Director – Michael Winner
Cast – Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Christopher Walken, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Jerry Orbach
Release Year – 1977
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had never heard of this film prior to coming across it today, and after reading the plot and seeing it came directed by Death Wish director Michael Winner I figured it would be a positive late 70s watch, and it was. Somewhat reminiscent to Rosemary’s Baby (minus the baby), The Sentinel gives us a unique horror tale consisting of religious themes and superbly executed horror that while seldom used hits hard nonetheless.
Fashion model Allison Parker(Cristina Raines; Nightmares) lives a good life, makes a good living, and is loved dearly by her boyfriend Michael Lerman(Chris Sarandon; Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Resurrected, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bordello of Blood). Unprepared for the next step with Michael, marriage, she takes residence in a large and elegant Brooklyn Heights apartment, however what was supposed to be a decision bringing comfort and inner peace instead brings her terror as she is bombarded by satanic events…and soon learns that her moving into the apartment was not a coincidence.
You should know by now that religious themed horror films are a pleasure of mine, so naturally I was pretty stoked going into this film. The storyline is an interesting one in that it gave us a bashful and likable character, Allison, who made the unknowing mistake of taking residence in a place with a horrible past. The story moves well and provides constant chills and developments, and plays heavily on her psychological state as she suffers more and more as the satanic occurrences around her grow in level of terror. Michael Lermon provided good story movement as well, and had nearly as much screen time as Allison did despite the film being mostly about her. To make matters cooler, the story delves into ancient Catholic documents and secrets, which lead to the film’s shocking and utterly satisfying climax.
Michael Winner came out a winner (I had to) for his direction in this film, especially when you consider the level of high quality horror he throws into this slow-moving film. The psychological horror Allison suffers is awesome, and Cristina Raines gave a great performance in this role as did Chris Sarandon portraying Michael. To make matters cooler, we get supporting roles from Christopher Walken(The Dead Zone, The Prophecy series), John Carradine(The Howling, The Boogeyman, Silent Night, Bloody Night), and a pre-“Law & Order” Jerry Orbach. Winner used perfect sets and lighting to personify the dark and lonely atmosphere that Allison soon finds herself residing in, and perfectly executed good tension and live-action FX to full potential. In fact, I fully believe the ending sequence to the film to be one of horror’s finest and creepiest to date, a climax I know I will never forget.
Overall, The Sentinel is a good religious horror film that despite its slow-moving nature delvers a great engaging story and superb horror from Michael Winner, including a climax that you will never forget.