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Film / The Sentinel (1977)

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A 1977 horror film directed by Michael Winner, adapted from the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz (who also produced the film and wrote its screenplay adaptation with Winner). It stars Christina Raines and Chris Sarandon, with a supporting cast including Martin Balsam, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, and Eli Wallach.

Supermodel Alison Parker (Raines) moves into a nice Brooklyn Heights apartment, and finds out the tenant on the top floor of her building is a blind priest, Father Hallerin (Carradine). Pretty soon, she starts having strange physical problems, trouble sleeping, and flashbacks to her attempted suicide.

Not to be confused with the 1990s TV show, or The Sentinel (2006) starring Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Big Bad: Charles Chazen, heavily implied to be Satan himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Strongly on the "bitter" side. Alison, much to her own dismay, becomes the next sentinel and now watches over the gate, as the brownstone is torn down and made into a modern apartment complex, which she still guards. However, by becoming the sentinel, she prevented the demons from invading our world and saved her own soul from Hell, so it may be inferred that she would ascend to Heaven once she dies.
  • Broken Bird: Alison has issues due to her father being abusive, which caused her to lose her faith and attempt suicide.
  • Cat Scare
  • Christianity is Catholic: The Catholic Church is responsible for preventing the door to Hell from being opened. Alison is also a non-practicing Catholic at the beginning.
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  • Dead All Along: The other residents of Alison's apartment building. Used to great effect when Alison talks with Michael at the end.
  • Drama Panes: opens with Alison Parker being shown an apartment building by a realtor. The top floor has a large window, where a lone man is staring out at the cityscape. "That's just Father Halloran," the realtor says. "He's part of some reclusive order, kind of a hermit." As it turns out, Father Halloran guards the entrance to Hell, making sure no one alive ventures in, nor any of the damned wander out. By the end of the film, Alison Parker has assumed this duty, staring resolutely out the window, unmoving. Counts as Book Ends in this case.
  • Evil All Along: Michael, who had his wife murdered so that he could be with Alison.
  • Eye Scream: While fighting off the corpse of her father, Alison cuts his eye with a knife.
  • Fan Disservice: A flashback shows a young Alison walking in on a threesome her elderly father is having with two obese women.
  • Hellgate: The apartment is a gateway to Hell.
  • Legions of Hell: "I am one of the Legion of the Dead."
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Alison's undead father.
  • Religion is Magic / Religious Horror: The film plays with this, enforcing the usage of Christianity is Catholic along with the fact Catholic priests keep the gate closed.
  • Same Language Dub: A fashion photographer played by Jeff Goldblum (who made his film debut in Winner's Death Wish three years prior) gets this for most of his scenes, save for the one set indoors. It's a minor role and Goldblum was still far from a "name" in 1977, but now that his voice and syntax are among the most recognizable in Hollywood, modern viewers are sometimes taken aback.
  • Suicide by Pills: A flashback shows Alison as a teenager, miserable under an abusive father and an "I can't cope" mother, attempt suicide by ingesting barbiturates. She survives, but as a Catholic, has committed a mortal sin in trying to kill herself. This act qualifies her to be the next Sentinel.
  • Those Two Guys: Detectives Gatz and Rizzo.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Alison ends up becoming the next sentinel, despite trying to escape this fate.