Once upon a time, not so very long ago, it was all the rage in the horror world to put women in peril based almost exclusively on their womanhood. It still happens occasionally, but rarely has this particular horror trope been as common and as critically-lauded as it was between 1965 and 1980. Most well-known of the “women getting screwed over for traits they can’t control” genre is, of course, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Director’s Guild awards, Rosemary’s Baby was one of those rare horror films that received commercial and critical success. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t love Rosemary as much as the next horror-loving lady. I even went as Rosemary for Halloween, with my very own baby Adrian that multiple bartenders attempted to steal from me.
But I digress. Plot: A creepy religious cult, the presence of the devil, a beautiful young woman with a handsome partner who may or may not be out to get her, a nefarious plot to hijack the woman’s future. Yes, I could be describing Rosemary’s Baby, but I’m actually describing a movie I love even more than Rosemary. That movie is Michael Winner’s The Sentinel.
While it may sound like The Sentinel is a Rosemary rip-off, nothing could be further from the truth. The film tells the story of Alison Parker, a lovely model played by Christina Raines who, after a failed suicide attempt, moves into a spacious apartment in a building populated with extremely odd characters. A blind priest occupies the top floor, with other inhabitants including an old man who throws parties for his cat (Burgess Meredith) and a lesbian couple with major boundary issues (Sylvia Miles & Beverly D’Angelo). Chris Sarandon plays Alison’s boyfriend Michael, a man whose first wife died under suspicious circumstances during his affair with Alison.
Let me stop you RIGHT there. At this point, I am confident that I am developing a reputation as some sort of Chris Sarandon stalker. You'd be wrong! I prefer the term “Professional Crazed Fan,” thankyouverymuch.
Anyway, The Sentinel has some fantastic twists, amazingly creepy characters, and a payoff as shocking, if not more so, than Rosemary. Not only will some of the images terrify you, but you can see early film performances from Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, and Jeff Goldblum.
I promise, even if you don’t love it as much as I do, The Sentinel is a fantastic fright fest, well worth a watch. Give it a chance and decide who gets the bigger raw deal in the end: Alison or Rosemary. I think you’ll agree that life looks a lot more boring for Alison.
Which is the better "women giving up their lives for religion" movie?
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