Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pin: A Plastic Nightmare (Sandor Stern, 1988)

I first heard about Pin: A Plastic Nightmare a couple of weeks ago while watching "Nightmare in Canada" (a documentary about Canada's contribution to the horror genre - from The Mask in 1961, all the way up to Ginger Snaps in 2000), and I have to say, out of all the films they showcased, it was this overlooked little gem from the late '80s that intrigued me the most (Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare being a close second). So when I saw that it was playing on cable this month, I jumped on it with booth feet. The word "creepy" can't be used enough when describing this flick. In what has to be one of the most unnerving films about a shy teen obsessed with a medical teaching dummy ever made. Sure, it has nothing in the way of gore, but the Sandor Stern-directed oddity more than makes up for it with its audacious premise. Which pretty much blows Mannequin: On the Move and Child's Play 3: Look Who's Stalking out of the ceramic sludge in terms of sheer weirdness. The film's demented plot centres around the deceptively wholesome existence of Leon (David Hewlett) and Ursula (Cynthia Preston), a brother and sister duo who live in a palatial home with their eccentric parents: Mom (Bronwen Mantel) is an anal retentive neat freak and their strict Father (Terry O'Quinn) is a doctor.

Using ventriloquy to throw his voice, dad pretends that Pin–the skinless medical teaching dummy sitting against the wall of his office–is talking with Leon and Ursula (expelling medical advice in a slightly eerie voice). Only Leon thinks Pin is really talking. In order to quell this seemingly harmless case of dewy-eyed psychosis, his father tells him not to talk to Pin when he is not around. Of course, Leon ignores his father and starts to form an unhealthy attachment to Pin. The most compelling aspect about Pin... was the fact that we never really know if Pin can actually talk, or if Leon is just plain crackers. I mean, we can hear him speaking, but it's not clear where the voice is coming from. Hence, much bewilderment is obtained from these scenes.

The lovely Helene Udy as Marcia Bateman.

The performance of David Hewlett (Cube) as Leon is downright creepy in its oddness. His bookish clothing make him stand out at his mullet-friendly high school, but the fact that his best friend is made out of plastic is probably one of the key ingredients to his quirkiness.

The underrated Cynthia Preston (Prom Night III: The Last Kiss) is appealing as Ursula, and holds her own despite her wild, outmoded mane of hair. Ursula loves her brother, but thinks his obsession with that "stupid dummy" has gone on long enough. (She tolerates his doll fixation because she doesn't want him to end up in a mental institution.) I liked the chemistry between the two actors. Though, I thought they should have played up the incestuous nature of their relationship a bit more. I mean, not only would it have made things a whole lot creepier, it also would've been extremely a "I would never condone this type of behaviour" kinda way.

Speaking of wrongful titillation, there's a scene that was so inappropriate, that it had me desperately clutching for my world renowned self-respect. A thirteen-year-old Leon is about to start chatting with Pin when a nurse interrupts them. As she enters, Leon hides behind one of them medical curtain thingys and proceeds to watch in horror as the not-so-fetching nurse grabs Pin and starts rubbing his frame against her highly aroused body. And before you can ask "Is Pin anatomically correct"? The randy nurse is slamming Pin's synthetic prick inside the voluptuous cavern located between her legs (which are covered with standard issue white hosiery). The nurse's orgasmic cooing prompts little Leon to cover his ears, but it can't prevent the traumatic episode from spiraling into a scar-inducing fiasco. Anyway, I have nothing but reverence for this scene. There's a mollifying innocence to female self-satisfaction, especially when it's performed this creatively.



  1. PIN is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    The Andrew Neiderman novel is very good, too.

    You've conveyed precisely the magic of the film -- it is that we don't know the true nature of Pin.

    The voice is perfect.

  2. Cynthia was on Kids in the Hall (as was every 80's Canadian actress) in a tasty part (not "tasty" in terms of size, but in tastiness):

    Hopefully this knowledge will enhance your Canadian street cred.

  3. Weird, I just watched a bunch of those "He's Hip, He's 45" sketches.

    Oh, and, yeah, I didn't know that was C.P., Canadian street... increased.

    "We feminists have to stick together."