MOVIE: Pin (1988)

You know what might be the creepiest thing on Earth?  Dummies.

No, no, not IDIOTS.  Dummies!  Like, ventriloquists’ dummies.

One of the first scary movies I saw as a kid was Richard Attenborough’s 1978 chiller Magic.  That movie stars ex-Boyfriend Anthony Hopkins as a ventriloquist/magician named Corky whose creepy, creepy, CREEPY dummy, Fats, goes all postal (or whatever the doll equivalent of that is) and begins violently to sabotage Corky’s love life.  I had nightmares for weeks after that one, and have never been able to bring myself to watch it again.

So, OF COURSE, when I was browsing the stacks at the local video store last week and came across this movie, a horror flick starring Terry O’Quinn (love!) as a pediatrician named Dr. Linden who uses an anatomically-correct dummy named “Pin” as an educational tool, I couldn’t resist the chance to put the fear of wood and plastic into myself all over again.

Dr. Linden uses Pin to put his young patients at ease, often having Pin talk to them about their bodies or their health.  He’s such an accomplished ventriloquist that his lips don’t even move when Pin talks, something the kids find extremely entertaining, if not slightly puzzling.  The good doctor has two children himself as well, who, as the story opens, are of about elementary school age.  The kids, Leon and his younger sister Ursula, are extremely fond of Pin and love talking to him.  But there are strict rules about interacting with Pin– they are never to try to talk to him when their father isn’t around.

As the kids grow up, Ursula begins to grow slightly suspicious of Pin, and we get the sense she might be starting to understand that he isn’t, in fact, real.  But Leon is obsessed and considers Pin to be one of his closest (read: only) friends.  Things get even more complicated when one night, after hours, Leon watches as his mother sneaks into the office and begins having SEX with Pin, a sight we are soon to discover will scar Leon for life (not to mention the rest of us).

Now in high school, Leon has become a bit of a prude, while Ursula has taken quite the opposite path.  When she gets knocked up, Leon tells her there’s only one thing to do — she must tell their father.  Ursula freaks out — NO WAY! — so Leon drags her into the office and uses Pin to convince her it’s the right approach.  Though initially freaked out by Pin’s ability to talk when her dad isn’t in the room (unnerved by her growing suspicion that Leon might be somewhat unhinged, we assume), Ursula eventually agrees he’s right, and she and Leon go together to tell their father.

At first, everything seems to be okay — Dr. Linden is upset but relatively cool, and Ursula is relieved and pledges never to have sex again, much to Leon’s initial relief.  But when Dr. Linden and his wife are killed in a car crash just a few months later, Leon’s obsession with Pin — and with his sister’s sexuality — begins to increase dramatically.  And when Ursula brings home her new boyfriend?  Well, let’s just say things go from bananas to nuts.  AND FAST.

This movie sounds really hokey and lame, right?  But here’s the thing:  it’s totally NOT!  While it easily could’ve been had the acting been crappy, instead, it’s surprisingly strong and really makes this film a success.  David Hewlett as Leon is absolutely masterful at acting truly disturbingly mentally ill, and Cynthia Preston as Ursula is likewise pretty great at acting truly disturbed by that mental illness.  Terry O’Quinn can literally do no wrong (in my book, anyway), and overall, I found this film extremely entertaining and completely effective.

Definitely a great one to rent for a good creep-out, and I expect the nightmares to begin any day now.  It’ll be Fats versus Pin: DUMMY SHOWDOWN.  I may never sleep again.


[Netflix it (available on Watch Now!) | Buy it]

Genre: Horror
Cast:  Terry O’Quinn, David Hewlett, Cynthia Preston, Bronwen Mantel, John Pyper-Ferguson


4 Responses to “MOVIE: Pin (1988)”

  1. Melinda Says:

    I agree about the creepy factor of dummies. The mannequins (similar to dummies, although one could definitely make an argument for sub-species differentiation) in the first episode of Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor Who totally gave me the heeby-jeebies! I still kinda look askance at mannequins in department stores…

  2. Rochelle Says:

    I was 6 in 1978 and I don’t remember ever having seen Magic, but I do have a hazy memory of seeing a commercial for it on TV when I was in junior high. Maybe an ad for the late night movie. Dummies have given me the wig ever since. Not to mention that Twilight Zone ep where the department store mannequins come to life once a year! EEK.

  3. Liz Says:

    I love that ep of the “Twilight Zone!” And I think mannequins are totally creepy. You keep looking at them, and you think they might have moved, but you’re not sure…. And then you turn your back on them … and wonder what they’re doing while you’re not looking….

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Its not the Mother that has sex with PIN, is the Doctor’s assistant.

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