Despite being a seasoned horror watcher, I love the fact that there are always little gems that I’d never properly experienced; random well known cult favorites that for whatever reasons have slipped through the cracks of my movie-watching habits over the years. It’s all the more rewarding to finally see one of these films and feel like I’ve made a grand new discovery. The 1977 horror favorite THE SENTINEL, available now from Scream Factory on Blu-Ray, is definitely one of those movies!
The Blu-Ray presentation is fantastic and I enjoyed the hell out of this bat-shit crazy movie. But more than anything, I’ve got lots of reasons to recommend this horror flick. Here’s 5 reasons you have to check out THE SENTINEL.
1 – It’s directed by the guy that made DEATH WISH.
Sure, THE SENTINEL shares nothing in common tone-wise with DEATH WISH, but they both come from Michael Winner, the director who brought us the first 3 DEATH WISH movies, as well as THE MECHANIC (also starring Charles Bronson) and THE BIG SLEEP. One of the things that stands out about the film is the stylistic and atmospheric way it’s directed. There’s some gorgeous cinematography, wonderfully orchestrated suspense, and some truly creepy sequences. In one scene, Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) is revisiting her old home after the death of her father and suddenly sees her younger self run past for a flashback to her traumatic suicide attempt. Having the present day version of the character witnessing the flashback in frame is something that only adds to the overall uneasy feeling the film manages to evoke. Who knew the director of DEATH WISH 3 could handle this unsettling mood with such finesse?
2 – Chris Sarandon!
While most genre fans of course think of Sarandon in his two Tom Holland helmed pics FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD’S PLAY, THE SENTINEL marks one of his earliest roles within the horror genre. A few short years earlier, he had made his impressive feature film debut as Al Pacino’s lover in DOG DAY AFTERNOON, but here he is front and center as the lead, Michael Lerman. Charming, charismatic and sporting a pretty killer mustache, Sarandon is just so damned good in THE SENTINEL. He’s also very likable. When his girlfriend begins suffering from these dizzy spells and starts passing out, and then she begins seeing inexplicable phenomenon in her new apartment complex, Michael truly wants to believe and help her. But does his shady past that eventually comes to light have anything to do with what’s really going on? Despite rumors that Sarandan and director Winner did not get along (listen to Winner’s commentary track!), this is still one of the actor’s finest performances.
While this gorgeous actress appeared in Ridley Scott’s THE DUELLISTS, as well as Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE and later in the “Terror In Topanga” segment of 1983’s NIGHTMARES (also just announced as an upcoming Scream Factory release!), this writer was personally unfamiliar with her, but thrilled to see her front and center as the troubled Alison Parker here. She has that same ethereal quality to her that reminded me of the first time I saw Jessica Harper in SUSPIRIA, and here she delivers a great, tortured & sympathetic performance. Every once in a while, a lead from a film will be so striking that you’re sad you didn’t know about them earlier, but then you’re also excited because now you get to look at the remainder of their filmography. THE SENTINEL made me a Cristina Raines fan!
4 – The Entire Supporting Cast!
Looking over this cast list is unbelievable! You’ve got Burgess Meredith (ROCKY), Eli Wallach (THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY) Eva Gardner (THE KILLERS), William Hickey (PUPPET MASTER), Martin Balsam (PSYCHO), John Carradine (SHOCK WAVES). Let’s also not leave out short appearances by Beverly D’Angelo (VACATION), Jeff Goldblum (THE FLY), Jerry Orbach (F/X), not to mention cameos by Christopher Walken (THE DEAD ZONE) and Tom Berenger! It’s truly a marvel to watch this movie and practically recognize just about every face that comes on screen. Might make a good drinking game! Take a shot when someone you recognize from another movie shows up! Also, I always assumed that William Hickey always looked 100 years old in every movie I grew up watching him in, but it’s fun to see him here as a younger man.
5 – It’s scary!
As I mentioned previously, there are some really great atmospheric scenes throughout the picture, and a lot of disturbing content. But one of the scariest scenes is when Alison must confront her recently deceased (and mostly nude) father walking around her new building complex. There’s moments in that particular scene that genuinely gave me chills and that quite frankly make the whole movie stand out for me. Not to mention the father’s creepy “menage a trois” with 2 women in the flashback sequence and the barrage of “freaks” that come out in full force towards the grand finale!
Bonus reason? There’s a birthday party for a cat in it. No really.
Need more convincing? Here’s Scream Factory’s own video explaining why they love it:
Hit the lights, crank your home sound system and watch this at night. There are sure to be a few bits that will spook you!