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The Sentinel (1977)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Haunted House Film, Horror, Religious Horror, Supernatural Horror
Michael Winner Michael Winner
Chris Sarandon Chris Sarandon
Cristina Raines Cristina Raines
Martin Balsam Martin Balsam
John Carradine John Carradine
Josť Ferrer Josť Ferrer

6.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: November 08, 2011
In horror, if the eighty's were the decade of slashers, the seventy's were the decade of Satan. Right in the middle of it came The Sentinel.

Allison Parker is teetering on the edge of exhaustion. A full time model, she's looking for a new apartment after moving out of her boyfriend's (lawyer Michael). They haven't broken up, she just needs the space. After weeks of finding places outside of her price range, she finally stumbles across one in Brooklyn Heights. Already furnished, the place is absolutely perfect. That is, except for her eccentric neighbors. There's the blind priest upstairs who just stares out the window, the overly friendly elderly man, the incredibly eccentric lesbian couple. And to top it all off, her health has suddenly taken a turn for the worse; she's suddenly become prone to dizzy spells, fainting, and hallucinations. Slowly, Michael begins to realize that there's something very wrong with his girlfriend's new apartment, and he takes it upon himself to figure out the mystery and save Allison's very soul.

Like most horror films in this sub-genre, The Sentinel never moves along any faster than it has to, and it's much better for it. Following Allison's journey at the slower pace lets you really appreciate her descent into the paranormal. Starting off with neighbors that seem harmless, if not a little weird, takes a whole new meaning as you see them become more and more peculiar, and as the answers received from Michael's investigation begin to paint the picture, the very concept alone is enough to keep eyes on the screen, even without the excellent execution. With films like this, it's not what you see on screen that's disturbing, but the consequences of failure. And make no mistake, what's seen on screen during the climax is certainly something else. Maybe it's not scary per se, but it is creepy. Sometimes that sticks with you more. Now top it all off with Gil Melle's amazing musical score, swapping between harmonious and discordant melodies as the situation calls, and an ending that although is not totally noir, won't exactly put a smile on your face, and you have a very satisfying horror film.

Furthermore, we have a very solid cast supporting the film. Christina Raines handles all aspects of her role beautifully, from happy to confused to sick to just plain terrified. It's not hard to make the argument that the whole movie hinged on her performance, and she handled the pressure just fine. Plus, she has one of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen. Likewise, Chris Serandon's character, Michael, is the chief investigator into the paranormal going-ons in this house, and he also measures up to the expectations of such an important role. On the tertiary level, Burgress Meredith absolutely stole the show. As the too-friendly, over-excited Charles Chazen, you just can't help but smile; and he doesn't miss a beat when his character takes on a whole new demeanor during the climax.

The Sentinel is definitely worth a viewing. Story, score and acting all come together to deliver a truly disturbing experience. And to top if off, Winner used actual deformed people as demons from Hell. Nice. 8/10.
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