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Film / Sensation

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Sensation is an American erotic thriller film directed by Brian Grant and released in 1994. The movie was co-produced by Mark Damon Productions and the Kushner-Locke Company.

Lila Reed (Kari Wührer) is a college art student with a talent for Psychometry, the ability to sense the past history of objects. When Lila responds to an advert placed by Dr Ian Burton (Eric Roberts), he takes an immediate interest in her gift. Ian's motives initially seem benign, until he asks Lila to study objects that belonged to Carrie Reiner, a young student who was brutally strangled the previous year. Ian was the prime suspect in the killing, but had a strong alibi from his fellow teacher Paula Langford (Claire Stansfield), who claimed they were together the night Carrie was murdered.

Despite warnings from her best friend Maryann (Tracey Needham) Lila falls for Ian's charms and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery, even changing her appearance to resemble Carrie and moving into dead girl's former apartment. But Detective Pantella (Ron Perlman) is convinced Ian is responsible for Carrie's death, and that Lila may suffer the same fate.


Sensation contains examples of:

  • The Alibi: When the police suspected Ian in Carrie's murder, Paula provides an alibi by claiming she was with Ian at the time the girl was killed. Paula is revealed to have lied, not to protect Ian, but to conveniently provide herself with an alibi.
  • Big Bad: Paula Langford.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Despite her ordeal (including her best friend being killed off), Lila gains little from the experience. Ian no longer has any romantic interest in her and life continues as normal.
  • The Cameo: Ed Begley Jr. gets an extended one as Earl, a creepy guy who comes onto Lila in a bar.
  • Cranky Landlord: Mitch - the landlord of Carrie's old apartment - takes a disturbing interest in his new tenant Lila.
  • Credits Montage: A number of key scenes from the movie feature in the opening credits sequence, with a greenish tint applied to match the titles.
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  • Distracted by the Sexy: Paula has no qualm flirting with her lover Ian, even when in his office. Later she spends a night at his apartment and goes into topless seductress mode. This proves to be an effective strategy on Paula's part, as her true agenda is to find out how much Lila knows, so she cleverly works questions in between stripping off and kissing.
  • Dramatic Unmask: In the final scenes a ski masked killer breaks into Lila's apartment and attempts to strangle her with a leather cord. Following a prolonged struggle, Lila pulls off the intruder's mask to reveal Paula as the murderess.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Every single man in Lila's life - Ian, her boyfriend Denny, Mitch the creepy landlord, an unnamed saxophone-playing tenant, a sinister man she meets in a bar - are presented as possible suspects with something to hide.
  • False Confession: Late in the movie Mitch turns himself in and confesses to Carrie's murder. Detective Pantella doesn't believe a word of it though, and is proved correct when it emerges the suspect was in custody for a DUI the night Carrie was killed.
  • Foreshadowing: The attentive viewer may spot a few clues that Paula is the killer.
    • It's evident early on that Paula has feelings for Ian, providing her with a motive for murdering Carrie.
    • While there are plenty of weirdos and scary situations in Lila's life, it's not until she discusses Ian's alibi with Paula that someone attempts to break into her apartment and Maryann is mistakenly killed.
    • Also the least likely suspect scenario implies the killer will be someone not suspected by Lila or the police.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The masked intruder who attempts to murder Lila appears to be a tall hulking male at first glance, possibly a stunt double. However, freeze framing suggests it is Claire Stansfield under the mask, at least for the close ups. Also the exposed forearm of the gloved person wielding the sculpture is clearly feminine, and there is a female stunt double listed on the credits..
  • Hand of Death: One of Lila's visions shows the black-gloved killer stretching a leather cord, the weapon used to strangle Carrie.
  • Improvised Weapon: Two examples during the final confrontation:
    • A metal sculpture - given to Lila as a moving in gift - becomes a murder weapon when the masked killer uses it to bludgeon Detective Pantella.
    • After her reveal, Paula grabs a pair of scissors to hold Ian hostage.
  • Jump Scare: There's more than one moment where Lila bumps into someone in a dark or secluded place. Her boyfriend is the most common offender, though there are other weirdos around.
  • Mr Fan Service: In addition to the numerous female examples there are some (non-explicit) scenes involving male nudity.
    • Setting the tone, the very first post-credits scene involves a man posing nude for female arts students.
    • Eric Roberts appears shirtless in Lila's visions as fantasy blurs with reality. The most notable are him wearing tribal face paint performing a weird dance in his apartment, and stripping off and making sexual advances in the university cafeteria.
  • Ms. Fanservice: This being an erotic thriller, every major female character - except for Maryann - features in a topless sex scene.
    • No surpise that Kari Wührer gets a nude scene. Several in fact, including her stripping off in front of a mirror when she takes on Carrie's persona and the obligatory shower scene. There's also a particularly weird moment where Lila relaxes in a bathtub after painting, multicoloured oils swirling around her body.
    • Carrie Reiner herself is often seen naked in Lila's visions, notably during the climax where she warns Lila of the killer's impending attack.
    • Claire Stansfield also gets a topless sex scene with Eric Roberts, seducing him while wearing sexy lingerie.
  • Murder by Mistake: The gloved killer strangles Maryann after she borrows Lila's coat, and Detective Pantella has no doubt Lila was the intended victim.
  • No Dead Body Poops: In his efforts to convince Lila that Ian is dangerous, Detective Pantella describes a murder scene in gruesome detail, noting the naked victim emptied her bowels while being strangled.
  • The Peeping Tom: Lila's landlord Mitch climbs onto the roof to watch her take a shower through a conveniently placed bathroom skylight. It's later implied he took a similar voyeuristic interest in Carrie before her demise.
  • Psychometry: The central theme of the movie. Lila has a gift for seeing the past history of objects and their previous owners, and has many visions of Carrie - often sexual in nature.
  • Red Herring: Quite a few, given the number of suspects.
  • Samus Is a Girl: All the suspects in Carrie's murder are male, and neither Lila or the police consider the possibility the killer might be a woman. Also, it's relatively rare for a ski-masked killer in a 1990s thriller movie to be unmasked as a female. And Claire Stansfield is tall enough to fool viewers into thinking the intruder is a man before the reveal (closer viewing indicates it is likely the actress under the hood, and not a stunt double).
  • Self-Proclaimed Love Interest: Denny repeatedly pressures Lila to go on a dinner date, despite continual rejection. It's only when he sees Lila in a party dress - and realises there's another man in her life - that he finally gets the message.
  • She's Got Legs: Late on Lila visits Ian's apartment to confront him, only to discover Paula is also present - and wearing only her shirt and underclothes. One camera shot focuses on her bare leg as she looks down from an upper floor balcony.
  • Statuesque Stunner:
    • Paula certainly qualifies, given the actress portraying her is over six feet tall. She's tall enough to stand above Eric Roberts while barefoot.
    • Tracey Needham - who plays Maryann - is just shy of six foot and noticeably taller than Kari Wuhrer, but it's debatable whether she's a stunner. She's specatacled and rather academic in appearance, and the only major female character not to take off her clothes.
  • Wham Line: Lila believes she's involved in a harmless experiment until her visions lead her to Carrie's former apartment and her old landlord Mitch.
    Mitch: Girl last year - she was a student. God rest her soul.
  • Whispering Ghosts: As Lila's sensations become more vivid, she hears Carrie's whispery voice calling her name.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Midway through the film Lila takes on Carrie's persona, wearing the dead girl's old clothes and dying her hair to resemble the woman in her psychic visions.

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