The 70’s era saw an absolute glut of super-natural horror movies. A golden age of scares that took swipes at major religion & didn’t shy away from brutality, violence & sexual content. Amongst them was the lesser known supernatural horror, The Sentinel.
Alison Parker is a beautiful young model wanting to create a little distance between herself & her boyfriend (played by the excellent Chris Sarandon) as he wants her to move in with him. She rents a place that was once part of a huge house but has since been renovated & spilt into apartments.
The house is beautiful & the apartment just as nice but the neighbours…they’re all a bit strange, the lesbian couple that have no qualms with expressing their desires to her during an uncomfortable meet, the blind old priest silently watching from the top window, everyone except for Charles (played by an excellent Burgess Meredith), a kindly old man who wants nothing more than for her to be happy & comfortable there.
Alison begins to suffer from dreams & flashbacks of her own attempted suicides in the past. She has lived an unhappy life it would seem & strained relations with her boyfriend (particularly the events surrounding the death of his wife) aren’t helping.
As insomnia sets in she finds the noise her neighbours make a constant source of frustration. She complains to the estate agent who claims that she & the old priest are the only ones living there. There are no other neighbours…
That’s as much of the plot as I’m going to reveal as The Sentinel is a movie made all the better by the surprises that come along. It’s a slow burn of a movie with a payoff that excites & frustrates in equal amounts.
The quality of acting is what drives The Sentinel on & a stellar cast sparkle within their roles (especially those playing something a bit different). As the lead, Alison is probably the most disappointing being paper-thin as characters go with unconvincing motivations to stay within the walls once things get weird.
The Sentinel is a super-natural movie but one that has more for a person to think about rather than scares & shocks. Clearly inspired by several successful films that have similar themes (Rosemary’s Baby/The Exorcist) it walks a thin line between originality & rip-off.
Like those movies though The Sentinel isn’t afraid to tell a story that would make many within religious circles uncomfortable even if this is a more positive story. The ending is very disappointing, going for a somewhat lighter & happier finish which doesn’t fit well with the dark story told throughout.
Visually it looks it age & the sombre spooky setting doesn’t come across as well as it could have. It has moments that will chill though such as Alison visiting empty apartments that were bustling the night before or the reveal of just who Alison’s neighbours actually are.
It had a lot of potential but ultimately fails at delivering anything more than a so-so supernatural horror.