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Old 10-24-2008, 08:03 PM
Scored: 5
Views: 9,342
Sender, The

Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 24, 2008

Released by: Legend Films
Release date: 6/03/2008
MSRP: $14.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes

inline ImageSo what of filmmakers stepping outside their boundaries? We’ve seen plenty of actors turned directors, but there’s a select few from other departments who have also gone on to helm a picture or two. And usually when you get your big break in the director’s chair, it’s in horror. Special effects maestro Chris Walas got the upgrade to director of The Fly II after his effects Oscar for the first, while similarly Kevin Yagher made the jump from effects man to director with Hellraiser: Bloodline. Moving over to set dec, Roger Christian was given his own viewfinder after winning the Oscar for Star Wars (having Alien in the resume didn’t hurt either). What was his first film? Eighteen years before his Battlefield Earth, it was the subtle shocker, The Sender.

It didn’t exactly “send” audiences in droves to the multiplexes, but The Sender has enjoyed a mild cult fanbase over the years on video. Christian’s career has been mostly miss since, with Earth and the Patrick Stewart With A Moustache bomb, Masterminds. Many hope he’ll do what Alan Smithee, err, Kevin Yagher did and go back to what he does best, but The Sender’s good, right? Right?

The Story

inline ImageShots of a tranquil sunrise. Birds chirping. A man is shown resting under a tree. He awakens, but the deep bags under his eyes suggest anything but serenity. Slowly he trudges along the highway, with trumpets playing so patriotic you’d think John Rambo was just behind him. The man veers off to a nearby beach. As children play and parents fawn, God’s lonely man picks up a couple rocks, places them in his jock jacket pockets and walks straight into the lake hoping those will be his final steps.

inline ImageSo begins The Sender, where we learn that the man has mental issues so great that he can’t even remember his own name. He’s dubbed John Doe #83 (Zeljko Ivanek) and put under the care of Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold). Farmer quickly realizes that amnesia is the last of Doe’s psychotic problems. He also has the ability to make others experience his pains and torments. Through his mind his nightmares come alive into all those around him. When in restraints his shock suddenly sets fire to the room, hurdles doctors through pain glass windows and electrocutes nurses. They recoil, but after the distress has past they realize he had made these experiences a reality only in their minds. He’s what they call, a sender.

inline ImageThrough his own confessions and checks on his record, it’s clear Doe has some personal issues with his mother. The truth is cloudy, but something about an altercation in her secluded cabin. Doe’s mother, Jerolyn (Shirley Knight), has been popping by visit Dr. Farmer, but never long enough for Gail to get a real sense of the problem. Every time she turns around, Jerolyn is gone. As Doe’s condition worsens, the other doctors veto any further treatment, opting instead for a full on lobotomy. With time running out Gail must be mindful of the cause – but just how much of her mind can she trust?

inline ImageSome call the story subtle, but I’d call it nonexistent. The Sender is high concept cinema all the way – a man can make his thoughts your reality. Go! Indeed, it does do its concept proud with a few standout telepathy scenes, with masterful use of sound, slow motion and performance to encapsulate freeze frames of the mind. Like bullet time, but the old fashioned way. There’s no denying, there are a few scenes that really make an impact. Even the opening, with that vacant walk of death into the lake, has a real tragic edge.

inline ImageThe problem though, is that these scenes serve the high concept rather than any actual story. The film, for the most part, is threadbare on plotting, so straightforward it makes slashers look like Shakespeare. Then, once the climax begins to paint itself into a swiss cheese of loopholes, the twists become downright absurd. At first it seems totally implausible, and then, once you piece it all together, it feels downright lazy. A stock shocker using the same dramatic device that has sustained the film its entirety. Stories are supposed to progress, this one keeps chasing its own tail.

inline ImageAt a time when the slasher reigned supreme, 1982, it’s refreshing to see a film strive towards more cerebral pastures. I was reminded, in a way, of the better Sole Survivor from the same period. Still, The Sender doesn’t build at all on its premise, leaving the viewer little else than a few stylish shock sequences. All the groundwork was there for some weighty oedipal family drama, what with the beachside families as contrast at the start, or the omnipresent mother that haunts his vision throughout. None of the characters are ever developed, with Dr. Gail the biggest casualty of high concept. Instead, we get endless arced dolly shot after dolly shot, the slow moves trying to inject a contemplative intelligence to a film totally without. Try as it may to compensate, The Sender is short on more than just words.

Image Quality

inline ImageLooks like Legend Films’ work on Student Bodies rubbed off on The Sender. Once again we have a stellar 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen print with rich colors, dark blacks, little grain and strong detail. Like Student Bodies, the only caveat is the interlaced transfer, which hopefully Legend moves away from in further releases. Much of the film is shot in slow motion, and the crispness of this print really lets those scenes stand out. There are some momentary bits of white specking throughout, but it is kept to a minimal. Great job, once again.


inline ImageMono mix, but a damn good one. No hiss, clear dialogue, effective music and no dropouts.

Supplemental Material

Paramount must have given Legend Films a few tips about extras. This one's barren.

Final Thoughts

inline ImageThe Sender will send you across the entertainment spectrum, from excitement at the brooding atmosphere of slow motion dream sequences, to boredom for most everything else. There’s much to recommend, but the movie gets one note very quickly. Legend Films once again does a fine job with this Paramount property, giving it a very colorful, if still interlaced, visual transfer, and a solid mono mix. No extras, once again, but the wait for this film has been long enough. Worth renting and remembering for that 100 frames per second carnage.


Movie - C+

Image Quality - A-

Sound - B+

Supplements - D

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono

  • N/A

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Old 10-25-2008, 03:39 AM
Soul Stealer
Good review rhett, and I couldn't agree more. The movie has some nice moments and can be pretty interesting at times, but there are also times where you might catch yourself nodding off. I wasn't sure how to feel after watching it, but I'm still glad it's part of my collection.
Old 10-25-2008, 07:09 AM
The Eighth Samurai
A film that was IMO ruined by a really weak ending...the atmosphere carried it along nicely, and covered for some of its shortcomings, but the ending was just too much for me to ignore.
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:25 AM
Yeah the ending ruined this wonderful film.

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