy. If this were a non English language film I could perhaps understand some of the ludicrous dialogue involved, but it isn’t so I am going to imagine the scriptwriter firmly had his tongue in his cheek when he penned this little beauty. Incidently it was both scripted and directed by Sandor Stern who amongst other things wrote the screenplay for the orginal Amityville Horror; although the concept for Pin was not his original idea, instead being adapted from a novel by Andrew Neiderman.
The first part of the film lays down the foundation of what follows for the siblings in later life. We have Leon and Ursula past and present, the kid incarnations having some of the tastiest lines, although not exclusively. In the early scenes we learn that the kids come from a somewhat loveless home; the staunch and cold father seems to give a little affection to his daughter, and seems like someone who is a bit on edge. He pushes his kids, especially Leon, to excel and holds a commanding presence over the family home (the role played perfectly by Stepfather star Terry O Quinn ). Mother on the other hand is equally as cold, consumed by some sort of OCD fascination with cleaning the home, while being harsh on the kids; for example scalding Leon for traipsing dirt into the house over her clean floor, banning him from bringing his only friend to the home on the grounds he is ‘dirty’, and covering all their furniture with plastic (again another credible performance by Bronwen Mantel, you can quite imagine that woman needs a little dose of Mother’s Little Helper or two) . It is not surprising that both kids grow up with a couple of ‘issues’ later on, but we will get to that in a bit. Leon is a very serious child with little interaction, apart from his closeness to sister Ursula, and he quickly becomes obsessed with Pin as a living entity (thinking that he is the only friend he has in the world). Leon worries about Pin not having any clothes, and also chooses to believe Pin won’t talk when Father is not around is strictly out of loyalty, and not because Pin is in fact a medical prop who can’t talk. As if this kid was not already messed up enough in the head he accidentally stumbles onto one of his father’s medical assistants- a rampant nurse- essentially raping Pin on her lunch break (while the poor kid watches from behind a curtain). This at least solves the outstanding query viewers may have in just how anatomically correct Pin is, as the nurse seems to enjoy this session immensely and manages to bring herself to climax within about 10 seconds. Ursula on the other hand- not overwhelmed by the presence of Pin- concerns herself with other matters, like what it will be like to have sex when she is older; ‘or fill the need’ as Pin describes it. Oddly, she concludes she “can’t wait”.
Fast forward on to a few years later and the siblings have become teenagers. We are lead to believe Ursula is 15 (although the actress Cynthia Preston looks about 25) and has become a major sex event at the local school; so much so she inspires graffiti to be written about her on lockers which an uptight Leon is not too happy about. Leon played by David Hewlett (Cube) has inherited his father’s reserved tendencies, dresses conservatively in a formal suit and has ironed on hair which matches his stiff personality. He also has trouble making friends and his only confidant is Pin (who by now will talk to him without the father there because Leon has also inherited his father’s fantastic voice throwing techniques). Thus the stage is set for some flat-out bonkers story telling as Leon becomes more and more attached to this mannequin he thinks is real, concerning himself with protecting his sister’s moral conduct, as well as learning to become a brilliant chef without even leaving the house, and writing poetry inspired by the theme of raping his sister. Yes it is safe to say Leon is a bit of a winner in the lost marbles department. Hewlett’s performance is great, completely straight-faced his facial expressions are a marvel (as is the ironed on hair). Dare anyone suggest that Pin is not one of the family as this may bring out Leon’s dark and violent side; Hewlett really shines in these moments. Leon’s descent into complete abandon of all common sense is one of jaw dropping absurdity, helped along by some fantastic lines, and great scenes which feature the dummy.
The film demonstrates fairly solid production values- given the budget-, the acting all round is of a good standard. As far as the editing and cinematography goes it does not look or feel overtly low-budget. There is some capable camerawork with a few great creepy shots of the dummy. Although things are not helped much by the 80’s cheap sounding electro score which reminded me of one of those old episodes of something like Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? In fact when you take this into consideration this entire film could be considered a feature-length episode of one of those shows if it did not have some rare spots of nudity, a brief splashing of blood, or some mild sexual content, as it is certainly as childish and outlandish as some of the plots involved.
The Arrowdrome release is a bare bones version, lacking in extras. There is supposedly an audio commentary which I would have loved to hear had I been able to access it, and an original trailer. However, gven the price it is worth picking up if you want a fun-filled evening. It is certainly one of those films I revisit on occasion when I want to lift my spirits. Not remotely horrific, creepy or gratuitous Pin makes it into lost 80’s classics on the grounds of sheer audacity alone. It is,if nothing more, at least original and heaps of fun to boot. Definitely one for the guilty pleasures section of your dvd collection.