in Shocktober

The Sentinel (1977)

In another half-assed “gotta-get-a-review-in-every-day” effort I present you with the 1977 supernatural horror flick The Sentinel. The film was directed and adapted for the screen by Michael Winner, a man who I can assume never fails at anything. I first discovered The Sentinel through the Holy Bible of Horror Cinema also known as Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. I’m not sure I would of heard of this Exorcist wannabe if not for that immortal Bravo mini-series but I do see some of the appeal. The film is a little bit The Exorcist, a little bit Rosemary’s Baby and a little bit The Omen. But is it as good? Let’s find out.

Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) is a successful if not emotionally troubled New York supermodel dating a porn-stached lawyer played by Chris Sarandon. After experiencing tragedies in her life that twice lead to suicide attempts, Alison abandons her Christian faith and decides to start anew by living alone in a scary apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Makes sense to me. Soon enough Alison starts to notice eerie occurrences in the building, most notably that of a weird blind man constantly staring out a window on one of the top floors. Blah, blah, blah it turns out this apartment complex is a gateway to hell.

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Trust me, this movie sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. The problem here is that far too much of the film is spent introducing forgettable characters. Actually, this leads to a pretty stacked cast: Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Martin Balsam, Jose Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy Sylvia Miles, Eli Wallach, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, and Tom Berenger in the immortal role of “Man at end”. You’re safe to assume that a great deal of these are no more than quick cameos. I feel like horror movies are most effective with a minimal cast but this film is loaded with so many old fogeys it moves slower than Matlock on sunday afternoon.

I will give props to the films “demons” which are played by an unusual assortment of people who are actually deformed. I only wonder why these creatures weren’t given more screen time earlier in the film. The Sentinel could have been significantly scarier had we been given glimpses of these malformed monsters throughout the film and not just the weird pale looking spirits that we see instead. Overall, the film is fairly forgettable and lacks any real punch. Michael Winner, I’m afraid you don’t come out on top on this one.

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I don’t know, what do you think Bravo?