‘The Sentinel’ is An Underrated and Surreal Experience [Watch]

The Sentinel

Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct’.   

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I’ve come dangerously close to profiling the surreal, supernatural horror film, The Sentinel on The Overlooked Motel several times previously. And every time, I have decided against it because the flick does have a cult following. However, it doesn’t have nearly the name recognition of contemporaries like The Omen or The Exorcist. Moreover, it was critically panned upon release, and I would actually argue that it’s severely underrated for such an atmospheric and intense horror-thriller. So, on that basis, I’ve decided to show it some love here.  

The Sentinel follows Alison, a high-fashion model with a thriving career and a partner with whom she is quite enamored. But Alison has never really been on her own. As such, she is determined to try living independently. With that in mind, Alison finds the perfect place, an apartment in a vintage building with gorgeous views of the New York skyline. But there is a problem with her new space: Her fellow tenants are prone to rather colorful behavior and don’t seem to have any concept of boundaries. As her neighbors become more and more sinister, Alison begins to unravel. Growing increasingly weary, she struggles to discern the cause of the bizarre goings-on in her new home before she’s driven to the brink of insanity.  

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The film features an all-star cast and a sympathetic protagonist in Allison. In addition to Cristina Raines as the lead character, the flick features appearances by Chris Sarandon as Alison’s boyfriend, Christopher Walken as a detective, Burgess Meredith as an eccentric neighbor, Beverly D’Angelo as an even more eccentric neighbor, Jeff Goldblum as a fashion photographer, and John Carradine as a man of the cloth. That’s easily one of the most impressive lineups for a horror picture of this era. 

The Sentinel

Casting aside, the film also has a fascinating storyline. I don’t want to get too deep into exactly what Alison is facing off against because it would spoil some of the twists and turns for the uninducted viewer. But suffice it to say she is battling a supernatural evil that desperately wants to drive her to a dark place. Further accentuating the ordeal, no one seems to take her claims seriously. And that makes her ultimately begin to question her own experience. The film gets progressively more intense as Alison is driven deeper and deeper into despair, culminating in an absolutely unforgettable denouement. 

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When I said that Alison’s fellow tenants are prone to colorful behavior, I was not joking. That setup leads to some truly awkward encounters. The sequence where Alison’s neighbor Sandra (Beverly D’Angelo) fondles her groin in ecstasy is one of the most uncomfortable scenes ever captured on celluloid. It works to create an air of discomfort and leaves me in a state where I am torn between feeling terribly sorry for Alison and wanting to break into a fit of maniacal laughter. Though the urge to chuckle usually wins out, the exchange does plenty to set the stage for the disturbing and strange developments still to come. Not to mention, the entire ordeal serves to establish a sense of discomfort and tension. 

While the entire film is a mixture of shocking and bizarre occurrences, the real pièce de resistance is the ending. It is a surreal and harrowing conclusion that leaves me asking myself what the hell I just watched. I’ve seen The Sentinel multiple times. Yet, the finale never ceases to render me speechless. It’s a lot to take in. In a good way. But keep that in mind upon your inaugural viewing because it’s quite the experience. 

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All in all, The Sentinel is a star-studded affair with an ominous tone and a twisty narrative. If you’re interested in checking the film out, you can rent it digitally from all the major retailers. Or you can grab a copy on disc. Scream Factory previously put the flick out on physical media with a crisp transfer and some nice bonus content. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you want to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on Twitter @FunWithHorror



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