I don’t know about this one guys. I just don’t know. I’m mostly just rambling through here, trying to figure things out. Spoiler heavy I guess. I still don’t know.
The Sentinel – USA, 1977. Dir. Michael Winner, Screenplay Michael Winner, Jeffrey Konvitz. Starring Christina Raines, Chris Sarandon.
Um, so I think I may have finally found a movie that left me baffled. I guess Matthew would say it serves me right for watching something else from the director behind Death Wish. But seriously. The Sentinel.
What did I just watch? What happened? I mean, I get what happened. BUT SERIOUSLY. What?
Is it just that I haven’t finished my coffee yet? Is my brain just really stumped?
I have no idea.
So okay, we’re watching a 70’s horror flick. There’s a model, she has a boyfriend, she decides she wants to live by herself for a while before they get married. She goes out and finds this kind of creepy but really nice brownstone in NYC and moves right in. Creepy stuff starts to happen. Of course. The neighbors are weird. She’s invited to the best cat birthday party ever where everyone dances the polka and eats cake. Okay…
I picked this movie because it’s listed pretty frequently on best of lists for haunted houses and ghost movies and stuff. But, really?
It’s not so much that anything in the plot doesn’t make sense, that is all pretty straight forward. But the logic. Where was the logic? There was no logic.
From what I could figure the model, Alison, is kind of crazy and borderline suicidal. And she keeps falling down? I don’t know why she keeps falling down. From what I gathered at the end, because she had previously tried to commit suicide she had been chosen by some secret Catholic order to guard the gates to hell. Or something like that?
I don’t know. Apparently a lot of people have been chosen for that job. And the current guardian, John Carradine, is about to die so it’s gonna be Alison’s turn next.
So okay, scary stuff is going on, the apartment building is this wonderful old New York brownstone, this movie isn’t all bad.
What’s it got good:
Alison’s neighbors. OMG her neighbors are fantastic. My biggest sadness is that they’re not in the movie more. They are so insane and bizarre. The two weird sisters reminded me of a perverted version of the old sisters from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. But these ladies were definitely not G-rated.
There were surprisingly few really scary scenes. The one that was most startling is the first time Alison awakens in the middle of the night to sounds of someone stomping around in the empty apartment above her. It’s reminiscent of something from The Haunting – mysterious banging, the chandelier swinging wildly, an overwhelming sense of dread and menace.
And I really don’t know what to make of the rest of it. Chris Sarandon proves that he is the creepiest/sleaziest boyfriend ever. Um, Paradise Lost is apparently a harbinger of doom. The Catholic church is also creepy?
I guess part of the idea of The Sentinel was to capitalize on the other religiously themed horror movies coming out in the 70’s – The Exorcist, The Omen, those guys. But it doesn’t really have much in common with those movies beyond the vague presence of a Catholic mythology.
If anything, the ending really reminded me of Tod Browning’s Freaks. Probably because they actually used people with physical deformities as the hell demons. And I think they kind of got into trouble for that. Shocking. Maybe not the best idea. People tend to find that sort of thing offensive.
I almost forgot! The ending! Naked ladies! With hamsters and cake? Good lord that happened.
Then there’s the part where half way through the movie we stop following Alison and the crazy apartment and instead get distracted by this murder mystery/her boyfriend is a sleazeball thing. Director Michael Winner is clearly more comfortable in the cop drama world than he is with the horror but I really other than baby Christopher Walken, what was the point of all of this? Although to give the detective credit, I would totally arrest someone too if they had a mustache like Chris Sarandon’s. Eesh.
The cast is pretty ridiculous. Chris Sarandon, Christina Raines, John Carradine, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger briefly. Consider me impressed.
I don’t know. I really wanted to like this movie. The parts that are good, are so unbelievably weird and wonderful. There’s just too much in between that makes no damn sense. I can see why people would like it but this movie was just not for me.
Has anyone else seen this?? Am I just way off in my bafflement? Am I missing something awesome?