In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Dream Weaver

This week's VHS is another Shock Stock acquisition in Richard Christian's 1982 thriller The Sender.

When an amnesiac telepath (Zeljko Ivanek) enters a mental hospital under the care of Dr. Farmer (Kathryn Harrold), she soon finds that his uncontrollable abilities are affecting everyone around him, including herself.

I did see this movie when I was very young, as it used to often play on First Choice when we first subscribed circa 1984. Being that was thirty-five fucking years ago, it's not surprising I remembered nothing of this movie except the scene with the bleeding mirrors. A striking image to be sure, but considering the amount of bat-shit stuff going on here, it's funny that's what my nine-year-old brain latched onto.

The Sender was a legitimate Paramount release so, after watching Terror at Tenkiller last week, I was almost overwhelmed by the comparative quality. Though Christian had previously worked on some of the biggest projects of all time as a set decorator/art director, this was his debut as main man and he did a pretty solid job. At the very least he beat both Dreamscape and Elm Street to the dream party by two years. Though the story, by design, was surreal and discombobulating, I never felt like the filmmakers lost control of the narrative.

Kathryn Harrold & Zeljko Ivanek in The Sender.

I believe the strength of Harrold & Ivanek really helped steer this picture true, as well. This was Ivanek's first major role and I feel like I grew up with this guy as I've seen him pop up in my favourite shows (X-Files, Oz, 24 & Banshee to name a few) throughout my life. Another familiar face was Angus Mcinness as the sheriff, but to me he'll always be Jean LaRose from Strange Brew – yes, it was many years later that I realized he was also Gold Leader.

The Sender was a very erratic thriller, as it often felt like it wanted to keep things fairly standard, but then it would hit you with a frying pan to the face set piece, like when the staff tried to give Ivanek shock therapy and immediately regretted it.

I never thought I'd see a medical procedure scene more bonkers than the one in 1978's The Manitou, but there you have it. Lastly, I think The Sender may feature the worst security guard ever in that when he hallucinated that one of the patients was missing their head, his first instinct was to shoot them. Excellent job, sir!

This film is definitely worth a watch, as it's a lesser known title from a booming era in horror cinema with some memorable set pieces and a hospital ward full of character actors.

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