The Sentinel is one of those movies that seldom gets brought up and gushed about. I have no idea why that is because I love it- and although it is slow in parts- I just can't get enough of the overall concept and that completely unsettling ending. The Sentinel was one of the first movies I ever reviewed and I feel that it in my early days as a horror blogger I just did not do it enough justice. So I'm back!
First off, if you've never seen it- I suggest watching it asap- it's on Netflix instant. Yes it's one of those "religious" horror movies- but since when have religious horror movies not been grossly entertaining? Sure no one gets possessed and vomits pea soup but naked fat people are copulating in bed while eating birthday cake!! Plus there is the best cat birthday party in history run by the coolest crazy cat old man neighbor ever. What's not to love?
The Sentinel does one of those things with the plot that interests me- and it actually reminded me a bit of Them! It starts off by making you think it's just another ghost story. A lonely yet unusually successful model in a big apartment where the rocking chandelier rouses her from sleep on a nightly basis. But we also know that it may not be a typical ghost story and we know this because of one simple fact, and this fact changes everything and takes it from a ghost story to a religious horror movie. The first resident of the hotel we "see" is a mute/ blind priest who looks out the window all day and night. He's not a ghost- but the fact that he is a priest suddenly makes things wildly interesting. So what is a sentinel anyways? Why it's a person who keeps watch or guards something of course. Hmmm.....keeps watch....a blind priest sitting by the window like he's watching something....I found the sentinel! But is that all there is? Of course not!
For starters the idea that the priest is blind but is a sentinel is very intriguing to me. An idea that becomes even more interesting when we get a good look at his eyes much further into the film.
Yes, white eyes indeed. Potentially when you are blind you see nothing or blackness. An eye that is white potentially "sees" while a black blindness is devoid of everything. I don't want to diverge off into a science lesson about the color spectrum but let's just say that those white eyes are very important when you think of what the priests actual job ends up being.
Now secondly- what would a priest need to keep watch on? What is the Church's main concern really? Keeping the evil out? The all too familiar battle of good vs. evil, the Devil vs God-Black vs. White! These are our first inklings for sure- but is that really the priests job? When we find that the priest is meant to be a guardian who guards the gates of hell, our idea of the priest and his job changes a bit. It's like the idea of Cerberus the 3 headed dog who guards he gates in hell in Dante's Inferno. He is not meant to keep anyone out- but to keep people in. To me this concept is extremely thought provoking- because it makes you wonder about the unity of heaven and hell and the working unity that the devil and God must have. Think about it- having Cerberus guard the gates of hell makes sense because he is a part of hell- and one of the devil's minions. But a priest on the other hand is essentially part of God. Sometimes I laugh because I imagine the devil shelling out some cash to God for letting him use one of their guardians. But it does make me wonder if the Devil and God secretly are friends! What else could it really mean? Is the Devil just being lazy? Possibly. Also- not only that but each Sentinel would have gone to hell if they did not consent to become the next sentinel due to their attempted suicides. By becoming the sentinel they are guaranteed a place in heaven- so the Devil is losing out on a potential member of hell. Sounds to me like the Devil is being seriously ripped off! Someone should let him know...
Anyways that is just a gigantic, mind twisting thought I had while re-watching the Sentinel last night and something I could never quite understand. I also finally understood that Alison's sudden suicide attempt in her teenage years completely makes sense.
If I came home one day- and found my father doing this---
And this woman was laughing at me and stuffing cake in her mouth
I would feel like this too--
When I first saw this I thought- well jeesh that was a little dramatic. But in all seriousness that would be one scarring experience! Poor Alison.
Upon my second viewing I also noticed something really really interesting. But before I get talking about it I have to talk about that wacky neighbor, Charles Chazen. If the first neighbor I ever met rang my door bell and it was this guy--
I would be extremely excited. Not only does he love cats, but he's as kooky as they come! He says the funniest things and he's one of those old men that I just can't get enough of. Of course that little thing about him being a demon or whatever is just a bit unfortunate but nevertheless he's still the best character in the entire movie. And I can't get enough of that cat birthday party.
Emmy Doomas and I tried to get a party hat on Monkey for my birthday- and it was the best thing in the world period. She kept it on for a whopping 3 seconds but it was still the best 3 seconds of my life so don't worry. Jezebel here has amazing patience however- and I'm obsessed with this picture....hahaha it really is the best thing ever. Now onto the thing I noticed!
Here is Jezebel the cat's birthday cake--and it's the EXACT same cake that her father was eating with those two whores. Scroll up and see for yourself if you don't believe me. The funny thing is- Alison certainly doesn't notice and attention is never brought to it throughout the rest of the movie. The only thing I can think of is that it was an attempt to get Alison to think once again back to that day- and then she would try to kill herself again. But it's just so curious- as to why A. they would ever think Alison would remember what the cake looked like and B. that it's never brought up or questioned. A very interesting observance if I do say so myself.
And now for your viewing pleasure; Beverly D'Angelo masturbating in front of company!
She is just so wild sometimes. Yikes that scene is almost too much for me to handle- it's way too uncomfortable and awkward....
And now to end this little talk of a movie I just love so much. An obvious similarity to another one of my favorite movies- Freaks.
Yes the director was under quite a bit of heat for using people with real deformities to use as demons during the film's climax. Whoops! It is pretty wrong when you think of it, I for one was not aware that people with physical deformities weren't allowed in heaven- or maybe I was but I blocked it- out who knows these days. Regardless, it's certainly a very old and outdated concept and is pretty horribly un PC to say that anyone who isn't physically pure is not granted access to heaven. All the more reason for me to believe that Heaven is full of a bunch of stuck up ninny's.
Anyways that's really all I can say after my thirdish watching of The Sentinel. The ending is one of the bleakest I have seen- but for some reason it still causes such great unease. Probably because Alison is really in a lose lose situation. Sure she gets one free pass to heaven- but just look what she gets to do for the rest of her life! Bit of a gyp if you ask me!
That ending. The first time I saw this was about four or five years ago and I had NO idea what to expect. The climactic scene and ending had me disturbed and thinking about this flick for weeks afterward...which of course is good.
Oh, and the capture with the cat in the hat: priceless!
Cats in birthday hats = gold.
Excellent review--and you bring up a lot of good points. I had forgot about a lot of those scenes. I'll have to revisit this one real soon. I don't know why it doesn't get more attention.
What's not to love about The Sentinel?
One of the first films I reviewed on my horror blog.
I love The Sentinel. It is very creepy when you consider the truth about all the people living in the building, and the part where her boyfriend comes over to let her know he's dead. I found it on instant view about a year ago and I think it's criminal that it's not mentioned along with all the other movies Satan starred in in the 70s. I didn't pick up on the idea that the freaks were not to be allowed into heaven, I just thought it was cool that he hired real freaks. So I guess if that pissed people off that must be why the movie gets ignored. Really a shame.
Pax- it was one of my first reviews as well!
Wednesday's Child- that's a valid point about it not getting the attention it deserves due to the deformed people being used. I also tend to think it's just not talked about enough. We need to spread the word!!!
There was a sequel released in 1979 to the original novel the film is based on titled THE GUARDIAN (also by Jeffrey Konvitz) that features one of the darkest endings I've ever read. You can get a used copy on Amazon cheap!
I have never seen this movie.
Why have I never seen this movie?
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