""The Sentinel" is a grand 1970's horror film staffed with a cast rivaling the pictures made by Robert Altman or Irwin Allen. I can't remember the last time I saw a film with so many recognizable faces--Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Beverly D'Angelo, Burgess Meredith, John Carradine, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, Ava Gardner, Martin Balsam, Jose Ferrar, Eli Wallach, Arthur Kennedy, and Tom Berenger all pop up in roles both major and minor throughout the film. "The Sentinel" obviously takes films like "The Omen," "Rosemary's Baby," and "The Exorcist" as its role models, and it holds up surprisingly well in comparison. When I stumbled over this film a few months ago, I was quite astounded I had never heard of it before considering I am such a fan of 1970's horror films dealing with satanic influences. Michael Winner, the director who presented us with such classic cinema as "Scorpio," "Death Wish," and "The Mechanic," gives us his all in this chilling story about a gateway to Hell and the poor souls entrusted to protect the rest of us from the evil spirits dwelling there. The movie is an adaptation of a book written by Jeffrey Konvitz.A model named Alison Parker and her successful lawyer boyfriend Michael Lerman (Christina Raines and Chris Sarandon respectively) begin their descent into madness when Parker rents a room in a creepy old apartment building from mysterious real estate agent Miss Logan (Ava Gardner). The model soon discovers her new dwellings possess a decidedly sinister atmosphere--a blind priest sits and stares out of the window of the top floor apartment, an elderly creep spouting cryptic comments (Burgess Meredith) keeps dropping by, and a couple of females in an extremely close relationship live in a neighboring apartment. Within a few days of moving in, Parker begins to hear strange noises, starts having vivid memories of a suicide attempt she made as a child, sleepwalks, and discovers a few hideous secrets about the other tenants in the building. By the time Alison starts having fainting fits during fashion shoots, her boyfriend Michael steps in and starts investigating the strange apartment building. Lerman's nosing around brings in a couple of detectives (Wallach and Walken) who remember well how Michael's first wife died under mysterious circumstances. When bodies start turning up, "The Sentinel" becomes a race to discover what evil lurks in the apartment building before the cops pin the weirdness on Lerman.Winner's film evokes shudders on numerous levels. You'll gasp in surprise several times during the film, from the eventual revelations about the strange residents to what Beverly D'Angelo's character does when Alison Parker pays a visit (I had to replay that scene a couple of times just to convince myself that I did really see that. Purely from an academic aspect, of course. Honest.). I've seen several films where Burgess Meredith works hard at being weird--"Burnt Offerings" is an excellent example--but I don't remember him ever attaining the level of bizarre he does here. He's downright disturbing as the elderly neighbor who drops in on Raines's character from time to time. The conclusion of the film definitely constitutes one of the more disturbing endings I have seen in a horror film, and it does so with a lot less gore than you would expect. I thought the plot of "The Sentinel" was a good one, a plot both frighteningly offbeat and effectively eerie. I had a lot of fun watching for famous faces. Most of the actors who appeared in the film weren't that well known yet, and they look younger than you could ever imagine. Jeff Goldblum plays a pushy fashion photographer, Beverly D'Angelo turns up as a lesbian with a penchant for showmanship, and Christopher Walken plays a cop. Walken especially is humorous to watch. He only has about two lines in the entire film yet still manages to exude his now famous sense of weirdness. Chris Sarandon has since become a better known actor through such roles as the vampire in "Fright Night," and Jerry Orbach made a name for himself as a character actor in films ("Brewster's Millions") and as one of the cops in the television show "Law and Order." The only real mystery here is Christina Raines as Alison Parker. Here's an actress in the lead role in a film loaded with young and old talent alike, and she barely makes a splash. In fact, she hasn't made a movie or television show since the late 1980s. What happened? Personally, I didn't care for her character in the movie or how she played the part. Even worse, considering she's supposed to be playing a big buck fashion model, she isn't very attractive. You will have a better time watching the interesting mix of actors and actresses instead of focusing on Raines's histrionic performance."The Sentinel" doesn't provide much in the way of extras outside of a trailer and some production notes. Even the picture transfer isn't all that good, unfortunately. You would figure a movie loaded with so many once was and would be stars would get a better treatment. Oh well, give the movie a shot if you love horror. Creepy, grotesque, and shocking--"The Sentinel" managed to surprise me, a jaded horror aficionado, more than a few times. Let's hope they rerelease the movie on a DVD with a better picture transfer, more extras, and perhaps a commentary from the likes of Sarandon."
Good And Creepy
Dumb Ox | Manassas, VA United States | 09/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very scary flick, based on the equally creepy book by the same name. In fact, the movie is very faithful to the novel, which was considered fairly shocking for its time frame. This isn't a perfect movie, being choppily made and a bit amateurish in its direction and production, but as far as horror films go, it's very gruesome and creepy.The cast list features both old and new stars and all of them did a great job. Faded movie queen Ava Gardner is elegant and believable as the realtor who seems clue-free about the horrors contained in her rental property. Jose Ferrer plays the head of a secret brotherhood of priests who select the Sentinel---the poor person who sits at the gates of hell and blocks evil from erupting into the normal world. Eli Wallach is the cynical but willing to be convinced cop who's trying to unravel the bizarre puzzle he's been handed. The great John Carradine---tall, gaunt, with his cavernous voice and arthritis-twisted hands---plays the old priest who is the dying sentinel that must be replaced. Finally, the devil is played to charming and evil perfection by Burgess Meredith.The newer bunch of faces are good, too. Christina Raines is vulnerable and touching as the girl under spiritual attack from both sides, a pawn in the never-ending battle between good and evil. Chris Sarandon is effective as her caring but ultimately self-centered boyfriend, caught in the grip of unbelief while forced to confront the spiritual reality of the situation he's encountered. There's a group of future stars hidden in the rest of the cast: Jerry Orbach as a jerky TV director; Deborah Raffin, Beverly D'Angelo and Jeff Goldblum as friends of the victimized girl; and Christopher Walken as the junior partner of the veteran cop. Everyone does a great job in pulling off his role and helps carry the story forward.The special effects are pretty gory for the times and still have the capacity to gross out some viewers. There are some fairly nasty nude scenes, too, especially involving the girl's father and his two ugly whores. The atmosphere of this film is more suspenseful than terrifying, but the psychological drama of a normal person facing unspeakable evil is very well portrayed. The girl is helpless, especially at the end, when confronted by the devil and his minions. Whoever thought to find sideshow freaks to play the fiends around satan was a genius; the effect is very powerful and repulsive. Overall, this is not a modern horror flick with tons of mayhem. It's a more sedate but also more terrifying dip into the realm of evil. Very creepy!"
Watcher At The Gate...
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 10/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Super-model Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) wants an apartment of her own, so she has a place to go if things don't work out with her boyfriend, Michael (Chris Sarandon). Alison was traumatized a few years earlier when she walked in on her creepy father during one of his extra-marital "parties". It was NOT a pretty sight! She had attempted suicide over the ordeal. Her mother stayed with dad because she had nowhere else to go. After dad's death, odd things begin happening to Alison. She passes out at a photo-shoot. Back at her apartment building, she begins meeting other tenants who are more than a bit odd. Among them are Burgess Merideth as an old guy with way too much enthusiasm, and Sylvia Miles and Beverly D'Angelo as a couple of gals who can't keep their hands off each other. D'Angelo makes Alison extremely uncomfortable by being rather... um, er, naughty in front of her. Alison also learns about the priest (John Carradine) who lives on the top floor. He's blind, but spends his entire life "looking" out the window! When Alison complains about her weird neighbors, the realtor (Ava Gardner) tells her that no one else lives in the building except for Alison and the priest! Later, Alison passes out while filming a commercial and never fully recovers. She is in a daze. Michael tries to get to the bottom of things and finds out a very bizarre secret. A secret that will cost lives and alter destinies! THE SENTINEL is a good spooker with many interesting characters. It also has tons of stars, both old and new including Martin Balsam (Psycho, Cape Fear), Jose Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, Eli Wallach (The Good The Bad And The Ugly), a very young Jerry Orbach (tv's Law And Order), Christopher Walken (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, Jurrassic Park), and others! The finale alone is worth the price of the DVD! If you like zombies, ghosts, demons, occult, good vs. evil, and a deep sense of paranoia and fear, then THE SENTINEL is just what the mad doctor ordered! ..."
They Don't Make 'em Like This Anymore
MGrillo13@aol.com | New York, NY United States | 11/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is one thing to say about this film: They don't make 'em like this anymore. Today's horror "movies" are shlock-filled teenage comedies. This is a "film." It is a slow moving, creepy, dirty trip into the dark. I have the pleasure of remembering this gem from my childhood. It haunted me for years. The only other film that stayed with me this way from childhood was Burnt Offerings. Everything about this film is superb. from the script to the acting, to the star-studded cast (you won't believe it, really) to the direction and the special effects! Ah! the special effects! Never, and I mean NEVER could film makers get away today with what they did then, that is the casting of real "freaks" to play the Hordes of Hell. Yikes! That guy with the big face (I saw him on Sixty Minutes once; "elephant man" disease) to the guy with the testicles hanging off of his chin (what the heck is that!?) they're all skin-crawlingly good.Make no doubt about it, if you appreciate an eerie film and not another "I know What You Did Last Summer" (...), than this is the film for you."
A Creepy, Odd, Unsettling Sideshow of a Horror Flick
DonMac | Lynn, MA United States | 10/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It amazes me that this movie was made when it was. Viewing it again recently creeped me out much more than it did on my first viewing years ago. Back then, I had read and really liked the book, when I saw the film, i wasn't as impressed. Now after viewing it again, it scares me more. Some of the things here that I did not apprecaite before, practically jumped off of the screen and slapped me in the face. On the surface, it is very much that typical gates of hell meets Burnt Offerings kind of story - but really it is in some respects a complete freak show, in-you-face attempt to make you squirm. Have we become so conservative that this older film seems more potent now than then?
I put the DVD in - vaguely remembering most of it and as the credits roll I see: Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith, Ava Gardner, Beverly D'Angelo, Sylvia Miles, John Carradine, Eli Wallach, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken ... wow! Once the story takes off, were treated to naked freaks from hell, a horrific menage scene, acid-trip looking birthday parties for cats, and Beverly D'angelo masturbating silently on her couch in front of company! Of course they're all disciples of Hell pursuing poor Christina Raines - but man do they creep you out. Recommended more as reminder of what we used to be able to get away with than the ultimate and obviios conclusion but what a sick, creepy ride."