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HALL OF FAMEon March 14, 2004
"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.
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on September 8, 2002
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!
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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! ...
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on August 6, 2013
I am not going to re-hash the story as all of the other reviewers have already listed the premise of the movie. I will say, mbeing an absolute horror fanatic, I am so very glad that I own this gem! To see the "star power" that they were able to cast in this movie adds to the brilliance of it, down to the very last scene with Tom Berenger and Nana Visitor. What is great about the movie (and the book for that matter) is that NONE of the main characters are truly likeable! Personally, I like it when a movie has these type of characters - pretty much self-absorbed narcissists that you don't really feel any sympathy for (think Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, but a movie that you actually like). Without ruining it for anyone, my favorite scene in the entire movie, and one of creep-inducing chills that is NEVER seen in today's movies, is when Alison's Father is behind the door and walks across the room. If you have seen the movie, you understandably can agree that just the way it was filmed is brilliant and will make even the most die-hard horror fan get a chill up their spine! I highly recommend to ANYONE who has a love of horror movies, especially 70's/80's horror (if for nothing else, the HORROR of the clothes we wore back then!)
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2004
In the 1970's there was a sort of "satanic renaissance" in film: "The Omen", "The Exorcist", "Rosemary's Baby", and last and probably least, "The Sentinel".

While this is not what I'd call a great horror film, there are genuinely chilling, demented moments: Burgess Meredith is particularly eerie as an old "birdman" who lives in the doomed tenement complex the unfortunate Cristina Raines, a budding supermodel and soon to be basket case, takes up residence in.

You can tell right from the outset of the film that something is terribly wrong with her new living quarters--the other inhabitants are strange old cookies (watch for the two old lesbians) who seem a little over eager to have Raines in their odd little community. John Carradine is the key to the film: he lives on the top floor, supposedly simply a blind old recluse. He is much more.

The film lacks the subtlety of "Rosemary's Baby", but does possess the mood of enroaching doom. The ending is not exactly happy, but there are some unforgettable scenes in which the "tenants" reveal who they really are, and Raines' husband meets a grisly end.

If you like 70's horror, this is essential.
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on November 13, 2001
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.
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on May 12, 2005
Through the years, I have seen "The Sentinel" countless times and regard it fondly as a much enjoyed "sin of youth" as it were; however, after seeing it very recently I can definitely confirm that this a genuinely creepy flick with some downright terrifying moments. Sure the film is clearly a product of the 70's and it's obviously dated in certain aspects; the soundtrack, the camera work and the fashion, made even more evident by the fact that the protagonist is a fashion model. Yes, there are lapses in editing and some unanswered questions (one being how Alison got from the party in Manhattan to the brownstone in Brooklyn so quickly and easily and all in a matter of minutes). In reality, who really cares? The pros so outweigh the cons here. An occasional weak script and some tepid acting from a few of the minor cast members doesn't take away from the fact that this is a terrific horror movie with some really clever ideas and an underlying sense of disquieting terror. Something in the film pulses with unease and vulnerability and you feel that you are very exposed and, therefore, likely to be frightened. Check it out for yourself. Don't expect the modern take on horror because it's not evident here. This film relies more on atmosphere, tension and isolation to create it's sense of dread and doesn't crush the film under the unbearable weight of in your face tactics, special effects and other general wizardry so sickeningly prevalent in today's horror flicks.
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on October 21, 2005
Oh man, every time I watch THE SENTINEL it gives me the creeps. Just imagine you are a beautiful model and you have it made, you get to move into a spacious and very lavish apartment. You make some new friends with neighbors...who don't even exist! They are all souls from the gateway to hell. And a blind priest (reminds me of the mystic Emily in THE BEYOND) is the guardian of this gateway. Cristina Raines portrays her character Alison with such gusto, and Chris Sarandon is pleasant, but then really creepy after he becomes 'sentinel-ized' and torments Alison. There are impressive cameos from Jeff Goldbulm, Christopher Walken, and the late Jerry Orbach. While the movie has aged some and not everyone's acting is 100%, it remains one of the scariest flicks.

THE SENTINEL centers on the aforementioned Alison, who is moving into a new brownstone apartment that is a portal to hell, and with the strange events occuring within (seeing scary people with totally white eyes, creepy nude women), Alison starts to question her sanity, and also the neighbors don't make matters any better, especially the two women who make things a bit TOO comfortable for Alison (Beverly D'Angelo's 'self-lovin' sequence is more disturbing than anything). Sarandon's character, Michael, wants to protect her, but he has no idea, and neither does Alison, that she's been chosen as the new gatekeeper. When she tells the landlady about the people in the building, the furnishings...and the people all vanish. Are those people really alive? You'll have to find out for yourself. The climax of the movie is somewhat satisfying, but you'll have to decide for yourself. There are some very creepy moments in the movie, especially the scene where she's in the bedroom and 'the sentinel'-ized man (could be her dad) walks to the door and she puts on the flashlight and BAM! She screams in sheer terror at the sight of the scary man with totally white eyes. The atmosphere of the movie is chilling; the suspenseful scenes are quite good; and the actors mostly play their parts quite well for a horror movie. Cristina Raines, though, really owns the movie in her role, making us feel her pain, her frustration, her fear, and ultimately, her fate. I wasn't pleased with poor Alison's fate, but it ends the movie on a strong note.

THE SENTINEL still remains one of the scariest and creepiest imaginings to this day. While not the most perfect scare flick of all time, it's definitely worth watching if you're a fan of the creeps. One watch and you might start to wonder if the next apartment you rent is the gateway to hell.
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VINE VOICEon October 2, 2004
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.
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on October 1, 2005
Allison Parker is a beautiful, fairly successful model, who is in the market for an apartment of her own. SHe has a great boyfriend, who she has every intention of marrying, but would like to prove to herself that she can live on her own, independently, before taking that step. So, after months of searching, she finds what she sees as the perfect apartment. It's furnished, has a great view and is in her price range. SHe takes it!

Things are going great in her new home. She meets a friendly neighbor, an elderly man, whose only companions are his cat and bird. The place is quiet. In fact, she rarely hears a peep out of the other tenants. The priest upstairs is very old and not very responsive to anything. In fact, he simply gazes out his front window everyday and stares at the world, even though he is blind.

The place seems perfect for Allison. Until she decides to stop into one of her neighbors units and introduce herself. They are two women in their mid-thirties(one of them played by Beverly D'Angelo) and they are a little different. In fact, they begin fondling themselves right in front of Allison. This creeps Allison out a little, so she leaves. Nothing too terrible and certainly no reason to leave the apartment.

Later that night, Allison hears heavy footsteps from the apartment above hers. SHe also hears a lound banging noise and this makes for a difficult night sleeping. The next morning she visits the landlord in the city and asks who lives up there. The landlord finds this funny and tells Allison that there is only one other tenant; the preist upstairs!!!

So, now we are taken on a wild ride as Allison tries to figure out who these other tenants are, who the priest is and exactly what is going on with her health, which has been worsening as the film develops. This is "The Sentinel".

This film is fairly tense and has a great plot. The cast does a wonderful job with the acting and make their roles very believable. I did knock off 2 stars for the pace of the film, which is really, really slow. And, for the dialogue. I realize this was made in the 70's, but I stil have a hard time believing that New York strangers interacted so politly with each other at all times, especially when someone just walks into their apartment as Allison did to the odd female couple. All in all, this is a very watchable film, with a good ending. It is more of the religious-type horror(think "The Seventh Sign" or "The Omen" or for you more modern folks, "The Order") and I am not particularly a fan of that genre, but this film is still enjoyable.

SO, grab some treats and enjoy!
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