Films from the Void: THE SENTINEL

FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.

sentinel vhs

The Sentinel

I’ll be honest up front, here: the first time I watched The Sentinel, I was really tired and trying to do a million things around the house. The second time, I had kinda / sorta broken my foot and then taken some pain meds prescribed by the doctor, so I was fairly much flying by the time the movie started. Thus, my opinions on this film may or may not be grounded in any kind of reality.

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That said: this is a weird, fucked up movie. It manages to be like a mix between Society and Rosemary’s Baby, yet never fully committing to a particular style. Sometimes, it’s classy as hell, but at other points, it seems sleazy and weird. The build to the end is a little weird, but the unrelenting series of odd scenes sets everything up absolutely perfectly.

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The Sentinel is very much a strange picture to watch at this point in time, because so much of the cast went on to more things. In addition to golden age actors like John Carradine, Ava Gardner, José Ferrer, and Burgess Meredith, the then-unknowns who would go onto major things included lead actor Chris Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, and Tom Berenger. A smarter person than I once referred to the film as “the Godfather of horror movies” — because of the prescience of the casting, not the quality and lasting impact, obviously.

Unlike, say, Rosemary’s Baby, this isn’t a film which benefits from multiple viewings. Once you know the end, you really just want to get to that part. Unlike the popular saying, this is a film about the destination, not the journey. What’s weird about that is, as I said earlier — namely, that this is one weird, fucked up movie. There’s a scene with Beverly D’Angelo as one half of a lesbian couple that is legitimately disconcerting, if not outright disturbing, almost four decades on from The Sentinel’s release.

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But the whole isn’t equal to the sum of its parts. For every freaked-out scene oozing with unease, there’s another three which leave you bored and — again — waiting for the end. The latter half is really engaging, but the first, wherein they set up plot and introduce characters, is just absolutely dullsville. In the second half, Sarandon’s Michael becomes an interesting, active character, but so much of his performance before that is just window dressing.

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Basically, I watched this several times, and even gacked out of my brain on prescription pain medication, it wasn’t weird or interesting enough for even a giggle-filled couch watch. As much fun as those last 20 minutes are, the preceding 70 aren’t worth sitting through to get to it. Even the trailer can’t hide it.

 

 

 

Films which do the Gates of Hell thing far better: The Beyond, The Gate, Prince of Darkness.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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