The Sender (1982)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - UK  |   MPAA Rating - R
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This sadly overlooked effort from 1982 is one of the most thoughtful and unique horror films that was released during that time. The Sender is an appealing film because it never panders to the audience or treats them like children. Thomas Baum's imaginative and subtle script artfully controls the mystery at the heart of its narrative, carefully doling out just enough information at the right time to twist the viewer's expectations and keep them hooked. Baum also did a fine job creating textured characterizations: the psychiatrist heroine is caring without being naïve or dismissive of her duties while the title character is sympathetic yet mysterious enough to inspire fear at the right moments. These characters are brought to life with equal skill by a gifted cast: Kathryn Harrold brings a depth of emotion to her psychologist character without overdoing it, Zeljko Ivanek conveys the fear and confusion of his troubled character without lapsing into hysteria and Shirley Knight is creepy in a low-key, eerie manner as the hero's mother. Finally -- and most importantly -- The Sender works because of Roger Christian's thoughtful direction. He never overplays the supernatural dimensions of the story but when it comes time to deliver a jolt, he does so with style and forcefulness: highlights include a spooky car chase through deserted nocturnal streets and a show-stopping scene where John Doe 'sends' a vision of the fear he feels into everyone in the hospital. In short, The Sender is a thinking man's horror film and worthy of being rediscovered by genre fans.