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Five Favorite Things:: The Sender (1982) By Unk

September 24th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Everyone should know how great THE SENDER is by now and yet somehow they don’t. All these years later and I still rarely see it mentioned. Obviously it’s my duty to sing its praises yet again and so here we go…

1: The Tone

THE SENDER is one somber piece of work and it’s magnificently consistent. The colors are uniformly grey, bland or beige and its subdued rainy day mood refreshingly goes against the grain of most early eighties fare. There’s little if any levity and I think the only time we see the sun shining is during a suicide attempt. It’s like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET through the eyes of Ingmar Bergman. It’s probably not for everybody and its glum nature may explain its limited appeal but I LOVE it. It’s not too surprising that director Roger Christian was the art director for ALIEN and cinematographer Roger Pratt would go on to gift his talents to BRAZIL and 12 MONKEYS.

2:The Central Relationship/Actors

Intense Zeljko Ivanek portrays the wounded and confused “John Doe #83” who is sent to a mental clinic after trying to take his own life. The insanely underrated Kathryn Harrold is Gail Farmer, his concerned and intuitive therapist who takes him under her wing. The two are great together and it’s easy to root for their positive, nurturing relationship as it threatened by shock therapy enthusiast Dr. Denman (effortlessly unlikable Paul Freeman) and John’s unnerving and overtly religious mother (a quietly spooky Shirley Knight).

3: The Shock Therapy Scene

As it turns out John Doe#83 has quite a special talent and can “send” horrific nightmarish images and hallucinations into the minds of those around him- in some cases, triggering their deepest fears. It also turns out that when dealing with somebody with such ability that shock therapy is definitely not the way to go if you’re trying to quell the issue. We’re talking doctors and nurses flying about in slow motion through glass windows and fellow patients literally losing their heads. This scene is so beautifully done and continues to be a jaw-dropping sight no matter how many times I revisit the movie.

4:The Score

The great Trevor Jones (LABYRINTH, ANGEL HEART, DARK CITY) really gets behind the material and pushes everything to a higher level. Some of what he delivers is the saddest thing to ever hit your ears and then when needed, he brings on the bombast and creeping dread expertly.

5: The Visions

Rats crawling out of mouths, cockroaches swarming the fridge, decapitated heads flying about; what THE SENDER does not deliver in the body count department it certainly makes up for in the horrifying visual imagery arena. The line between reality and nightmare is cleverly blurred (and it should be noted, years before such a scenario was presented in the NOES series) and there’s a grounded, realistic quality to the happenings that make them that much more disturbing.

THE SENDER was way ahead of its time and it may still be. I guess it’ll never be an outright crowd-pleaser but it beats its own idiosyncratic drum in a way that has always impressed me. It’s a mature, thoughtful fright flick that stands on its own two feet and caters to no one and I’ll always be proud to champion it.

Tags: Five Favorite Things




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robstercraws
robstercraws
27 days ago

I watched this per your recommendation a few months ago (on Tubi…now it’s on HULU) and really enjoyed it. I didn’t find it especially horrifying, but did think it was intriguing. Reminded me a bit of The Dead Zone or maybe Scanners or The Fury. I think it might have missed its audience BECAUSE of its somber tone. During the 80’s, it seems the more popular horror movies were either slashers or flashy Night of the Demons-type movies. The 80’s isn’t exactly a decade known for understatedness…..

lottie_of_millhaven
lottie_of_millhaven
27 days ago

I recall not caring too much for this one on first watch, but after reading this I may have to give it a second try. It sounds like something that would be right up my alley, what with the somber tone and mind-games.

Maybe I was just too young for it the first time.

Chuckles72
Chuckles72
27 days ago

Hey all – I am watching this right now on Amazon – it is a Prime freebie BUT it is only on prime for the next seven days – so if that is your go-to streamer, watch it now!

bostonmatty
bostonmatty
26 days ago

What a great article! The Sender is such a strange and unique movie, and I completely agree with the assessment that seeing it as a grown up and not as a body-count film is the way to go. The performances are amazing, and Shirley Knight is an underrated gem. One of the reasons KT is so fun is because it doesn’t just focus on the popular movies, but lots of obscure and interesting films that don’t get lots of love. It’s like a mom-and-pop video store as a website!

robstercraws
robstercraws
26 days ago

“One of the reasons KT is so fun is because it doesn’t just focus on the popular movies, but lots of obscure and interesting films that don’t get lots of love. It’s like a mom-and-pop video store as a website!”
-bostonmatty

Yup! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about a movie here then immediately watched it on Tubi (with the occasional foray into YouTube or another platform). It’s the next best thing to browsing an old video store.