Discovering a sick piece of cinema previously foreign brings an awesome level of excitement, doesn’t it? Sure does around these parts. Especially when its a late-game scene in an old horror film that, up until said part, has been somewhat dull; strange and incomprehensible, sure, but still proceeding as a bore. For the first hour of The Sentinel (1977), I was scratching my head, wondering, “Am I missing something here?” I’d read all the praise, and even the hate, for writer-director Michael Winner’s bizarre horror flick (an adaptation of Jeffrey Konvitz’s 1975 this-Brooklyn-apartment-building-is-the-gateway-to-Hell novel), which was considered to be Universal’s inferior answer to the success of The Exorcist; I was expecting, at the least, a few sick thrills. But, nothing, other than one rather ferocious bit involving a shirtless zombie dad chasing his sexy daughter (wearing lingerie, I should add) as dead-daddy’s two fat, naked zombie sex partners are sprawled on a nearby bed; the now-adult, commercial-model daughter (Christina Raines, who at the time had a face as dynamite as Olivia Munn does today) even gets a few knife slashes in on pops, producing some splendidly cheesy gore—–the kind of fake ’70s blood that’s brighter than tomato-red, that almost neon look.
That scene is less than two minutes long, though; otherwise, the film’s remaining highpoints—-before the grand finale—-are a birthday part for a cat and a young Beverly D’Angelo getting herself off on a couch [see right]. Yup. So when today’s Scene of Mine finally kicked in, the film’s climax, I was sucker-punched from both sides. And I kinda loved it. Tell me how this sounds to you: a hammy Burgess Meredith leading a horde of deformed undead through a spooky apartment building as they chase a beautiful woman. That’s exactly what you get with The Sentinel‘s closing bit, an incoherent mish-mash of Shelley Duvall’s dash within the Overlook during the end of The Shining and the authentic weirdness of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic Freaks.
It’s after the jump. The fun really begins at the 4:00 mark. Note that this isn’t great horror, by any stretch; just underappreciated insanity that’s a total hoot. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m off to research this thing to find out if those are actual deformed people, or simply actors covered in top-notch makeup effects: