Saturday, March 14, 2009

Burnt Offerings, The Sentinel (1977), Mulberry Street

Burnt Offerings was directed by Dan Curtis from an adaptation of the Robert Murasco novel by William F. Nolan. It's about a family who rents a house for the summer and the price the house exacts on its tenants. It stars Oliver Reed and Karen Black with appearances by Burgess Meredith and Bette Davis.

I put this on my queue because one of my favourite actresses, Heather Langenkamp, lists it as one of her favourite horror flicks. I've not read the novel so I can't say how book accurate it is, but it felt like the beginning and the end were very strong while the middle sagged as they struggled to add things to pad out the runtime.

The performances were good enough. I don't really feel either way about Oliver Reed and I'm not a big fan of Karen Black, but I thought they were good. The son was annoying. I would have LOVED to see more of Meredith and Eileen Heckart, who played his sister. The chauffeur was creepy. They score was okay, the editing was okay, and there wasn't a lot in the way of effects.

Overall: pretty good.


The Sentinel is a supernatural horror flick from 1977 directed by Michael Winner and adapted by Jeffrey Konvitz from his own novel about a suicidal fashion model who finds a strikingly nice NYC apartment for amazingly cheap and soon finds out that the building is a gateway to hell being guarded by an ancient, blind priest. Right up my alley.

This is one of those 70s flicks where the filmmakers jammed in as many names as they could of both at the time up-and-comers (Chris Sarandon, who seems to be really underrated, and Christopher Walken) and those who have been around a while (Burgess Meredith, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Jose Ferrer, etc., etc.) and was seen by Universal as their answer to Warner Brothers' The Exorcist from four years previous. They even got the master, Dick Smith, to come in and do the effects. Sorry Universal, you lost this round...

If I hadn't already seen Lucio Fulci's masterful The Beyond, or even his own less masterful original version Gates of Hell, I would be all over this flick. It has everything I'm fascinated by and can't stop myself from writing about, but there's a lot of pointless, useless, stupid stuff that drags it down. Combine that with a script that really isn't very mysterious or scary and you have a recipe for yawn.

The performances were pretty good from everyone involved. Walken wasn't given much to do other than stand there looking like a made man chewing gum and Sarandon was just the supportive boyfriend and part time sleazy lawyer. Not a lot of depth was given to them. Cristina Raines (geez, there are a lot of Chrises in this flick...) was...okay. A little uneven in her performance, but she was trying.

Overall: A good try, but not quite there.


Mulberry Street was one of the line-up in After Dark's first 8 Films to Die For film festival. It was directed by Jim Mickle from a script by Mickle and the film's star Nick Damici and is about a strange infection that turns people into rats.

I originally wasn't going to watch any of After Dark's 8 Films to Die For. I thought their handling of Captivity's marketing campaign was kind of shady and the flicks in the fest didn't look that good (please keep in mind that I am, surprisingly enough, very picky). I caught a section of this film on the Sci-Fi channel and thought, "Hey, this looks pretty good, but I thought it was about rats." It is, I just didn't watch enough of it on Sci-Fi.

99.9 percent of this film rocked my socks. The cinematography, the performances, the score...nearly everything about it was freakin' awesome. The one problem I had with it is the one thing it was built on: the freakin' rat people. Oh Lord, I hated that not because they were rats, but because they were turning into rats. And I get it, I get the symbolism, I just thought it was goofy. Everything else was absolutely spectacular, so much so that it was hard to reconcile the two.

Overall: I recommend it, but with reservations because of the rat thing...

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