“We all go a little mad sometimes.”
When Anthony Perkins uttered those lines in that impeccable aw shucks inflection back in the 1960 classic Psycho, he opened the door to a topic that had up till then been largely untapped in horror films; hidden, controlled, yet pure batshit insanity. That twisting, venomous worm whispering in the mind of the Odd Kid That Lives Down The Lane. The monster that looks just like us. No more flattop Frankenstein in some cold castle far away or caped vampire with a fancy Eurotrash accent, no sir; these monsters were right here, delivering our mail, flippin’ our burgers…mebbe even dating our kids, for chrissakes. A whole new dynamic was opened up…and like all “new things”, it’s since been imitated, copied, built-upon, ad nauseum. Sometimes it’s been handled well…sometimes not.
Pin is a Canadian film from the late ‘80s that explores these waters well. We begin with a quick, nicely done setup sequence with children investigating That Strange House On The Hill, then travel back in time some fifteen years ago, to look in on the lives of the affluent (but quite odd) Linden family. Dad is a local doctor, mom a serious clean freak (plastic covers on the furniture, kids standing on stools at dinner, etc.). Dad often takes the youngsters to work with him, where he has a life-sized, anatomically correct medical mannequin he uses for teaching purposes (we learn that his daughter, Ursula, dubbed the doll “Pin”, short for “Pinocchio”). Dad is a pretty accomplished ventriloquist (hey, take what electives you can in med school), and with this talent, he uses Pin to both comfort his young patients and teach his children by seeming to converse with him. We watch as the kids grow, flashing forward in time (and witness what is probably the most uncomfortable “birds and bees” talk ever filmed; you try hearing it from a see-through plastic guy). In this interim we observe that the boy, Leon (David Hewlett, who grew up to not only be Worth in Cube, but also McKay on Stargate: Atlantis) seems disconnected from his parents, and really has a strange affinity to Pin; he seems to think of the creepy thing as a kind of guardian angel. Time goes on, and once the siblings get into high school, we start seeing a very extreme side of Leon; a very protective, imperious side; most disturbing, we learn that he is now dependent on the guidance of Pin, who is apparently talking to him even when Dad’s not around…
I’m not going to give anything else away. Let’s settle on saying that Leon has more than a few loose bulbs going around his tree, and the longer this goes unchecked, the more Pin instructs him on how to keep his life ‘perfect’. We see Leon’s twisted illusion of family (and what little sanity he has) dissolve as, at Pin’s behest, he struggles to force the world around him to fit into his fantasy; sometimes with devious manipulation, other times with cruel and even violent action.
The acting is excellent in this one; Hewlett really plays off the growing (but carefully controlled) insanity well…his jittery mannerisms, his stymied discomfort when he miscalculates…it’s very spooky to behold. The lovely Cynthia Preston, as Ursula, is both frustrating and sympathetic as the loving sister who knows something is wrong, but believes in her brother enough to ignore it for a long time. The movie builds the tension well, and you feel genuinely unsettled with Leon. Is Pin talking to him? Cinematography is king here; the way the doll is filmed in certain shots, you’d almost swear you’d see him moving…
While the story of insanity is well-woven, I have to say that there’s very little violence or red stuff to be found. This movie relies on perception rather than exposition, and gorehounds will find nothing to munch on. There are a couple of really spooky, raise-the-hair-on-y our-neck scenes, but as far as in-your-face horror, there’s not much. The film is a character study on madness, really…and while it’s sure as hell not on a par with Psycho, you can see a distillation of poor Norman Bates in the tormented yet intimidating psyche of Leon Linden…and
I’ll recommend this one to those Fellow Readers out there that prefer a building, uncomfortable (but in that creepy, good horror movie kind of discomfort) suspense while watching the norm unravel into chaos; it works on those levels, and won’t disappoint.
I myself enjoyed it; but hey, that’s me.
Latest posts by Andrew Thompson (see all)
- IN MEMORIAM — GEORGE ROMERO 1940 – 2017 - July 17, 2017
- Anticipated PITCHFORK Hits DVD / Blu-ray This Month - May 3, 2017
- Filmmakers Unleash Terrifying OWLMAN On Unsuspecting Urban Explorers - May 2, 2017