Saturday, October 4, 2008

PIN (1988)

On the fourth day of Halloween, my boo love gave to me ... four creepy advice-dispensing anatomy dummies.

Incestuous apprehension, TV’s Dr. McKay, sterile suburban uneasiness, a dirty magazine ogling little girl, an on-edge psychosexual atmosphere, the immortal Terry O’Quinn, and the most horrifying mannequin since, well Mannequin.

More details here.

Leon and Ursula are two precocious kids whose Dad is a pediatrician who employs a very special assistant: Pin, a life-sized medical dummy he uses to teach kids about keeping healthy through the use of ventriloquism. The family lives in privileged seclusion, Mom and Dad keep a watchful eye on the kids, and their cold, distant parenting skills border on the obsessive-psychotic. Dad uses Pin to teach morality lessons, to convey advice about the ways of the world, and sometimes to punish naughty children. The kids’ parents do little to provide affection, direction, or even a goddamn hug once in a while. Leon soon retreats into a world of fantasy to escape his cruel parents, a world where Pin is his best and only friend and father figure. Meanwhile, Ursula catches on to Dad’s deceit early and learns to distance herself by discovering a curiosity about the world outside of her twisted family. When Mom and Dad die in a mysterious car accident, Leon and Ursula are left to fend for themselves within the walls of their enormous mansion. Years pass and Ursula has grown into a normal teenager while Leon remained distant, detached, and disturbed. The two get along and enjoy a loving relationship. That is until Ursula overhears Leon having a conversation with Pin in the attic, and dark secrets from the past resurface. Things get worse when Ursula begins to date and brings the man into the house, much to Leon and Pin’s chagrin. The strangeness intensifies when weird sounds in the night, bizarre shadows wandering the halls, and mysterious deaths force Ursula to question the sanity of her brother and the true nature of Pin.

The Canadians have been practitioners of solid horror output over the past three decades. Canuck offerings such as Deathdream, The Changeling, Videodrome, Ginger Snaps, and even 2006’s Fido spring to mind. Pin, an exceptional, well-made thriller, is no exception. The film is a disquieting, effective, and subtle exploration of psychological breakdown, a retreat from reality, and the irrevocable damage of shitty parenting. David Hewlett plays the part of Leon with subtly and unblinking psychosis while borrowing some disquieting stilted Norman Bates for good measure. Equally outstanding is Cynthia Preston as Ursula who bears the heart of the film, while Pin's design is destined to give you nightmares after your next check-up. For a movie with no gore or nudity, Pin succeeds at scary with unnerving suspense, unexpected twists, and revealing only bits of the mystery at a time.

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