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Monday, March 5, 2012

The Sentinel

     So can I just try to explain my love for THE SENTINEL? It's one of the many supernatural shockers to ooze out of the 70's during the whole "satanic" craze, all influenced by the horror classic ROSEMARY'S BABY. It's completely batshit crazy and it's awesome.

     This little doozy tells the story of glamorous New York model Alison Parker. Alison, it seems, isn't ready to settle down and become a wife yet to her lawyer boyfriend (Chris Sarandon), and in an act of independence finds herself a lovely brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, shown to her by Ava Freakin' Gardner, that is. But the fun is just beginning as we then meet her daffy neighbor, played by Burgess Meredith who devours every bit of scenery around him, as usual. Throw in some masturbating lesbians, weird cats, blind priests, and geriatric orgies and you've got a wonderfully weird and entertaining supernatural shocker from the 70's. Oh and did I fail to mention that the lovely brownstone they are all living in appears to be not only haunted, but it's the gateway to Hell? They sure don't make movies like this anymore.

    As nutty as this movie is, there are some genuinely creepy and shocking moments throughout, and it's really quite ballsy. I have distinct memories of seeing the creepy-looking VHS cover slyly peering at me from the top shelf of TOTALLY TAPE, begging me to rent it- which of course I did. And I loved every lurid minute of it. It's complete oddball horror cinema, and it's got that extra special helping of overall 70's strangeness that just sends it all to a whole other level. There is just something very appealing about this movie.

     THE SENTINEL is literally bursting with a cast of familiar faces- Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Kennedy, Chris Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D'Angelo, and Jeff Goldblum all show up throughout. I'm not making this up, I promise! It's also chock-full of strange rituals, the Catholic Church vs. the Devil, dark conspiracy theories, nightmarish scenes of horror, and a shocking ending to boot! THE SENTINEL easily belongs right up there with ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, and THE AMITYVILLE HOROR as supreme examples of the Satanic/supernatural craze that swept Hollywood in the wake of the Manson murders. Good stuff, kids.

     Overall, I say it's a must-see for horror fans. "Campy" doesn't even begin to describe THE SENTINEL- yet it's got some truly spooky moments in it. Like I said, it's an odd film. It seems the director is purposely trying to throw the viewers off with outrageously campy and off-putting scenes- and for the most part, it succeeds. The film threatens to go completely over-the-top at times, and almost does... but always manages to somehow stay on track. It's completely absurd, but somehow it all works. THE SENTINEL has grown a rather respectable cult following over the years and deservedly so.  It's trashy, weird, repulsive, eerie, and odd. And I loved every trashy, weird, repulsive, eerie, and odd minute of it.

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