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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Pin Sandor Stern 1988

Spastic Plastic

A unique, creepy, and admirably-executed little psychological thriller, Pin (subtitled “A Plastic Nightmare”, a title since stolen by Joan Rivers) feels a bit like a tech-age V.C. Andrews novel filmed in Canada, which of course makes it feel even more cold and unnatural than probably even intended. Thanks to a great lead girl, an adorable love interest, and some genuinely disturbing psychosexual subtext, Pin pulls itself out of the made-for-tv parlor-thriller category (which is really what it most closely resembles) and into the wacked-out company of genuine minor classics like The Baby and The Children.

The story begins with a bunch of scrappy, lovable Canadian rugrats daring one another to approach what is apparently the “old spooky house” of the neighborhood – even though there’s no discernable “neighborhood” around and the house looks too impeccably maintained to be haunted or creepy. Nonetheless, there is a motionless figure with bad hair sitting in the upstairs window, and when one of the little shits climbs the rose trellis to get a better look, he’s shocked to find that the figure speaks, and isn’t too happy to have a filthy child gumming up his gutters. The kids run away, and we fade back to 15 years earlier, when a prosperous, but not exactly happy, family – the Lindens – lived in the house…

Doctor Linden (the ever-fabulous and kinda creepy-hot Terry O’Quinn, star of The Stepfather and more recently of Lost) and his obsessive-compulsive wife (Bronwen Mantel, most recently seen in Secret Window) live in sterile, hushed opulence with their obedient children Leon and Ursula. The children are treated like adults – although not in a good way – and are shown very little affection from their controlling father or their borderline-batshit mother, whose plastic-covered furniture (a REAL plastic nightmare) and snippy demeanor would send me into axe-maniac mode in two snaps. But there’s another family member who shouldn’t be left out: Pin, a plastic, life-sized anatomy dummy that lives in the doctor’s office and serves as a teaching aid for his young patients. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s clinical ways have extended into his dealings with his own children – whenever the children are corrected or need to be taught a lesson, Pin (via the doctor’s handy voice-throwing) is the one to administer the punishment or broach the delicate subject, be it the birds and the bees, lying, what-have-you.

The rapidly maturing Ursula – who loves looking at girlie mags (HILARIOUS) and talking about sex – has figured out that Dad is behind Pin’s persona, but Leon isn’t so quick to catch on, and as father isn’t giving much in the way of love or direction, over the years Leon forms a decidedly unhealthy bond with this uber-creepy plastic uncle. One day when in the office alone, Leon tries to speak with Pin and is interrupted by a female nurse, who proceeds to frot Pin like a well-oiled doorknob while Leon hides, horrified. With his perv little sister and giant sextoy of a father figure, the kid’s got a one-way ticket to Fetishville.

Fast-forward a few years, when Ursula (the awesome Cynthia Preston) has gotten knocked up (she’s apparently the school tramp) and Leon (David Hewlett) is a Norman Batesian momma’s boy of the rarest kind. Ursula’s totally freaked about the bun in her oven, and Leon suggests that they talk to Pin, which understandably freaks Ursula out a bit. Does her dorky brother really think that that thing’s real? She tries to bring the subject up, but he’s WAY sensitive about it, so she drops it. Pin advises that they tell the Doctor, so they do, and he takes care of Ursula’s problem, but not before expressing his disappointment. Thank god we’re spared the details.

Shortly after, Leon goes to Pin to discuss something and his father – who is on his way to a dinner with batshit Mom – walks in on Leon speaking in the dark with a dummy. Realizing that he may have turned his son’s mind into the contents of a mango by encouraging him to relate to a mannequin, the doctor freaks out, kicks Leon out of the office, and stuffs Pin into the backseat under a sheet. Mom throws a hissyfit about Pin being in the car (she apparently hates the thing – rightfully so), but is even more concerned about the doc’s driving, which is way too fast and erratic to be safe. They round a corner, and Pin sits up in the backseat – was it the curve, or is something strange going on? Needless to say, a fatal accident follows, and Pin’s involvement is not quite clear. Dummy imbued with human qualities, or just dummy? Let’s find out…

As Leon and Ursula learn to deal with their parents’ deaths and their disgusting wealth (it’s interesting to see enormously unpopular people who are also filthy rich – is that even possible?), Leon becomes increasingly insistent that Pin become a full-fledged part of the family. When Ursula falls for a local jock, Stan (John Pyper-Ferguson, who’s really quite adorable), Leon starts to lose his grip, and begins unleashing Pin (whom he has given skin and dressed in their father’s clothes) on unwitting victims, including their Aunt Dorothy (Patricia Collins) and the slutty (yet FABULOUS!) Marcia Bateman (Canadain treasure Helene Udy of My Bloody Valentine and The Incubus). Things of course reach boiling point as Leon’s sanity continues to deteriorate, and we eventually reach a very satisfying ending.

Director Sandor Stern (best known as the screenwriter of The Amityville Horror) does a fantastic job of juggling the human actors (all of whom are quite good, although Leon’s performance is so ridiculous at times that you wonder how anyone could possibly have considered him even remotely sane) and the skin-crawly centerpiece, Pin (short for Pinocchio, if you must know), and really keeps you guessing as to what might really be going on until the very end. It’s rare that a director can play fair and still manage to generate some legitimate mystery -- Stern's steady hand and cool restraint are the perfect compliments to the legitimately wacko premise. Compare how cleverly the boy-meets-dummy story is treated here versus how it's fumbled in the awkward, disappointing Love Object (besides the fact that Object's Final Himbo Desmond Harrington doesn't even get shirtless when the entire film is about him FUCKING A PLASTIC DOLL) -- Pin really is something special.

So whether plastic dummies or incest or Canada are your thing or not, you really would be doing yourself a favor by checking this one out. A fabulous lead girl, a unique premise, and Terry O'Quinn -- what's not to love?.

Rating (out of 5):