Movie Review – Pin

Pin (1988)
Written and Directed by Sandor Stern


Young Leon and his sister Ursula are growing up with an incredibly strict mother and father. She is a housewife obsessed with keeping their home a clean and tidy place. He is a doctor who uses ventriloquism to speak through a lifesize medical mannequin nicknamed Pin. Their father does this to teach life lessons to the siblings, but Leon becomes very invested in this ruse even as he grows older. Ursula is in on the trick but finds Leon becomes very sensitive when the truth is pointed out. Tragedy strikes and the two are left to fend for themselves in the world. Leon thinks it would be a good idea to move Pin from his father’s offices to their enormous mansion. Fun ensues.

I was a bit surprised with how quickly Pin played its hand. In a modern film, I suspect the dark truth would have been kept a secret, but a good 30 minutes into this movie and we know what is going on with the dummy. I kept waiting for a second twist to transpire, but nope. So, we end up with a very straightforward film about psychosexual obsession. The film ends on a somewhat anticlimactic note, an act of evil is undone with a couple lines so that Ursula can get a happy ending. And this seems to undercut the potential darkness the film could have truly explored.

I have never read nor seen any adaptations of Flowers in the Attic (or any other V.C. Andrews fare), and I kept thinking this felt like what I assume those novels are like. Color me surprised when I found the author of the Pin novel, Andrew Neiderman, became Andrews’ ghostwriter upon her death. If that type of mid-80s incest-o-gothic horror appeals to you, then Pin is definitely on point in that regard.

This film had appeared on a few “so fucked up” horror movie lists around the internet, so I was expecting something really envelope-pushing and over the edge. Instead, we have yet another attempt to replicate Psycho. Ever since the success of that film, movies and novels have been obsessed with the psycho killer character. There was a shift in the wake of Silence of the Lambs, where the psycho became debonair and erudite, but Pin is purely in Norman Bates country. The novel and the exploration of these cultural shifts in horror are explored in the recently released and wonderful book Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix.

Back to Pin. The acting feels right on par with late 1980s low budget horror. Terry O’Quinn plays the father and is probably the most subtle actor in the bunch, attempting to make his character more than just a crazed megalomaniac. Andrew Hewlett as Leon never quite convinced me. He does an excellent hammy psycho, but never evokes the sympathies I think the ending of the film wants from us. Ursula and her love interest feel just like standard pretty faces of the era.

Pin isn’t going to blow your mind or do anything particularly twisted for a horror film. As someone who likes existential horror, it barely touched it. If you are a gore enthusiast, there isn’t much here either. I can’t really recommend watching Pin unless you want some trashy VC Andrews-esque sibling drama.


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