Strange cinema

Completely unclassifiable cinema, bizarre films from the fringes

Don’t Go Near the Park

Don’t be fooled by Don’t Go Near the Park. While it sounds like the other “don’t” films, don’cha know* (many of which we’ve covered here, including Don’t Go in the Woods, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Don’t Look in the Basement) it’s actually far from being a straight-ahead stalk ‘n’ slash. In fact, it’s far from being straight-ahead.

You see, Don’t Go Near the Park features immortal cannibal cave people, with a story so byzantine it makes Finnegans Wake look like Ten Little Indians.

Like its slasher brethren, DGNTP features an insane prologue. However, instead of merely going back a generation to explain how being forced to put on a dress turned Little Johnny into a wide-eyed campground Stabby McGee 15 years later, this film takes us back 12,000 years ago.

Picture it: humans lived by torchlight. In caves. Wearing loin-cloths. And they spoke English (who knew?)

We are introduced to cave-siblings, (Patty and Gar) who are somehow cursed to drink human blood in order to quell sped-up aging (ten years for every one). And in order to speed up the plot, the viewer is catapulted to the present, and then vaulted 16 years ahead after that.

Gar rents a room from a landlady (played by horror icon Linnea Quigley, best known for being antler bait in Silent Night, Deadly Night) in the time-honored fashion: walking in on her in the shower (!). Despite this breach of etiquette, he isn’t immediately sent packing in favor of another prospective tenant, but actually is allowed to rent the place (after which, they become a couple).

The 16-year narrative jump is for their teen daughter, the hilariously named Bondi (that’s “Bond-ee,” not like the beach, dear Aussie readers) who’s the apple of daddy’s eye. She’s ostensibly birthed so that Gar and his sister can feast on a virgin. Possibly. This requires a second and maybe a third viewing for further clarification, as the two seem to feast just fine on random people.

To plug the narrative gaps, there’s some exposition aplenty, provided by a somewhat confused local historian, Mr. Taft (the legendary Aldo Ray) who regales an orphan boy with tales of the “demons of Las Filas?” and who voices the film’s titular warning (odd, given there are two separate parks where Gar feasts on his victims, both of which don’t meet any definition of what most would consider a “park”).

With effects that wouldn’t pass muster at the HG Lewis School of Film-making, inappropriate nudity, head-scratching performances, and histrionic wailing like “You never gave me gold!” Don’t Go Near the Park is a bona-fide cult classic and a fascinating bit of gonzo cinema.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Don’t Go Near the Park]

[*Editor’s note: Many “Don’t” films were added to the Video Nasties list]

Pin

When a medical simulation dummy becomes a surrogate father figure (wait, what?)…well, let’s just say you’re in for some serious weirdness. Pin, aka, Pin: A Plastic Nightmare is one of the more underrated (and as is often the case, under-seen) horrors from the 1980s, an era dominated by oblivious campers, clandestine romps, and masked assailants (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Slashers can be beautiful).

Pin is such a marked departure from…pretty much everything, that it is much-see material regardless of epoch. It’s even a kind of spiritual cousin to Cronenberg’s early tax shelter films (and like Rabid, Pin was filmed in Montreal).

And similar to Burnt Offerings or The Sentinel, director Sandor Stern lures viewers into Pin’s world through a gable window as neighborhood kids speculate as to who/what it is that’s gazing down on them from above.

Creepy stuff out of the gate.

Creepier still, taskmaster doc, Linden, teaches his two kids Ursula and Leon about the birds and the bees, through the eponymous mannequin (“Pin,” short form of Pinocchio) and hair-raising ventriloquism. But this is a film that both throws voices, and viewers for a loop, as when Linden and the kids’ mother is claimed in a car accident, fatherly duties go to the man made of plastic.

Like other films of the era, there’s childhood trauma involving sex. In this case, it’s Leon witnessing one of his father’s nurses, getting it on with the singular expression mannequin in his pops’ office. When his younger sister comes of age sexually, a mentally deteriorating Leon controls her “needs” to the best of his abilities, solo and through Pin.

Some reviewers have pointed out the near-inevitable similarities to Psycho; however the Freudian subtext is anted up in Pin.

And speaking of psychology, a New York Times reviewer pointed out, “Although the viewer can never be fully sure, it seems as though his blank, receptive facial expression is even capable of slight changes…” It’s almost like the “auto-kinetic effect” in visual perception studies, whereby viewers in a totally dark room, perceive a stationary dot on the wall, as moving. In the case of Pin, the brain “fills in” what would normally be a face with all its human expression.

*** 1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Pin on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]