Oct 23, 2009
Day 23: "He's family."
Sex has played a large part in horror films virtually since the inception of the genre: Frankenstein's monster wasn't around very long before he needed a Bride, Dracula and company are all about romance and seduction...if a slasher film doesn't feature a set of boobs somewhere, audience disappointment will be noted. From Slaughter High's awesome "Tits...screw..." sweet-talk to the gentle petting of your favorite 70s lesbian vampire movie, sex in horror is generally meant to titillate, make us laugh, or simply put characters in compromising positions to the advantage of the killer.
Then there are movies like Pin (1988), which explore sexuality in ways that make the audience squirm uncomfortably for 90 minutes. Hooray!
When we meet Ursula and Leon, they're small children growing up in a wealthy, strict household. Mom is a wackadoo clean freak, and dad (Terry O'Quinn!) is a pediatrician who quizzes the kids before bed and is generally a no-nonsense guy. Both parents withhold affection from Ursula and Leon, and the only real emotions on display are anger and frustration. Has this approach to child-rearing ever resulted in well-adjusted adults?
"Pin" is a life-sized, anatomically correct medical dummy that Dr. Dad keeps in his office. Using ventriloquism, he makes it seem as if Pin is alive- Pin talks to the patients and explains things to them, providing a calm, reasonable voice to assuage any fears the kids may have. Ursula catches her father's lips moving during one of Pin's lectures and figures out the secret. To Leon, though, Pin is alive...and a friend, providing advice or sometimes just listening.
Leon sneaks into his father's office after hours to spend some one-on-one time with Pin; one of the doctor's nurses stays late for her own special kind of one-on-one time with Pin- he's anatomically correct, after all. One can only assume that Pin is also anatomically excited when the nurse pulls the dummy over to the examining table and...well, she humps him for a while. Poor Leon is trapped in the corner, forced to watch (and listen to) his best friend used as a gigantic sex toy. He reacts pretty much the same way any of us would (or do, as we're watching this film).
The kids become high schoolers and, as you may expect, they've got some issues. Ursula, at 15, has become what my gramma would call "the town pump"- she's got a well-deserved reputation at school for being easy. Leon doesn't cope well this and beats up anyone who goes near his sister.
By the way, my gramma also says that only whores have pierced ears...just so you know.
Leon still doesn't know that Pin isn't actually alive. He lashes out at anyone who dares call the dummy a dummy, and he spends as much time in dad's office as possible hanging out with his friend. They have long, soulful talks and do math (heh..."do math") together. They're just like anyone, except, you know, one of them is a mannequin. Before you judge, you should remember how that idea worked out for Andrew McCarthy. Wait...did it work out? I've never actually seen Mannequin. Anyway.
When dad catches Leon and Pin hanging out, he realizes that his son may have an unhealthy attachment to his lifeless pal. He realizes that his son may, in fact, be...a kookadook. He grabs Pin, stuffs him in the car, and decides he's going to donate him to a medical foundation. But...is Pin alive?
As they're driving along, mom seems to think Pin is moving around in the back seat. Is he? Or is dad simply taking corners too fast? Whatever the truth is, the car crashes and Ursula and Leon find themselves orphaned.
Having given up her randy ways (an abortion will often do that to ya, at least for a while) Ursula gets a job in the library while Leon gets weirder and weirder. He insists that Pin be treated as a member of the family, going so far as to dress the dummy in one of dad's old suits. He also gives Pin a wig and mask, just to complete the extremely fucking creepy ensemble.
Leon is also working towards his dream of becoming a writer; when he's not hanging out with Pin, he's penning poems about raping his sister. But, you know, that's totally fiction!
Ursula knows there's something extremely wrong with her brother, but she thinks he's ultimately harmless. They're wealthy, after all, so Leon couldn't possibly be mentally ill- he's eccentric. When Ursula brings home a boyfriend, though, it throws off the family dynamic. This guy not only thinks Leon needs help, he thinks Pin is just a dummy! This cannot stand.
So is Pin alive, or is Leon projecting? Writer/director Sandor Stern (Amityville IV: The Evil Escapes...oh fucking YEAH) manages to maintain the mystery throughout the course of the film until its bizarre (and bizarrely awesome) conclusion. Pin is a movie that manages to feel extremely sleazy without its ever actually being sleazy, if you know what I mean. The undercurrent of incest (or at least unspoken incestual desire) is enough to make you feel squidgy. Then there's the whole medical teaching dummy-as-sex toy scene...aaaah! In the end, this Psycho-esque little flick is a real perverted treat.