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Mulberry Street (2006)

D: Jim Mickle
S: Nick Damici, Antone Pagan, Tim House, Larry Fleischman, Bo Corre, Ron Brict, John Hoyt, Kim Blair
If a movie about were-rats infesting New York City sounds like something you'd be interested in watching, then this is definitely the movie for you.  Assuming, of course, that plot, characters, and cinematography aren't all that important to you.
Yes, the idea of an infestation of were-rats starting riots in the streets of New York definitely has promise.  And there's clearly an attempt to put an over-arching storyline in place - an Iraq War vet comes home on the night that all hell breaks loose, and attempts to make her way home to her neighborhood to see her father again.  And to be fair, the movie starts off on a pretty good note...the characters are decently established, relationships are explained, and the neighborhood in general is laid out for the future insanity.
Then the infections begin, and the movie moves from a slow-paced character study into the realm of bad lighting and music-video cuts.  Now, don't get me wrong - I'm very much in the camp of the less you show in a horror movie, the scarier it is (check out Session 9 for this - very little is shown throughout the whole movie and it's the creepiest film I've seen in a long time).  But, I also think that if you're going to show something, you need to show it, and not hide it with horrible lighting and bad camera tricks.  Which, unfortunately, is what shows up here.
It's not the worst movie ever, and definitely not the worst of the Horrorfest outings for 2007.  But it just takes too much time to build up to a delivery that's really not as good a payoff as you'd want it to be.  Really, it's just a poor knock-off of 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later, replacing zombies with rat-people.  It's fun, I suppose, but very slow to build and pretty difficult to track once things start falling apart.

Review: Session 9 (2001)

D: Brad Anderson
S: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton, III

Session 9 is one of the most ambiguous horror movies I think I've ever seen.  And I mean that in a good way - the ambiguity isn't present in what happens, but why, and it's between two equally frightening possibilities...the spiritual posession of a normal, working-class guy by a murderous demon; or the slow descent into madness of a normal, working-class guy.

The film works on many levels - the writing is great, the characters and acting are spot-on, and the couldn't ask for a better location for this type of film than the former Danvers State Hospital in Virginia.  Just the setting alone is creepy enough, and it's this feeling of dread, despair, and disrepair - not only in the building, but in the men working on it - that drives the plot of this movie.

Gordon (Peter Mullan) is an Irish immigrant who has found his lot in life as the owner of an Asbestos removal service.  Unfortunately, times are rough, and he's forced to commit to cleaning the Danvers State Hospital in a week's time, just in order to secure the money that he needs to support his wife and their new baby.  His partner in the company, Phil (David Caruso) watches closely as he sees Gordon making stretch after stretch to keep his life in order.

Rounding out the cleanup crew are: Hank (Josh Lucas), a man who seems to enjoy two things in life - gambling and making others' lives miserable; Mike (Stephen Gevedon), a law school graduate and scion of a legal eagle who feels as though he's "slumming it" in such a manual, menial job; and finally Jeff (Brendan Sexton, III), Gordon's nephew who's new to the whole experience, and just happy to have a job.

The relationships seem straightforward between these men at first, but you find out that Hank has stolen Phil's girlfriend (though when we see him at home, he's paying more attention to the television than her), Mike is considering that it may be time to hang up the protective suits and return to more intellectual pursuits, and Phil is coping with what he thinks may be his last job - not because he wants it to be, but because it's clear to him that the business is failing.

All of this human drama is underscored by the slowly-unveiling story of Mary Hobbes, a former inmate of the asylum.  Mike discovers her records while wandering through the administration offices, and opens up the box (clearly marked EVIDENCE) to discover audio tapes of the interviews (unsurprisingly, nine tracks marked "SESSION 1" through "SESSION 9"). 

As Mike delves into the mystery of Mary Hobbes, the other men are seen to succomb to their own demons.  Hank discovers a cache of silver coins, jewelry, and other items that fall out of a stone wall attached to the crematorium.  Phil copes with what he feels is increasingly erratic behavior on the part of Gordon (while at the same time smoking pot whenever he has the opportunity).  And Gordon finds the strength to admit to Phil that he slapped his wife the night that their contract for the Danvers Hospital was approved.

With a movie like this, it's hard to discuss the details of the plot, because to do so really spoils a lot of very good storyline, excellent characterizations, and ultimately the entire point of the film itself.  This film delivers on its very slow burn, and constantly has you wondering just how it will all end.  Regardless of how you view the events - did Mike unleash some form of demonic evil by opening Mary Hobbes' files...or was the entire audiotape more of a coincidental metaphor for events that were already being unleashed without any supernatural intervention?

This truly is a thinking-man's horror movie, and while opinions vary (and are strongly held on either side of the coin), it's absolutely a movie worth spending some time to experience.

Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

D: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

S: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Roni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Britt Leach

First and foremost, I admit that I went into this movie with perhaps the lowest expectations that I've had for any of the classic horror films that I've been finally catching up on.  I expected so very, very little from a movie that's all about a guy dressed as Santa going on a killing spree on Christmas Eve.

And this movie quite simply blew me away.  I would add this to my must-see list of horror movies for anyone who wants to enjoy the classic feel of an 80s slasher film.  Granted, the acting in general isn't exactly the best, but for the time and budget, what can you really expect?  The real genius in this film is, quite simply, the main character.  You know who the killer is from the very beginning - there are no pretensions, there are no Red Herrings.  You watch as the poor little boy gets to be subjected to perhaps the most horrible vision he can see - his parents are viciously murdered by a guy in a Santa suit.  "Where ARE you, you little bastard!?" he screams into the bushes as poor little Billy hides.

Fast forward a few years, and Billy and his brother are now in the care of a stereotypical Catholic orphanage, complete with a caring Sister of the order and an overbearing, mean-as-nails Mother Superior.  Billy behaves himself well enough, but every year around Christmas, he suddenly gets worse...drawing horrible pictures of Santa and refusing to sit on Santa's lap (even punching a visiting "Santa" at the orphanage).  For each of these acts, Billy is punished for being naughty.  When he catches two teenagers in the orphanage in an act that's frowned on by the Bible (undoubtedly, they weren't attempting to procreate), he finds out that is naughty too...and worthy of punishment.

All of this is in place merely to set Billy up for the inevitable...and really the setup is economical, taking only 20 minutes or so.  Then you see Billy as an 18-year old, strapping, hunk of a boy, who the caring, compassionate Sister sets up with a job at a toy store.  Yes, let's ignore the inevitable question of whether it's smart to do so, knowing what happens at EVERY toy store around Christmas...but if not for this small lapse of judgment, the movie would be very boring indeed.

Let me tangentialize for just a moment here - in addition to the story and the gore and the nudity, another little fun part of this (for me, at least) was seeing all the old toys in the store - you have the Jabba the Hutt playset in one scene, Mousetrap in another, even a giant Castle Greyskull playset in another.  Seeing all these great 80s toys in their original packaging made an aging toy geek like me giddy with excitement. you can probably guess, Christmas rolls around.  Billy's making eyes at a female co-worker, and getting under the skin of his supervisor, a gaudy Lothario-wanna-be.  The boss, however, seems to like him, and when the regular Santa is injured, who does he turn to to take his place?  Why, Billy-boy, of course...who uses his knowledge of Santa as a punisher of the naughty to tame the wildest of children who cry and scream on his lap.

Of course, scaring little kids into complacency isn't what a slasher film is all we have to have something trigger little ol' Billy-boy into a homicidal rage...and what better than some alcohol?  Yep, that's right - after all the little buggers have left the store, Mr. Simms breaks out the booze and everyone starts to celebrate.  Everyone in the store has way too much to drink, and Billy watches his Lothario and female interest sneak back into the back of the store.  Needless to say, he catches Lothario being "naughty" and this is the trigger that causes Billy to begin hunting down and punishing those who are on the Naughty List.

I don't want to spoil everything for you - suffice it to say that the movie is a great watch from beginning to end.  There's no suspense about who's doing the killing, but who and how are always up for grabs.  Hearing Billy grumble "NAUGHTY!!" and "PUNISH!!" in a voice that's not quite his own is just awesome (though I will admit that without context it sounds horribly cheesy!), and seeing everyone else put the pieces together is a pretty good use of dramatic irony.

Overall, this movie is HIGHLY recommended for anyone who is looking for the thrill that only a good 80s slasher flick can bring!

Review: Prom Night (1980)

D: Paul Lynch
S: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Tough, Casey Stevens

Wow...just let me say that for a moment.  Wow.  I've always heard Prom Night mentioned as one of the defining films in the 80s slasher history, and I have to SO does not live up to that reputation.  Not even close.  And that's not to say that it doesn't try...but it fails to deliver on almost everything you expect from an 80s horror movie, except boobs.  And there aren't even all that many bare breasts to be seen in this one, even. 

Perhaps it's just that it's such an early film in the genre, but that can't quite be it - it was not only predated by Halloween by two years, but it was released the same year as Friday the 13th, so that's no excuse.  I think it just can't quite be what it really wants to's never really very scary, it's barely gory even for the time, and the entire storyline is telegraphed so far ahead of time that it's really not even very interesting.

A really good horror movie like this requires that the Red Herrings actually be possible...but that's just not the case here.  The movie starts out with phone calls being made to the future victims...but the "escaped mental patient" has just gotten away and was holed up in an abandoned convent...and the "questionable groundskeeper" is hard at work on the grounds of the school.  It doesn't leave many options...and in case you haven't seen it yet, and still want to subject yourself to it after reading this, I won't spoil it.  But it's hardly a surprise.

The writing is bad, the acting horrible, and the dancing...well, let's just say that it reminds you in a way that Saturday Night Fever never will exactly why Disco died.  I seriously expected there to be a dance-off halfway through this movie, which might have actually been more enjoyable overall than watching what was on display.

The bottom line here is that there are many, MANY better 80s slasher/horror films to spend your time watching, and if it weren't for the remake that's sitting in my queue right now, I probably wouldn't have wasted mine watching this...if only I could get that hour and a half of my life back...
To borrow a tagline from another long-in-the-making sequel coming to a theater near you soon:  I wanted to believe.  I wanted to believe that this would turn out to be the ending of the Indy saga that we all looked forward to.  I wanted to believe that they would be able to recapture the spirit and feel of the original.  I wanted to believe that this wouldn't be a repeat of the mis-steps that Lucas took with the Star Wars prequels.  
I really wanted to believe.
But, in the end, I was disappointed.  It's true, perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps one should realize that after 19 years, the magic was gone.  It's not impossible to catch that lightning in a bottle again, but instead we get fireflies.
That's not to say the movie is bad.  It's definitely a fun way to spend two hours, and it has all the trappings of an Indiana Jones film.  To say that it's not as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade is like saying that a painting isn't as good as the Mona Lisa.  And it's definitely not nearly as bad as Temple of Doom, though it suffers from many of the same problems that Temple did.
First, there's very little archaeology involved in Kingdom.  There's a little bit of grave-diving (a la Crusade), but none of the feeling of wonder or excitement that you get as you watch Indy put the pieces of the puzzle together (the series of desert scenes in Raiders is better than the entire movie of Kingdom).  The whole point of Indiana Jones is that he's an archaeologist first, an adventurer second.  When Mutt stammers out "You're a teacher!?", it's no wonder he doesn't believe it - aside from a couple meager scenes, we don't see Indy the archaeologist hardly at all.
The supernatural takes way too big a part in Kingdom, as it did in Temple.  If you pay attention to the first movie, the supernatural nature of the Ark is hinted at, glimpsed only in part until the very end.  Kingdom instead starts off with a demonstration of the supernatural, and continues to break it out (where convenient, mind you) throughout the film.
And lastly, there are just scenes that utterly destroy any suspension of disbelief that you've managed to come up with.  That, I think, is the ultimate disappointment with this movie - what made Raiders and Last Crusade so enjoyable is that they were, for the most part, pretty realistic.  Very little happens in either Raiders or Last Crusade that's at least not plausible (perhaps with the exception of the endings of each, but that's to be expected).  There's a lot, on the other hand, in both Temple and Kingdom that stretches the boundaries of reason until they break.  It's hard to mention these scenes without spoiling some parts of the film, but suffice to say the scenes with the refrigerator, the monkeys, and the rocket sled - while entertaining - had no place in a "true" Indiana Jones film. 
Some of this must have to do with Lucas' thoughts about trying to make Kingdom more of a "B-movie" than an homage to the Republic serials that he grew up with.  And, quite frankly, that makes it not an Indy movie from the get-go.  Indy is a serial hero, finding himself in cliffhanger after cliffhanger and always squeaking out by a nose.  He's not a B-movie scientist or researcher or football-player-cum-hero.  That's just not who Indy is, and by taking him out of his element and trying to force him into a genre that he's not meant for...well, can you imagine trying to take Luke Skywalker and put him in a family sit-com?  The Skywalkers!  Not really - it's just a basic misunderstanding of what made the Indiana Jones movies so successful.
Again, the movie isn't "bad" - it's just disappointingly not true to the original.  Harrison Ford does a great job hopping right back into the old fedora.  He's convincing as an aging, yet still completely capable, Indiana Jones.  Bringing Karen Allen back provides a great deal of closure to one of the outstanding questions in the series, and the repartee between Marian and Indy is just as good in this film as it was in the first.  Shia LaBeouf is...well, passable as Mutt the brash, young, mouthy sidekick (a good turn better than Short Round, at least).  But you definitely feel the loss of the late Denholm Elliott, though Marcus makes an appearance even posthumously that is true to the character.  Also missing is Sallah, and there's not even so much of a mention (particularly odd, considering how much he seemed enamoured with Marian during Raiders) - could they really not convince/afford John Rys-Davies?
As for the other supporting characters, Cate Blanchett is decent, though not nearly menacing enough, as the Russian scientist seeking the Crystal Skulls.  Ray Winstone is okay, but his character seems alternately a replacement for Sallah or just another annoying sidekick.  John Hurt has very little to do as Oxley, but what he does is performed with his usual attention to character detail.
Overall, it's not a bad movie, and it's perhaps one of the better adventure movies that's been released in recent years.  What's unfortunate is that it winds up trodding on some of the same ground that we've already seen in last year's National Treasure 2, which I'm sorry to say did a much better job of providing a pay-off in the lost city of gold.
There's talk of another sequel...with rumors of Shia LaBoeuf taking over the reigns and Harrison Ford taking a role more akin to Sean Connery's in Last Crusade.  And given the numbers that it posted ($300m+ worldwide), it's probably inevitable that Lucas and Spielberg will once again break out the whip and fedora.  And I wish them luck with that - I'll have more fun re-watching Raiders and Last Crusade than seeing anything they're likely to come up with.  Of course, perhaps there's a corollary to the "odd-numbered Trek's suck" rule - perhaps "even numbered Indy's suck" just as badly.  Either way, I'll see whatever they come up with, but it will be with severely lowered expectations the next time around.  While I want to believe, I just can't anymore - Lucas has finally broken me.

Review: Fido (2006)

D: Andrew Currie
S: K'Sun Ray, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, Billy Connolly, Henry Czerny
Fido is an odd movie.  I suppose that's really an understatement, but ultimately it's the best description that I can come up with.  In part, it's exactly what you would expect from a comedy(?) that is based on the premise of domesticated zombies and what happens when the technology controlling them goes wrong.  Of course, it's also a variation on the classic "boy and his dog" genre...with the zombie taking the place of the dog.
The Robinson family is just like any other 50s-era family, however in this universe rather than recovering from World War 2, the 50s revolve around the recovery from a world-wide "zombie war".  At the end of the war, a company designed technology that allowed the zombie hordes to be "domesticated" through the use of an electronic collar that removes the zombie's bloodlust and makes them docile and trainable.  In this world, everyone has a zombie-pet, and the more zombies one has, the more prestigious they must be!
But it is here that the Robinsons are not like everyone else.  Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker) hides a secret - he's afraid of zombies.  Petrified, in fact.  Stemming from a childhood trauma, he dodges every attempt made to convince him that they're safe, that they're controlled, and that they're useful.  This, of course, makes his son Timmy (K'Sun Ray) the target of derision and ridicule in school, since they're the only family without a zombie.  Well, until the day that his wife Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) decides to take it upon herself to obtain one for the household.  And this is where the fun really begins.
You see, Bill isn't the best father - in fact he's pretty much non-existent in his child's life - not to mention his wife's.  He's all but a weekend dad, at best, going out to golf with his work buddies and leaving all of the chores to Helen and relegating his son to the role of a pet at best.  So when the zombie arrives, and both Helen and Timmy realize that he can do more than simple menial tasks (including playiing catch with Timmy, learning to dance with Helen, and other not-exactly-typical zombie actions), "Fido" as he becomes known begins to slowly wean the family away from Bill.
But that's not really the thrust of the movie (which at this point sounds more like a weird zombie-drama than a comedy).  You see, while taking Fido on an unauthorized walk to the park, and playing catch with him, some bullies start throwing rocks at Billy - and Fido protects him, scaring off the bullies.  Unfortunately, one of the rocks also strikes Fido's collar, turning it off just long enough for him to wander into the bushes and bite an old lady neighbor of Timmy's, re-starting a zombie infestation in the town.
It is at this point that things start to get really odd - Helen works with Timmy to hide the fact that Fido is the source of the outbreak, while their new neighbor - the head of "ZomCom's" security division - slowly tracks him down.  Bill begins to resent Fido more and more, and eventually Fido is found out, captured, and sent to ZomCom's facility, where they are using zombies that have been supposedly liquidated as slave labor. 
Anyone who has seen a "boy and his dog" movie knows what comes next, but there's no reason to spoil it all.  While not nearly as clever as Shaun of the Dead, Fido is definitely one of the better horror comedies created in recent memory.  Billy Connolly is unrecognizable as Fido, Carrie-Anne Moss is in fine form, and both Dylan Baker and Henry Czerny play up their respective roles almost to parody, but stopping at just the right balance.  Overall, a strong, funny movie - if you can get over it's basic oddness.

Review: Iron Man (2008)

Wow.  One word, and that could be my complete review of this movie.  I've been a comic-book fan since the mid-80s, and aside from the X-Men, Iron Man was always one of my favorite comics.  Partly because it was just an "ordinary" guy (who happened to be a billionaire super-genius) who got his "power" from a suit of armor, but also partly because the character of Tony Stark was perhaps the most "real" of any of the comic book characters of the time.  Long before the 90s trend of "darkness" and "stark reality" in comics, Tony Stark was a philandering, unapologetic alcoholic.  But he got the job done.  And it was in the battles with his personal demons that the character grew the most.
Fortunately, there aren't a lot of personal demons explored in this first outing, but a lot of the foreshadowing is there (how many scenes did you see where there wasn't a bottle or glass of whisky within arm's reach?).  No, this is an all-out, balls-to-the-wall origin story.  And if nothing else, it shows just how much Jon Favreau loves the characters.
Looking back at the X-Men or Spider-Man movies, you can see the tweaks that were made in order to "market" the characters.  No bright-colored spandex suits for the mutants (black leather only, really?)..."organic" web-shooters for Spidey.  All of these were unnecessary changes that someone in the back room thought would be a good idea, comic-book legacy be damned.  There's none of that here - the suit looks exactly like the suit in the comics in all it's red and gold glory.  And it's a beautiful thing - both in practical effects as well as CG (and the fact that you can't tell where the practicals stop and the CG starts makes it all that much better!).
Everything else falls in line from there - this is 100% an Iron Man story.  And the writing, direction, and acting all draw from that.  I defy anyone to come up with a better person to play Tony Stark than Robert Downey, Jr.  The man, for all intents and purposes, is Tony Stark.  The same demons, the same personality...just no red and gold flying suit.  RDJ takes this role and runs with it - you can tell from the performance on-screen that this is a character he understands and embraces.  There's a perfect balance of humor, commitment, and uncertainty in the character, all of which captrues the spirit of Tony Stark without being ham-handed over any of it.
The supporting cast is just as good. Gwyneth makes Pepper Potts shine more than I recall from the comic books, striking that perfect Moneypenny-esque balance between Stark's right-hand and a romantic interest.  Terrence Howard nails Jim Rhodes perfectly, capturing the commitment to duty and country.  And Jeff Bridges takes a very different version of Obediah Stane and runs with it in a surprisingly un-Jeff Bridges look.
I'm eagerly anticipating the inevitable sequel, hoping to see Jon Favreau's take on War Machine, the Mandarin, or any other the other big bads that Iron Man has taken on in his long and storied history.  And the hints dropped at Marvel's attempt to put together an Avengers movie, as an event culminating from four major-release films, has me drooling at the thought, particularly if they're smart enough to keep Favreau around and not change the tone from an outright embrace of the history and stories to something trying to feed the mass audience (Spider-Man 3, anyone?).  Done right, these movies could set Marvel and Paramount up for a good decade of solid, strong summer blockbusters.  Done wrong, we could see the death of good comic book movies for awhile, which would truly be a shame.

Review: Wicked Little Things (2006)

Rarely is a movie both completely predictable, yet still fun and entertaining.  This movie manages to strike that fine balance, and because of that, it moves way up the list for my picks from the first set of Horrorfest films.  I'd probably put it in the #3 or #4 slot, behind Unrest and Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror.
The set-up is simple - back in the early 1900s, children were used by a greedy mine operator to drag dynamite into places that adults couldn't reach.  Of course, things go wrong, and an explosion traps a group of the children alive in a collapsed shaft, resulting in an investigation that ultimately closes the mine - but leaves the owner off the hook for his blatant safety and labor violations.  Needless to say, the souls of these children don't rest well, knowing the man who caused their deaths escaped justice.  So they somehow return, wandering the woods around the mine and feasting on the flesh of animals (or the occasional human) unlucky enough to cross their path.
Fast-forward to the present, and we have a newly-widowed mother of two - a young girl and a teenager - down on her luck after the death of her husband.  The family literally has almost nothing, except for the deed to a house out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods.  As it turns out, her husband's family were miners back in the day, and the house was "worker's quarters", provided by the mining company.
Of course, the typical "ghost story" aspects are foreshadowed by the townsfolk, particularly the high-school crowd that the teenage daughter immediately clicks with.  And, as I completely expected, the youngest daughter finds a doll, which she tells her mom belongs to "Mary", who "lives in the woods".  Yep, Mary is one of the flesh-devouring ghouls, but due to the particulars of her condition won't eat the flesh of family of the miners killed.
There's also the requisite recluse, played perfectly by Ben Cross (whom I have loved as an actor since his role as Barnabus Collins on the revival of Dark Shadows).  He tosses blood onto the doors of the family's new home, and places rabbits and other small critters on spikes throughout the woods, keeping the ghoulish children at bay.
And, soon enough, the human antagonist arrives - the grandson of the mine owner, who intends to clear all of the land owned by the mining company and start anew...including all of the homes on the property, forcing Karen and her girls onto the streets.  Of course, the ghouls have other ideas for him.
Overall, there's nothing shockingly great about this movie, but at the same time there's nothing shockingly bad.  The special effects are decent for the most part, and the children look appropriately cute and creepy, simultaneously.  It's not the best, but far from the worst, and if you're interested in some mindless horror fun, this movie will definitely satisfy that need.

Review: The Invasion (2007)

It's rare that I watch a movie and actually want the time, energy, and thought invested in it not only returned, but returned with interest.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the most timeless movies ever created, not because of its quality or acting, but because of its flexibility.  There have been numerous remakes over the years, each taking a completely different spin on the original, which was based on Cold War tensions and the fear of Communism.  The 1978 remake focused on distrust of government in a large city, a reflection of the post-Vietnam perspective on the world.  The 1993 and 1994 versions (Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters - technically a version of Robert A. Heinlein's short story of the same name, but for all intents and purposes the same story) evoked the fear of the growing and powerful military-industrial complex, in the wake of the first Gulf War.  This version...well, I suppose it's meant to invoke the fears of an increasingly drug-addled and pacified existence? 
This is a movie that had a huge amount of potential, and not only fails to live up to that potential, but capsizes under its weight.  Even after reading review after review telling me how bad the movie was, it failed to live up to even those very low expectations.  The acting is wooden (was George Lucas the acting coach on set?), the direction is boring, and the cinematography is bland.  How anyone could take a story so expansive as this and come out with something this dull, bland, and uninteresting is just absolutely astounding.
I really can't stress enough how bad this movie really is (yet, surprisingly, it's no Haunted Highway still).  Even if you're just curious to find out, I would recommend against it.  It will ruin any thoughts you have of the acting abilties of any of its cast members.  Do NOT see this movie.  Ever.  You will regret it.

Review: The Sentinel (1977)

It's somewhat ironic when a movie that is all but a carbon-copy of a previous film winds up standing up to the rigors of time better than the movie that inspired it.  And that's the case with The Sentinel, which owes about 90% of its plot, devices, and characters to Rosemary's Baby, almost 10 years its senior.
As I said in my review of it, Rosemary's Baby suffers greatly from time - it's really not as scary as it was when first released, but it's an interesting glimpse into the world of the late 1960s from an escapist viewpoint.  The Sentinel takes a lot of what made Rosemary's Baby work initially, but presents it in a different light, one that's less affected by time.  I had originally tried writing this review without comparing the two, but three drafts in I realized that's a losing effort.  In comparison to each other, you can really see some of what makes The Sentinal more lasting, and Rosemary's Baby more of a snapshot in time. 
First and foremost are the lead characters.  Rosemary seems more of a 50s romantic archetype of a woman, wife, and mother.  She's very dependent on those around her, and doesn't question authority, her husband, or her elders.  As the baby develops and she has odd cravings and constant pain, she doesn't question any of what she is told, she diligently follows the orders of her doctor and neighbors, ignoring the concerns of her close friends.  Alison, on the other hand, is a successful yet troubled mostly-independent woman.  In the first scenes of the movie, she is shopping for an apartment for herself, so that she can have a place of her own, rather than spend all her time with her boyfriend, who wants to tie her down and marry her.
Another key difference is the use of the city - both movies take place in New York, but Rosemary's Baby feels very claustrophobic.  Aside from the one scene where she walks right into the middle of traffic on a busy street, most of the scenes take place inside.  The Sentinel centers around a building, but uses the outdoors to far greater effect.  If a movie is set in New York City, you really expect to see some of the city - The Sentinel delivers on this far more than Rosemary's Baby.
I would have to say that the only place that Rosemary's Baby excels above The Sentinel is in its antagonists.  Burgess Meredith's "Charles Chazen" is far more over the top and obviously troubled than Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer's "Minnie & Roman Castevets" were.  Although the Castevets seem "off" somehow, they seem from the outset to just be a lonely, friendly older couple - genuinely interested in meeting the new tenants.
I'm sure there could be a lot said about the post-feminist implications of The Sentinal versus Rosemary's Baby, but I'm not really interested in the pseudo-political aspects of these films.  It's there, I'm sure it's been discussed before, but I'm just not going there.
Moving back to focus on The Sentinel, it truly is a good, well-paced, traditional haunted house story, with a slight twist.  There are two scenes that make this movie noteworthy, and if for no reason other than these I highly recommend it.  The first is #46 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments - a scene in which Alison's dead father appears while she is exploring the building, walking quickly behind her almost imperceptibly to her.  Words can't give this scene justice - it is one of the most truly creepy scenes I think I've ever seen.  The other scene is near the end, and involves a HUGE cast of deformed actors representing the demons attempting to break through onto the Earth.  There is simply no way imaginable that this scene could make it to the screen today, with all the politically-correct watchdog groups that would cry foul.  But there is a definitive effect that is provided (similar to seeing the sideshow players in Freaks) that sticks with you even after the movie has ended.  Reality often has a far greater impact than any SFX house can create.
And finally, if none of that is enough, the film is simply awesome for seeing so many current big-name stars in roles that seem so far beneath them it's almost amusing.  In addition to the lead roles - Chris Sarandon, Jose Ferrer, Burgess Meredith - you also get to see some early glimpses of Jeff Goldblum, Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, Beverly D'Angelo (naked, no less!), Christopher Walken, and more.  If for no other reason than checking out this glimpse back in time for these folks, you must check out this movie!