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Pin: A Plastic Nightmare

1989, Starring Terry O'Quinn, David Hewlett, Cyndy Preston. Directed by Sandor Stern.

Pin is a genuinely creepy movie which stars Canadian film mainstay David Hewlett. Here, he pulls off a great performance as Leon, a young man obsessed with an anatomical dummy.

The movie begins with a whole bunch of young kids peeking through the window of a big house at a motionless figure. One curious boy thinks he sees the figure blink and stumbles backwards in fright.

And so we go "15 Years Earlier." Leon (7) and Ursula (5) are the children of a well-to-do family. Their father is a doctor, and their mother is a neat freak who runs the house. In their father's office sits Pin. Pin (short for Pinocchio, we learn later) is an anatomical dummy, and he resembles one of those "visible man" models only larger-- life size, in fact. The doctor likes to carry on conversations with Pin through ventriloquism while he works, to put children at ease.

Leon is wholly convinced that Pin is not only alive, but is a good friend of his. Teased by other kids, Leon sneaks in the office one day and starts talking to Pin. He is interrupted by a nurse, and hides behind a curtain. He is surprised when he sees the nurse lock the door and " have sex" with Pin. Leon becomes even more obsessive about Pin, and slaps his sister when she says he is "just a dummy." Their father doesn't help matters much by using Pin to explain sex to his two children.

Then it's "10 Years Later" and Leon is now using ventriloquism to make Pin answer his questions. He seeks Pin's advice about going away to University and other things. One night, his father catches him, and takes Pin away to donate him to a scientific society. On the way there, his father becomes transfixed by Pin's image in the rear view mirror, misses some construction signs and ends up rolling the car, killing both himself and his wife.

Leon and Ursula are upset, but seem to enjoy their freedom from the previously restrictive household. Leon even begins writing poetry as they enjoy a few days to themselves before their Aunt Dorothy moves in. The night before she comes, Leon shows Ursula that not only has he rescued Pin, but he has dressed him up in a suit. Ursula is disturbed by this as usual, and suggests that Leon stow Pin in the attic so Aunt Dorothy won't find him. Meanwhile, Ursula gets a job at the library and starts to research Leon's obvious schizophrenia. When Aunt Dorothy finally moves in, things become as stifling for Leon as they were under his mother. He and Pin (who becomes angrier and angrier throughout the film) make quick work of that, driving Dorothy to a heart-attack.

Now that Ursula and Leon are living alone again, Leon takes the opportunity to not only fit Pin with a fleshy mask, but to start having him "eat" at the dinner table. This completely freaks out Ursula, and they end up in a shouting match when Ursula refers to Pin as a dummy again.

Meanwhile, Ursula has started dating Stan, a guy she met at the library. At first Leon acts very jealous, but soon invites Stan over for dinner. When Stan gets to meet Pin, he completely plays along, as he was coached about the problem by Ursula before. After dinner, Stan asks to hear some of Leon's poetry, and he reads a part of his epic poem about a guy who is contemplating the rape of his sister. This proves too much for Stan, who suggests some kind of mental clinic when Leon leaves the room.

Leon overhears part of this conversation and becomes convinced that Stan is trying to put him away so that he can steal his sister. He invites Stan over to plan a "surprise birthday party" for Ursula, but slips him some sleeping pills instead. Unfortunately, he uses too much and Stan falls unconscious, and cracks his head on the end table. Leon hides the body in the woodpile outside, and starts scrubbing the blood out of the rug.

When Ursula comes home, she falls into shock when she finds Stan's watch on the floor of the living room. She starts screaming " What did you do?!" but Leon only replies that it was Pin's fault. Ursula runs outside, grabs the axe and returns, wielding it over her head.

Pin was mostly filmed in Quebec, and is another example of Canadian horror which often hangs in balance between commercial film and more artistic attempts. Leon's isolation from reality furthers explores the theme of loss of community found in many Canuxploitation films. His desire to be included in a community he can never become a part of makes him manifest his aspirations in Pin. In this sense, this film goes beyond the horror of Black Christmas or Happy Birthday To Me, by exaggerating the effect of a loss of community can have on the victim.

Regardless of the similarities with Psycho, Pin is still quite good, with interesting acting performances by all involved. My only complaint lies with the lackluster score, and a plot point in the conclusion I thought was a little hokey. But beyond that, this is an interesting little gem which gives a somewhat modern twist on an old theme.

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