Maybe dolls and dummies, in general, just freak me out. Dead of Night, The Great Gabbo, even the new flick The Conjuring… dolls just have some hyper-real element that raises the hair on the back of my neck to full attention, and I have a really hairy neck. But I can’t think of another movie where the dummy is actually a medical model. Meet Pin. Well that’s what the family calls him. Pin is a medical dummy with clear skin like a plastic Slim Goodbody (wow, that reference dates me). PIN is the subject of this week’s entry of The Unseen.
In the later part of the 1980’s, the creep-tatsic Canadians made the PIN, A Plastic Nightmare. Starring Terry O’Quinn and David Hewlett (who both would become nerd deities because of respective roles on LOST and Stargate: Atlantis), PIN focuses on a medical dummy. Pin is not one of the “Annie, are you ok?” type dummies used to teach CPR. Don’t get me wrong, those are scary as hell too. But Pin is a medical dummy with clear skin so folks can see muscles and organs and such. He is even anatomically correct, which is utilized a few times in the movie. Pin is owned by Dr. Frank Linden, who through the lamest-birthday-party-ever talent of ventriloquism makes Pin speak to patients about the importance of health. Dr Frank and his wife run a strict house, and their two uber-preppy kids struggle with sexuality in the stuffy environment. So in a possibly psychologically damaging move, the good doc has Pin chat with the kids about sex. Amusing. But things get eerie when Dr Frank’s son shows an obsession with Pin, talking to him when the doc isn’t around and hearing Pin speak back. After the parents are killed in a car wreck, Pin moves in with the now emancipated children and becomes a rather menacing member of the family.
Based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman, who also penned The Devils Advocate, PIN is low-budget with minimal gore, but who needs blood when you’ve got a life-size dummy? The voice of Pin is soft-spoken and eerie. Interestingly enough, these sinister vocals are no other than the cold-blooded doting grandfather from Breaking Bad, Jonathan Banks. PIN is filled with extended long takes where the camera freezes on the medical dummy. No matter how many times I watch this movie, I still find myself questioning, “Did the dummy just move a little? I’m pretty sure that he just moved!” The effect is disturbing and memorable. There is also a lot of unpleasant sexual energy brewing in PIN: a nurse rapes Pin (is it technically rape when it is with a dummy or just elaborate masturbation?), the father gives the daughter an abortion and encourages the son to watch for “educational reasons,” and the brother eventually writes an epic poem about a sister being raped by her brother. What the hell is wrong with this freaking family?
PIN was a direct-to-video release in the states in 1989. It had a reasonably good, but small, reception, and as someone later pointed out to me, it was marketed with a slasher-esque poster and box cover. A slasher it is not. PIN is much more, but still makes a perfect entry for this blog simply because few people have ever seen this one. Anchor Bay did a DVD release back in 2001 that is now out of print. Copies of the PIN DVD can still be picked on Amazon for under $20. It is has a commentary with director Sandor Stern, but lacks other special features, which is a shame considering how much I want to see the behind-the-scenes work with the dummy. Where on earth did they find that thing? Was it actually moving a little in the extended long shots, or is my mind just over-compensating the creepiness? For diehard horror nerds like myself, may I recommend finding PIN on laserdisc? I picked one up at a convention for about $30. I have yet to be able to fully explain my love of this awkwardly over-sized and fragile format, but I dig laserdiscs in all their shiny glory. Maybe I just like flipping my movies midway through.
There have been rumors for a few years now that a PIN remake is in the works with the original director, Sandor Stern, helming this one as well. A quick IMDBPro search shows the remake is touting a supposed 2014 release date. Though no cast or production details are listed, the synopsis says it is being shot in the vein of Black Swan and Psycho. Hmmmm.
Whether DVD, laserdisc, VHS, or stereopticon- find PIN, A Plastic Nightmare and watch it. And you better do it now before Pin gets a makeover to his creepy visage.