The Sentinel Movie Review

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The Sentinel appears frequently in the lists that I compile. Maybe because it’s one of my favorite weird horrors. I don’t know if this movie is “underrated” or super not-known. Surely to the younger generations. It didn’t come out quietly in the after 70s, the cast is loaded with stars, and I imagine it received airtime on cable networks at the time, but director Michael Winner’s satanic and psychedelic, The Sentinel, fell out of discussion a long time ago. When we talk about really disturbing movies, I think this particularly scary and evil old game from the 70s should be mentioned.

A young model Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) lives with her lawyer friend; her potential boyfriend Michael (Chris Sarandon) in her apartment. Alison has undergone changes after mental health problems and self-destruction attempts. She has moved away from the Catholic Church and has recently expressed her interest in finding her own place. With the help of a real estate agent, she finds a place in a beautiful old building in Brooklyn Heights.

 

In the top window of the building is a horrible-looking old man, whom the realtor says is a blind priest. After moving in, Alison meets her neighbor, a strange old gentleman who is organizing a birthday party for his cat. He introduces Alison to other neighbors in the building, all of whom have a particular definition of weird. There is a couple of emotionless lesbian ballerinas, one of whom played by Beverly D’Angelo does not speak – just pleases herself in front of Alison.

Gradually, the activity in the apartment becomes more aggressive and strange. Alison loses control of reality, or maybe it’s the reality around her that is strange and collapsing. She learns that her building can be a gateway to hell.

The Sentinel has what seems to be a tart vision and transgression, serving up that unsurpassed depraved and strange air of the 70s. Although it is clearly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby and made in the last part of a decade dominated by satanic subjects, The Sentinel has original ideas, scary views and its own special touch of far out freaky. The main Alison suffers flashbacks to her father’s disturbing venereal escapades, while she is currently living in a slowly unfolding hell full of oddities. The atmosphere is always nightmarish. The look is the New York of the 70s, raw but dreamy, edgy but chic. A sense of evil crawls through the pure strange moments, and the supposedly frightening images – a zombified abusive father, a satanic priest and an army of disfigure people – do their disconcerting job.

Winner has received review for some of the scares served up in The Sentinel, as he used real people with disfigure to play the demonic creatures that appear while the gate of hell is open. Today it seems tasteless. It was also in bad taste at the time. But it’s authentic. Disturbing. Indeed scary. Call me a villain (please, don’t do it), but the Sentinel’s Climax is a real den, and I think Winner’s dubious choice created a great horror.

Several memorable scares to see, this climax included, and the performances also hit a nerve.

The star-studded cast helps a generic but decent and simple plot to reach terribly frightening heights. Burgess Meredith brings something so endearing and disturbing to a friendly but scary old neighbor. Sylvia Miles is the strength and the chill of the odd ballerina couple, speaking with a strong Slavic accent and posing a rather icy presence. The list of stars supporting the stars is crazy. John Carradine, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy and a young Christopher Walken. Tom Berenger is sneaking all the way there. One hell of an impressive lineup for an old horror that few seem to care about.

As with any movie on this list, The Sentinel may be too “slow” or “strange” for someone who is used to it now, but this macabre number will get under your skin if you are in a good mood and can just settle into the feeling of fever. An unsavory supernatural sizzler, unjustly deserted in the 70s. One of my main goals in life, among so few, is to help this film find its right audience.

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