Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Sender (1982)

One of my fondest cinema-memories was when Battlefield Earth (you know that huge flop starring John Travolta?) was released in Sweden. Me and my pal Joel had heard so much bad stuff about it that we just needed to see it in cinema. When we came to the theater and was ready to pay for the tickets, the manager was behind the counter to talking to one of his staff. He looked at us with pity in his eyes, nodded to the ticket seller and said "Let them go in for free". Yes, the rest of the staff behind the counter seemed to agree with this and thats the story how we didn't help Roger Christian to be a little bit closer to a hit. 

Roger Christian isn't a good director. Everything I've seen by him up to now has be shit. Shallow, empty crap directly from the sewers of Hollywood. So you can imagine my surprise when I started to watch his debut, The Sender, and realize that this was a damn good little movie. It won't win any originality-awards, but it's still a smart and incredibly good-looking horror from the early eighties.

Zeljko Ivanek plays a young man (he looks a bit like Giovanni Lombarde Radice by the way) who wakes up by the side of the road with a memory loss. He decides to go to the nearest beach, fill his pockets with stone and drown himself. He's saved and brought to a state mental hospital where he quickly befriends one of the female doctors, Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold). She discovers that John Doe 83, as they call him, has the power to create hallucinations both to himself and to others - and a mysterious woman, who claims she's his mother, shows up and acts strange. The longer he stays in the hospital, the more freaky the hallucinations get and the good doctor is getting more and more convinced that he's someone powerful, maybe Jesus himself...

Don't worry about the last sentence there, this is no movie that preaches christianity or some other religion. This is a fullblow, smart and somewhat brutal supernatural thriller and I must say I'm really impressed. Now, the script is very tight and the characters well-written, so what Roger Christian had to do is to shoot it in his usual very stylish and visual way, and he shows here that he actually had talent once. Even if everything is in the characters heads (this is not a spoiler), it's truly a lot of cool and shocking moments we're treated. A man getting his head ripped of, rats coming out from the mouth, a fantastic slow-motion scene where a couple of characters is tossed around like dolls in a room during electric shock therapy and much more. It's power and very well-made scenes, and adds to the greatness of this movie.

Zeljko Ivanek is damn brilliant as John Doe 83, and he's still around doing evil character roles in a lot of movies - you will recognize him as older if you Google-search him. Paul Freeman is another favorite of mine playing one of the doctors and he and Kathryn Harrold is excellent. But every little part is great and it's strange that this movie isn't more acknovledged among horror-fans. Maybe the name of Roger Christian scares them away? In normal cases that would be a good thing to do, to run as fast as possible from this director, but here I just want to encourage you to stay and watch his debut movie, because it's worth it!

1 comment:

davidfullam said...

A fine and interesting film. Too bad it got lost in the shuffle of the early 1980s.