Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE SENDER (1982)

Fun psychic-phenom film that divided a nation back in 1982. I checked Google News Archive and found hectoring articles from suited journos bewailing "why the moviegoing public is so hung up on this sappy stuff".

Dunno what sap the Toledo Blade means, unless it's fake blood, which shows up in THE SENDER more often than one might expect. The movie doesn't pussyfoot around with prolonged openings, either. It kicks right into gear as Zeljko Ivanek's character (later identified as John Doe #83) wakes up beside a road and promptly tries to drown himself. ("this newcomer is terrific at looking bewildered", lolcats, Toledo Blade!)

He's rescued and taken to the mental hospital of Dr. Gail Farmer (the VERY Sigourney-esque Kathryn Harrold). From thence, we learn that he's a "sender" who can transmit his dreams or nightmares into others' waking existences. Oh yeah, and his perhaps-ghost mom shows up, too!
Suffice it to say that little of this makes a lick of sense. I submitted a plot outline of THE SENDER to several peer-reviewed journals of dream-transmission logic and none of them could make heads nor tails of it. Why can't more movies be the way I want them to be, with dancing scenes such as those of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, only for hours instead of minutes? THE SENDER would be far better if it were about a boy who went to Westhampton instead of a mental hospital, and had lactose intolerance instead of dream-transmission problems.

Love, The Toledo Blade.

For people who don't mind their fantastic films being a little fantastic, THE SENDER offers great kicks. Mental-hospital horror is as underappreciated as farm horror and the best kind incorporate surrealistic touches. SENDER has them in spades, from swarms of rats to bleeding doors. It also has good dialogue, especially in the first part of the film, when we meet the cuckoos at the hospital. A sneering crazy calls John Doe a "rookie" and I'm in love. It's also filmed very well, so you can add director Roger Christian to the list of this film's crew who probably should have had a more storied career (perhaps his most [in]famous film is BATTLEFIELD EARTH).

Is it more ambitious than was probably wise? Yes, indeed. But I'd rather watch an interesting and ambitious failure than some staidly beautiful play-it-safe Oscar bait. And, FYI, confusion and illogic in this kind of film are features, not bugs. Explaining things to death is the curse and flaw of all too much modern horror. If we had more like this (RETURN TO THE SENDER, pls), I'd be a happy camper.

#4 of 31.

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