A psychosexual horror thriller about an anatomically correct anatomy medical dummy should be loads of tacky fun. In the hands of Sandor Stern's stolid direction we get a thriller melodrama that is a crossbreed of Psycho and Magic with the syrupy sheen of a made for TV Hallmark film.
Based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman (who also wrote "John Grisham meets The Omen" thriller Devil's Advocate, which itself was loosely readapted for film as an Al Pacino blackly comic ham-fest), Pin tells the story of Ursula (Preston) and Leon (Hewlett), raised in quiet suburban seclusion by their father Dr Linden (O'Quinn) and mother (Mantel). Dr Linden has a facility with ventriloquism which he uses to give a voice and character to Pin, the anatomist dummy in his office. By turns enrapturing his children and using Pin as a means of bestowing wisdom and lessons, all is well. However, as the Linden children grew up, Ursula may have developed a taste for parties and teenage sexual encounters, but Leon has grown an unhealthy attachment to Pin that may spark into tragedy.
The loss of identity and split personality themes fit the thriller genre like a glove; De Palma has pretty much made a career out of it. Pin may tread well worn ground, but it does develop its characters and has a genuine air of melancholy. This is a movie where the writing is much better than the direction. Stern is an old hand at television and in this, his only cinema release, he doesn't transcend the medium; the whole movie feels shackled. It politely mumbles itself through such queasy scenes as Leon witnessing his own sisters abortion performed by their father, and the increasingly unhealthy sibling relationship is too discreet, as if in fear of losing a TV sponsor. Ursula may also be the most wholesome good time girl in all of cinema; when Stern does embrace bad taste with a scene involving a nurse having sex with Pin (which implies he's anatomically correct in all the right places) we get a hint of the febrile psychosexual delight this could have been.
Its failings as a horror movie are also what differentiates it from most of its ilk. By empathizing so deeply with Leon it stages events as tragedy, a gradual erosion of the person with every act he commits, rather than horror set piece. Leon may be doing monstrous things but he is never viewed as a monster. The performances are all uniformly good, although O'Quinn has a hard time removing the shackles of The Stepfather, his doctor father here seeming just a little too sinister.
In the end this is a tragedy hiding in horror clothing, a film ending on a grace note of sadness rather than winking at a possible sequel. You just wish it was directed with a little more brio. Like its lead actress, it wants to be slutty but is a little too Laura Ashley for its own good.
(Review by Jason Abbey)