A B-movie you shouldn’t underrate
During the Halloween season, it often happens to look for the perfect horror movie to enjoy the night. However, scrolling the list of the latest films, it’s hard to find something remarkable which gives us a sense of unease, even after watching it. Horror doesn’t mean jump-scares or creatures made in CGI retracing a cliché. A horror movie must leave us a different perspective of reality and question the one we are living because things could go differently.
We already talked about how horror movies are still unable to recreate that particular atmosphere that leaves us that kind of anxiety. It’s not that this result couldn’t be achieved, and certainly, some films, albeit less famous and less in number, perhaps still manage to get it, but it’s hard if you only try to please the audience rather than providing them stories that directors strongly feel and really want to tell.
However, sometimes you happen to have in your hands a movie from 1988, with a curious but simple title. This is Pin which immediately takes us back to another level of unease, even if we watch it today with no nostalgia effect. Although it can be considered a B-movie, and more of a thriller than a horror.
Plot (it contains spoiler)
The story begins with some children from a garden of a house spying on someone standing in front of the upstairs window. The figure is unclear, but by the children’s description, it would look like a mannequin placed in front of the window. The children begin their guesses about who or what it is, and one of them is challenged to find out who really is. So one of the children approaches the house and climbs up to the window trying to catch a glimpse of the motionless figure, but as soon as he tries to look at it between the curtains, it makes a hint of movement that makes the children panic so that they run away.
The story goes on telling what happened 15 years before. We are in a wealthy family in which live a father (Dr. Linden), the mother, and two children (a boy and a girl), namely Leon and Ursula. The father, quite strict and analytical, questions the children every night on a subject to test their degree of study, but immediately, the female seems better at answering, while the male makes mistakes and is reprimanded, he begins to feel a sort of resentment, almost as if the daughter was preferred to him.
The rigidity of family life studded with strict rules on cleanliness dictated by the mother and the continuous requests from the father to excel, create a climate with little room for feelings, where everything is based on duty and little on the need to express oneself and to one’s needs. For Leon, this is seen more drastically way since he is often reprimanded, and moreover, he is unable to create friendships, as well as the idea that his sister seems to be the preferred one in the family.
During some doctor’s visits, often to children, the doctor takes his children with him to assist. To keep both his patients and his children quiet, Linden uses a puppet called Pin, an anatomical mannequin whose use is mainly didactic, but in this case, it also acts as a friendly figure that the father, without the children realizing it, makes talk like a person, thanks to his ventriloquist’s dowry.
The father’s intention seems positive: to amuse and calm the little ones, but also to make them interested in the subject.
The father, however, does not want them to talk to Pin when he is not around. And strangely enough, on one occasion, it also seems that the father speaks to himself with the puppet.
Of course, the father doesn’t want the children to talk to Pin when he’s not around, as it would be a disruption in the construction of the scenario he created. Even if on one occasion we see the father talking alone with the puppet, this ambiguity serves to make us believe, on the one hand, that the father has the same pathology that his son will develop; or that Pin can really talk, but it is possible to interpret the scene even more simplistically: the children are actually present, and the father may have perceived them, therefore he pretended to talk to Pin. However, the real interpretation is never completely revealed, so it remains open to other interpretations, which is even more fascinating.
Years go by, and the boys have grown up, but Leon always seems to be the most reprimanded one. In fact, even his mother, a maniac of cleanliness, complains that he leaves the house dirty. Even his friends make fun of him, also because of his mother’s strict rules that don’t allow him to invite his friends home.
Leon is always reprimanded and at the same time has difficulty making friends. On the one hand, his mother’s strict rules contribute to preventing him from bringing friends home and developing his friendships. He is therefore trapped in a double bond where he cannot disappoint his mother, but at the same time wants friends.
The difficulty of making male friends makes Leon get closer to Pin, with whom he begins to talk secretly in order not to be seen by his father, despite Leon knows the puppet doesn’t answer because he believes it accepts the rule given by the father for which Pin shouldn’t talk without his presence. Besides, in that circumstance, while he is alone with Pin, Leon suddenly hears someone entering the room so he hides. It’s the nurse who works with his father who, locking himself in the room, starts using Pin as a sexual fetish, while Leon looks shocked.
Unable to make new friends, Leon takes refuge in Pin: the only “person” he can establish a relationship with. So he decides to see it secretly. Pin obviously doesn’t talk, following his father’s rule, and therefore making all this imaginary construction more convincing. Everything fits in Leon’s mind: when his father is around Pin speaks and when he is not around it doesn’t because it respects the rules given by the doctor.
Besides, the arrival of the nurse who uses Pin as a sexual object does nothing but create a new trauma to Leon, more precisely a sexual trauma. Unconsciously, he absorbs a disturbing vision of sex. It doesn’t matter that Pin represents a potential friend to him, seen in a sexual scenario, Pin appears disturbing and the development of the friendship with Pin will keep this conception of sex alive.
Later, Leon and Ursula talk about sex, and while the former is more rigid on the subject, the sister seems more open-minded. During the discussion, Ursula seems to have understood the fiction behind Pin, but when she tries to manifest it to her brother, he reacts badly by beating her.
Ursula begins to develop the first sexual instincts while her brother remains more reluctant. Besides this, Ursula seems to have understood that Pin is only his father’s invention, but Leon doesn’t want to accept such fantasy be wrecked because it’s the only way he has left to have a friend, so he becomes violent.
When Ursula’s mother finds that she’s flipping through a sex magazine, her father decides to talk to them about sex with the help of Pin, who explains some notions to them and answers their questions.
The years go by and the boys are teenagers. Ursula has become a bit of an easy girl, while her brother is too overprotective of her, and against the fact that she is having sex, ending up beating up the guy she was having sex with. Leon appears sexophobic and seems to react badly when sex is involved. They argue over the fact that she is having sex all the time, and she confesses to her brother that she is pregnant, but is too afraid to tell her father, so Leon suggests asking Pin for advice. Although she realizes that Pin is just a puppet, the brother doesn’t want to accept it, and always reacts aggressively when Ursula tries to break this belief. So, having been forced, since on the one hand there would be the father’s reaction, and on the other hand the brother’s reaction, she plays along and they both go to Pin.
Since Leon is sexophobic, sex makes him nervous, whether it concerns himself or his sister. What aggravates the situation is the fact that his sister seems to be pregnant, so Ursula confesses it to her brother who suggests asking Pin for advice. Ursula is incredulous that her brother keeps considering Pin as a real person, in fact when he mentions again that Pin is a mannequin, Leon becomes violent. So her sister is forced to keep up this fantasy again because, on the one hand, she is afraid to confess to her father that she is pregnant, while on the other hand, she does not want to contradict her brother.
Pin unexpectedly answers and advises her to talk to her father while calming her. The next day the father examines his daughter and wants his brother to stay and watch during the visit.
Pin replies and seems to confirm the idea it’s alive but it’s only Leon’s pathology aggravating. Now Leon can make Pin speak as his father does. Ursula realizes that but doesn’t want to go in-depth. Besides, participating in the gynecological examination of his sister contributes to worsening his idea about sex.
Afterward, his father would like Leon to decide to become independent by going to college, but he doesn’t want to leave and would prefer to study along with Pin.
Once again Leon struggles with having to separate himself from the only friendly figure in his life without being able to admit it directly.
One evening, the father is called for a conference, so with his wife, they go there. However, shortly afterward, Dr. Linden notes that he has forgotten his notes and goes back. When he opens the door, he finds Leon intent on talking to Pin. Angry about what happened, his father takes Pin away with him, deciding to donate it after the conference. Unfortunately, in the rush to drive, Linden loses control of the car, and that circumstance is aggravated by Pin’s presence that creates distraction and tension.
The accident causes the death of the parents. The siblings left alone, have to initially make it on their own, even though their aunt decides to move into their house shortly afterward to take care of them. Without the interference of his father, Leon brings Pin into the house, making him a member of the family, dressing him, and letting him stay at the table with them. Ursula, meanwhile, becomes interested in schizophrenia while studying in the school library and takes the opportunity to find a job there: a way for her to get away from the now disturbing life with her brother and Pin.
The accident is also Pin’s fault for jumping forward from the back seat and making the doctor lose control of the car definitively. In a way, it is like Pin contributed to killing the doctor who wanted to get rid of it.
Leon makes Pin become ever more similar to a person, at first just dressing it, helping to make this fantasy more and more unbreakable. As his sister begins to research her brother’s pathology while in the library.
The aunt arrives and moves into the house, but is immediately too castrating, imposing too much his way of seeing things with her rules. Meanwhile, Pin, hidden in the attic, keeps on talking with Leon, making him more and more paranoid and convincing him to get rid of his aunt. Catching her in the middle of the night, Pin makes her die of a heart attack. This is how the two, or rather, the three of them can go back to living “peacefully” without outside interference.
The aunt becomes a new enemy to Leon’s enactment so she must be taken out as soon as possible.
Leon makes Pin even more human, giving it skin and hair, and sitting him in a wheelchair. His sister tends not to contradict him, even though she is annoyed, but then exasperatedly declares she cannot live like that anymore. And as soon as she only mentions the word “puppet”, Leon gets upset and becomes violent. Once they calm down, Leon demands that Ursula apologize to Pin.
The transformation of Pin is increasingly disturbing. After dressing him, Leon equips him with skin and hair, then he places it in a wheelchair. His fantasy becomes even more realistic. Pin is like a disabled person, and all this keeps up the fantasy of it not walking. The barrier between the human and the unreal Pin becomes thinner and thinner. Ursula is evermore a victim of this enactment and cannot get out of this, because every attempt triggers violent reactions in her brother.
While working in the library, Ursula meets a guy who immediately shows an interest in her. The two get along immediately and she then talks to her brother about it, who comments that she hasn’t dated anyone since the abortion. Afterward, all three of them meet accidentally, but Leon seems detached, while Stan, the boyfriend, appears to be friendly. Ursula decides to go to dinner with her new boyfriend, during which Stan talks about how he misses his one hypothetical friend since he died, and sometimes he gets the instinct to call him. Ursula seems embarrassed by this since she probably associates it with her brother’s behavior. Back home, Leon reproaches her for returning “late”.
Stan’s words are not clear, but they seem to refer to the hypothetical grief of a friend, and how Stan misses him. However, from Ursula’s point of view, this only recalls parallels with her brother’s obsession.
Leon decides to go out with a girl, Marcia, and then take her to his house to have sex with. Despite the girl’s passionate interest, Leon keeps being detached, and at the crucial moment when they have to undress to make it, Leon hears Pin’s voice making him change his mind, so he tells Marcia that he is nervous about the presence of a friend in the house. She gets disappointed and angry and wants to leave, but in the darkness of the house, she is chased by Pin who terrorizes her.
Leon dates Marcia because he probably wants to try to imitate his sister, and a part of him might want to get out of the bond with Pin, but the sexual inhibition created by his pathology messes everything up.
Pin scolds Leon for being too possessive to his sister, so Leon decides to give Stan a chance by inviting him to dinner.
Leon introduces Pin to Stan, who plays along, albeit a little bit worried. Stan is very nice to Pin and Leon even when he congratulates on his excellent cuisine. After dinner, Ursula convinces her brother to read his poems for the first time in front of a stranger, whose verses speak of rape, violence, and incest. Leon seems happy that everything is going smoothly for the first time, but then he overhears Ursula and Stan talking about him, believing not to be heard: Stan admits how disturbing the matter is and how Leon behaves like a sick person. The girl admits that she read about it and that her brother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Now even Stan is a threat to Leon.
For a while, Leon seems to be happy, especially when he gives vent to his brutality through poetry and is not criticized, but acclaimed. It is a moment when he can unleash his repressed anger without further criticism. Unfortunately, however, the talk about his illness, undertaken by his sister and Stan, has an even worse effect.
Leon calls Stan to organize his sister’s birthday in great secrecy. So he invites him home and drugs him; the boy tries to fight back as he loses his strength until Leon hits him to kill him, then he disappears the body. Later, Leon has dinner with his sister telling her that Stan had called to say he wouldn’t be there. However, during the evening, Ursula is unconvinced why her boyfriend did not show up, and unfortunately, she has evidence of this when she finds traces of blood and his watch. Afraid of what might have happened, she asks her brother for explanations, who confesses that it was Pin who killed him. The girl is desperate, takes an ax, and seems to hit him to death. Immediately afterward the police arrive, and fortunately they find Stan still alive.
Sometime later, Ursula and Stan return to the house to visit Pin, but it turns out that Pin is actually Leon who has completely assumed the personality of the puppet that his sister had destroyed, in an ending which gives goosebumps and takes us back to the explanation of the initial scene that probably occurs after this moment.
The viewer is misled since it seems that the sister kills her brother with an ax after the discovery of Stan’s “killing”, but she destroys Pin instead. However, having destroyed the key element of Leon’s pathology does not make it disappear, but rather aggravates it, making Leon himself Pin. As he can no longer communicate with the mannequin, he internalizes it to the point of impersonating it, completely erasing Leon’s personality. Leon is Pin who now desperately looks for his friend Leon, not knowing where to look to find him.
While watching this film, we are taken through the evolution of the pathology of the protagonist, and we understand well how he developed his morbid attachment to the puppet and the development of the second personality. Pin is the sympathetic friend that Leon could never have, it is the one who gives him advice rather than reproaches. At the same time, the disturbing and negative experiences about sex have made him somehow sexophobic and unable to feel pleasure. All this is part of continuous repression of anger due both to the wrongs he has suffered and to his inability to get what he wants, which leads both to the violence described in his poems and to the climax with the attempted murder of Stan: an outburst that comes mainly from having to keep his reality up, but which manifests itself so violently because of the excessive repression of accumulated anger.
The characters are well outlined and allow us to understand their state of mind. In the beginning, the story deliberately goes on the ambiguity of whether the puppet really has its own personality or it’s simply the object of a game that over the years has resulted in a pathology.
The disturbing music also fits the atmosphere of the film and the era. It’s easy to recall Psycho, and when you look at the more recent The Boy you cannot help but think of certain assonance, even if it’s a very different story.
In the end, Pin is still able to disturb us today, and he does it, developing every detail that makes us perfectly identify how Leon got to such a point, and how frightening it can be to have a puppet as disturbing as Pin in a house. The end, however, can leave you speechless, but also melancholy when Leon becomes Pin and declares how he misses his friend.