Magic (1978) and Pin (1988) brief thoughts

Both films rated: 2.5 / 5

These types of movies suffer from the exact same problem, at least as far as my personal enjoyment goes. They’re both about a socially awkward guy, bordering on crazy, who has talent to some degree; more-so in Magic, since the guy is as good a magician as he is a ventriloquist; while in Pin he’s just a loony ventriloquist. Both slowly build tension to moments where the central character finally snaps and commits murder. And the film is just dandy up to that point, which composes somewhere between the first third and first half of the runtime. But then there really isn’t anywhere to go from there.

The films can’t escalate further than that, once they’ve shown that the central character has reached the point in his madness where he’s willing to commit murder. What is the film going to do after that first murder, have him become a mass-murderer? Have him somehow use his ventriloquist act to cause a film theater or hospital to explode and kill over a dozen people or something? It just becomes monotonous and dull when he goes on to terrorize/kill one or two other people after that. This could only work if we got to know, and gave a damn, about those other people prior to the lunatic going after them.

But that’s where the trick to making films like these work come in. In order to give a damn about the other characters, the lunatic can’t be the central character (at the very least, it would be extremely difficult to pull this off). Not if he’s to have the arc of starting borderline normal, and then slowly spiraling out of control from there. At best, he can be one of two or more central characters (which Pin at least attempts to do better with the brother and sister sharing respectable screen time). This is why something like Christine (1983) works better, because the lunatic is a significant character, but ultimately not the central one; plus the film has a more supernatural edge to it that allows for things to escalate beyond the first kill. Not to mention that at least Christine has style. Running people over, smashing through a gas station and blowing it up, and crushing a guy with the car seat. At least that film kept the kills unique and fresh. These movies, it’s just causing heart attacks, smashing someone with the doll, or knifing them (with the doll); just not that interesting if you don’t really give a damn about the victims.

There’s also that film Monster (2003) where some woman is relatively normal (lesbianism aside), does a killing that can be justified for self-defense. But she becomes too hooked on killing, and eventually crosses the line from “justified” to “unjustified,” and becomes a psychotic killer who starts murdering innocents. Demonstrating the slippery slope of justifying ethically bad acts, and that people often find themselves being unable to realize they’ve crossed a line they shouldn’t have crossed (a few murders ago). It worked in that film because the downward spiral continued every bit as much internally as externally. It doesn’t work in Pin and Magic because they can’t really spiral much further internally than where they’ve already gone by the time the film is halfway over. Not to mention there’s no hope for assuming they will stop and turn their life around, considering they’ve already gone past the point of no return.

If a “slowly going insane” ventriloquist movie is to work, and have the lunatic be the central character, at least find ways to keep it interesting. He starts with a doll or something, kills someone with it (heart attack or bashing or whatever), but then the doll gets destroyed. So then he gets a bigger doll. Or he starts imitating voices of those the next victim is familiar with to lure them to some so-and-so location (via ventriloquism) before dropping an anvil on them (or something). Him getting a variety of ways to utilize his insanity raises the stakes for the next intended victim, since the lunatic’s bag of tricks is growing with each kill.

Personally, I think it would be great if he was at some private funeral, used ventriloquism to convince a family member the deceased was still alive in the coffin, they open it up, and he cracks their skull open before dumping them in the open coffin, closing it, then burying it, to cover up the crime. Some demented guilty pleasure shit right there.

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