In Paperbacks from Hell (page 143 to be exact), Grady Hendrix explains what PIN is all about:

“Leon and Ursula have lived together ever since their parents died in a car accident. The kids grew up thinking dad’s anatomical model, PIN, was alive, and now Leon throws his voices unconsciously, keeping PIN talking. PIN eats with them, listens to Leon’s weird recitals, and when Leon and Ursula have incest sex, PIN likes to help. If you’re a completely insane lunatic shut-in with ice waters in your veins and screaming bats inside your skull, this would be paradise. And for Leon, it is.”

PIN was written by Andrew Neiderman, who has written forty-seven novels under his own name, but is perhaps better known for the sixty-eight — and counting — that’s ghostwritten from V.C. Andrews and her Flowers in the Attic series.

1988’s Canadian movie adaption skips most of the incest, but trust me, it’s no less strange.

Directed by Sandor Stern (the writer of the original The Amityville Horror and writer/director of the Patty Duke starring Amityville: The Evil Escapes), PIN starts with Dr. Frank Linden (Terry O’Quinn, forever The Stepfather in our hearts), who keeps a human size, anatomically correct Slim Goodbody-esque medical model in his office that he’s named Pin. He uses Pin — throwing his voice to make him speak — to explain how the body works without it being awkward. The doctor is a cold and distant man; only his interactions through the doll seem warm.

Leon has problems. He probably has some mental illness, which isn’t helped by his domineering mother, who doesn’t allow him to play outside or bring friends home. Pin is his only friend in the entire world. Imagine his shock when he goes to visit Pin one day and a nurse is having sex with the doll. Isn’t it delightful when a movie can just make your jaw hit the floor? Well, keep watching Pin.

The doctor and his wife constantly feel like they could kill one another at any moment. And Leon may not ever want to think about sex, but his sister can’t stop thinking about it. Jump cut ahead in time and she’s literally having sex with most of the football team while her brother is scrubbing graffiti about her off a locker. After Leon angrily fights several boys who are lining up to have their way with her (remember what I said about the surprising strangeness of this one), she agrees to stop having sex. That said, she needs an abortion, an operation that her father coldly does in front of Leon, telling him that he needs to watch this procedure for when he does it himself. They’ll just tell mother she had some cramps.

One night, Dr. Linden and his wife are leaving for a speech. He forgets his notes and runs back to his office, where he finds Leon talking to Pin. Realizing his son has lost his mind, he takes Pin away. However, a car accident caused by his speeding (or is it Pin?) kills the parents off. As Leon investigates the crash, he takes Pin with him.

Leon and Ursula enjoy their freedom from their mother’s strict cleaning habits and menus, but as other people try and enter their lives, like Aunt Dorthy or Stan, Ursula’s love interest, Leon and Pin take them out. At this point, Pin is now dressing in Dr. Linden’s clothes and has latex skin and a wig so he can appear human.

Oh! In the middle of all of this, Leon has a date with a redhead who is all over him. He panics and runs to Pin for help, then uses the frightening doll to chase the girl away from the house.

Leon believes that Stan is only interested in Ursula’s money and to put him away. To be fair, they did discuss how crazy he’s been acting and what they should do. I’ve never had to meet the doll friend of a girlfriend’s brother, somewhat amazingly. Pin tells Leon how to dispose of Stan, but he’s interrupted by Ursula, who is on her way home from her library job.

Upon finding blood on the carpet, Ursula starts to run. Leon blames Pin, who flips out on him, telling him that he has never lied for him or to him. His sister returns with an axe as the screen goes white.

Fast forward: Stan is OK and still with Ursula. She comes home to see Pin, who asks whether or not she’s seen Leon. She answers, “No.” It’s then revealed that Ursula destroyed the doll, but now Pin has become Leon’s full personality. He is now the doll.

Pin is unsettling. It’s relatively bloodless, but that doesn’t stop its power to shock, whether you’re reading it in book form or watching the movie.

7 thoughts on “PAPERBACKS FROM HELL WEEK: Pin (1988)

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