Aka – Sentinel
Not to be confused with the 2006 Michael Douglas film (or the X-Men villains) “The Sentinel” is a 1977 religious-based horror film with an all star cast (more or less). I’d heard a lot of good things about it, but I often find religious psychological horror films to be hit and miss. So, how fairs “The Sentinel” ?
The film is about a New York model who decides to move out of her boyfriends home and into her own apartment. The only other resident of the complex is a blind priest living on the top floor. That is, until she begins to meet her eccentric housemates. The only problem is, apparently they don’t exist ! Is she losing her mind, or is their more at play here ?
As I said, the cast is stacked with notable names, including Burgess Meredith, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, John Carradine, Tom Berenger, Jerry Orbach, Eli Wallach and Beverly D’Angelo. I couldn’t believe the amount of people I recognized, and the cast is certainly up to the task of carrying this film.
Despite the fact that the ending is telegraphed pretty much from the beginning of the film (and basically stated in one of the posters) there’s still a decent amount of mystery surrounding the proceedings. I always find it interesting watching a movie from 1977 and thinking “Man, they don’t even know how good Star Wars is gonna be yet”.
The effects are pretty good, including a scene near the end full of “demons”, who were actually circus freaks and disabled people, much to the detriment of the director when this was discovered. I’d read about this going in and was looking forward to seeing this scene with that knowledge. As poor taste as it may be, it certainly works for the scene.
Oddly enough, the most troubling scene wasn’t one involving death or insensitivity in any way. It came in a flashback by the main character, in which she recalled walking in on her elderly father in the midst of what appeared to be a threesome. He freaks out, slaps her and she rushes off to attempt suicide. Honestly, I can’t say I blame her after seeing that. That’s enough to scar anyone.
One could argue that the main villain of the film is the Catholic Church. I’m not sure if that was the intent of the filmmaker, though it’s based on a book by the same name, so I suppose it’s worth checking out to see the backstory most likely only hinted at in the film itself.
I suppose I enjoyed the film, largely because of the sense of mystery, both about the story itself and the curiosity of when the many names in the cast would make their appearance. The ending is frustrating, though obvious from the get go. I can’t really recommend this, but I certainly don’t regret giving it a try, especially since The Penguin was in it ! Good times.