The Sentinel (1977)
What’s It About: I’ve wanted to see this ever since I saw a clip of it on a show about the history of horror films and thought it looked very spooky and stylistic. Eh…..
We start with some popes in Italy talking about “danger.” I guess they’re popes, I’m not religious.
The cast for this is awesome. Jeff Goldblum is seen as a photographer in the opening minutes and he’s not even listed. JEFF F-ING GOLDBLUM!!!
So apparently the bad guy from Fright Night is married to the biggest model around. Not meaning she’s fat, meaning she’s in demand. For having such a big cast the lead actress is pretty bad. I just do not get the casting of this girl. Yes she’s beautiful but she has the acting chops of a pork chop. Mia Farrow she ain’t. She’s a dead ringer for Olivia Munn, though.
Our heroine, Allison, loves Fright Night but she wants to get her own apartment, so I guess she can’t love him all that much. Her pops croaks, and at his funeral she reminisces about the time she caught her literal old man having a threesome with a pig and a scarecrow, and then she tried to off herself. Her dad was awesome.
So I guess she’s afraid of commitment with Fright Night because of her dad’s cake orgy. Bro, get over it.
Allison gets an enormous apartment in an old building in New York for $400 per month, which in 1977 is equal to $67,000 in 2012. A blind priest lives upstairs and all he does is stare out the window, all day every day.
Next thing we know, Allison’s at a modeling photoshoot and some dogs and peacocks go nuts, then she has a headache that knocks her out. Just like my 5th birthday party.
That night, Burgess Meredith comes to Allison’s new apartment and acts very Burgessy. He goes in and out saying a lot of crap but saying nothing. Then Allison meets two neighbor women in unitards. One of them is Ellen Griswold, who doesn’t talk. Seems that they make it with each other. Ellen Griswold proceeds to rub one out in front of Allison, which kind of weirds her out. Allison nervously asks the one who talks what they does for a living. “We fondle each other.” EXCELLENT. But Allison splits.
After Allison passes out at a shoot again, Burgess has an f’ed up birthday party for his cat, where Allison meets the other residents of the building. That night she has a dream where everyone’s nude and they’re acting even creepier than they did at the party. Just like my 6th birthday, but in dream form. She wakes up and the chandelier above her bed is swaying and she hears footsteps. Well, she is in an old apartment and someone lives above her…
Allison talks to her realtor about the weird people but TWIST she says no one has lived in the building for 3 years. The realtor takes her to the other apartments but they’re empty, and the blind priest won’t answer his door, which is un-neighborly.
That night Allison gets creeped and starts walking around in the dark again, but this time with a negligee and a knife, which is so hot. She finds the birthday cat and its eating Burgess’s canary. She walks around the building some more and runs into her zombie dad, which she finds unsettling. He tries to grab her and she cuts him up and leaves him for… uh, dead? Of course, she freaks and runs out into the streets.
The next day, Allison is in the hospital and Fright Night is in the waiting room, when he’s visited by two supercops, played by Eli Wallach and Christopher Walken, who make probably the best cop duo ever. They come to question Fright Night since his old girlfriend jumped off a bridge some time ago and they thought he killed her. They make this subplot seem like it’s kind of a big deal, but it really doesn’t go anywhere besides revealing that Fright Night actually did have his old girlfriend killed. But it doesn’t have much to do with anything.
Turns out, the people Allison’s been seeing in her building are all murderers from Hell, like my college roommates.
Here’s where things get pretty convoluted/time-wasting/boring. Allison sees the priest helper guy at a church and he says she needs to embrace Christ. Then Allison and Fright Night go to check out the apartment where she stabbed her zombie dad but there’s no blood and the carpet is different. And Allison is seeing Latin words in books even though they’re really in English. Fright Night gets it translated and it’s the Latin version of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’M lost. Allison goes back to the church and bumps into another priest but he doesn’t know the priest from before. This is all very confusing. But Fright Night does find that helper priest from before and he doesn’t want anything to do with fancy book reading or something, I don’t know. You could definitely doze off during this stretch and not really miss anything.
Fright Night hires a safecracker played by the old man from Christmas Vacation and finds a file in what I assume is the helper priest’s office that reveal that some people tried to commit suicide and then become priests or nuns when the previous priest or nun dies. Or something like that. Extremely perplexing. I think Coven may have made more sense. Point is, something weird and bad is supposed to happen to Allison the next day.
Christopher Walken’s only line: “She went to a party with 8 dead murderers.”
Allison goes to a real party and passes out again while Fright Night goes back to the apartment building. Not exactly sure why. But he knocks down some boards and the blind priest kindly informs him that it’s the portal to Hell. He wants answers so he strangles the ancient priest who couldn’t fight off a ladybug but that gets him bludgeoned in the head by the helperpriest. Allison shows up and Fright Night, now possessed or dead or something, explains to her that the old priest dies tonight and Allison becomes the next Sentinel, which is a guardian against evil. The purpose of the murderers before was that they were devils and the only way to stop the new Sentinel is to get Allison to commit suicide. They could have just played her a metal album backwards.
Turns out Fright Night is dead and damned to Hell for killing the priest and having his wife killed. Then his skin splits apart.
OK, now wake the f up because here’s where it gets good. A parade of freaks shows up while Burgess rants. Starting with the Elephant Man’s brother and then some guy who has testicles hanging from his chin. They don’t really do anything to Allison, she just runs up the stairs and they plod after her. She runs into the lesbians, who are eating Fright Night’s brains. This is all pretty screwed up and its great.
Burgess explains that Allison can either live and become protector of the Earth or kill herself and live forever in Hell on Earth with Burgess and the freaks. Wow, tough call. Fortunately, blind priest and helper priest show up in the nick of time and save her bacon. Everyone gets their chins and their balls and their chinballs back to Hell.
Epilogue: We go to the future. The apartment has been renovated and Tom Berenger wants in. Now Allison is the creepy person in the window on the top floor, fully nunned out, and about 5,000% less hot. The end.
Is It Actually Scary: The only scary parts are when Allison runs into her dad and the end. Other than that, it’s a bit laborious.
Scariest Moment: By far when the Elephant Man’s brother pops up from the staircase. It made me genuinely jump a little, and there should have been so much more of that during the rest if the movie.
How Much Gore: Not much, really just when Allison stabs her zombie dad and cuts off his nose, and when Fright Night’s head starts splitting.
Dumbest Moment: Probably when Fright Night strangled the priest to death. There was just no reason for him to do that.
Any Nudity: A few unattractive women show double that amount of unattractive breasts. I guess Ellen Griswold’s aren’t too bad, but they’re definitely not presented in a titillating way. However, you can very briefly see Allison’s nips through her see-through bra.
Overall: A movie that doesn’t quite achieve its potential. This haunted house movie is more about a pretty girl going nuts than ghosts rearranging the furniture. The awesomeness of the last 10 minutes should have been spread throughout most of the movie. The plot is confusing and there’s never any real reason why Allison was picked to be the next sentinel. Why wasn’t it another priest or nun instead of a flaky fashion model? Maybe God just wanted something better to look at?Score: 6.5 chinballs (out of 10)