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A young man has just been admitted to a mental hospital after attempting suicide at a public beach. Unable to remember even his own name, the doctors call him John Doe #83. Soon after his arrival, the doctor assigned to him begins seeing and hearing things around her that have no explanation. Soon she beings to make the terrifying connection between the things she's seeing and her new patient. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
It's easy to see how a film such as "The Sender" would go on to be one of the more overlooked horror films of its time. After all, it didn't involve a psychopath chasing horny kids with a sharp weapon; slasher films were pretty much the "it" thing during this time period. No, this is something different, something that derives much of its power from surrealism and performance. It never offers easy answers, but it does get its viewers asking questions. Zeljko Ivanek, in the role that "introduced" him, is a suicidal young man who's brought to a mental hospital where a caring psychiatrist (Kathryn Harrold) tries her hardest to get through to him. The main problem is that he has a frightening power: he can send his nightmares to other people. Another problem is that a strange woman named Jerolyn (Shirley Knight), claiming to be the young mans' mother, appears and disappears throughout the story to basically say that he needs to be with her. Thanks to the efforts of genuinely talented cast and crew members, "The Sender" sizes up as an interesting and eerie film that has a way of staying with you after it's over. Making his feature length directing debut here is Roger Christian, a man renowned for his work as an art director, set decorator, and production designer; he'd been Oscar-nominated for "Alien" and won an Oscar for "Star Wars". He creates a constant feeling of creeping unease, and successfully alternates between more subtle moments and more horrific ones. The horrific highlights employ well orchestrated special effects (by Nick Allder), and include the disastrous consequences of attempted shock therapy and an attempted operation. The beautiful, scary music score is the work of Trevor Jones. Harrold has a warm presence in the lead role, and Ivanek, who over the years has emerged as one of the great character actors in the business, is touching and vulnerable as the kid unable to maintain control. Knight is excellent, as is Paul Freeman ("Raiders of the Lost Ark") in the part of Harrolds' more clinical boss. "Aliens" fans can also note the presence of Al Matthews, a.k.a. Sergeant Apone, as a Vietnam veteran, which the actor is in real life. This film begins with an incredible feeling of tension and manages to keep that tension going for as long as the movie lasts. Overall, it's very effective, and discriminating horror fans who are looking for overlooked gems should find a fair bit to enjoy with "The Sender". Eight out of 10.
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