The Sentinel

(1977, rated R) Chris Serandon (Michael Lerner), Christina Raines (Alison Parker), Martin Balsam (Professor Ruzinsky), John Carridine (Father Halloran), José Ferrer (Robed Figure), Ava Gardner (Miss Logan), Arthur Kennedy (Monsignor Franchino), Burgess Meredith (Charles Chasen), Sylvia Miles (Gerda), Deborah Raffin (Jennifer), Eli Wallach (Detective Gatz), Christopher Walken (Rizzo), Jerry Orbach (Film Director), Jeff Goldblum (Jack). Music: Gil Mellé. Screenplay: Michael Winner (based on the book by Jeffrey Konvtiz). Director: Michael Winner. 92 minutes.

Tags: Horror, Suspense, Kitsch

Notable: Jeff Goldblum almost invisible; Christopher Walken with about three lines; presentation of a lesbian couple (who are, of course, evil).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Model Alison Parker catches a great deal on a Brooklyn apartment, with her few neighbors being a bit eccentric, particularly the old, blind priest, Father Halloran in the upper floor apartment who sits in the window, staring at nothing, and never moves. It takes some time for her and her lawyer lover, Michael Lerner, to discover that the building is actually the gateway to Hell… and Alison has been invited to join the occupants of the building permanently. Continue reading “The Sentinel”

Vantage Point

(2008, PG-13) Dennis Quaid (Agent Thomas Barnes), William Hurt (Pres. Harry Ashton), Matthew Fox (Agent Kent Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sam), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: Barry L. Levi. Director: Pete Travis. 90 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Political Thriller

Notable: Plot twists that are both relevant and well-resolved — unusual in modern thrillers.

Rating: ★★★★★

American President Harry Ashton is in Spain to promote an historic anti-terrorism summit when he himself is struck by an assassin’s bullet. Eight different people were direct witnesses to what happened, but the question that Secret Service Agent Tom Barnes — himself a witness — has to answer is what, exactly, did they see… and what does it mean? Continue reading “Vantage Point”

The Lighthouse

By P. D. James
ISBN 0-7393-2558-2
(Large Print edition)

Publication Year: 2005

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Procedural

Rating: ★★★★☆

This thirteenth in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series find the poet-detective on Combe Island, an isolated and exclusive place of rest and respite limited to certain governmental VIPs and those whose island trust have deemed to have rights of residence (occasional or permanent) due to their ancestral relationship to the island. When the somewhat infamous writer Nathan Oliver tries to throw about his self-perceived weight with islanders and guests alike, he becomes quite soundly disliked by one and all. Then, when he is found hanging by the neck from the gallery railing of the island’s famous lighthouse, the age-old question rears its head: Suicide or murder? Continue reading “The Lighthouse”

Eyes of Laura Mars

(1978, R) Faye Dunaway (Laura Mars), Tommy Lee Jones (Lt. John Neville), Brad Dourif (Tommy Ludlow), René Auberjonois (Donald Phelps), Raul Julia (Michael Reisler, listed as R.J. in the opening credits), Frank Adonis (Sal Volpe), Bill Boggs (himself). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman (story by John Carpenter). Director: Irvin Kirshner. 103 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Psychic

Notable: John Carpenter after Halloween but before The Fog; title song, “Prisoner,” sung by Barbara Streisand; if you look quick, you can see UMP on a building in the apparently low-rent district!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Fashion and artistic photographer Laura Mars discovers that she has been seeing visions of violence and murder and, without knowing it, recreating authentic reproductions of crime scenes in her work. Police Lieutenant John Neville thinks that Laura may actually have committed the murders in a form of split-personality fugue state. Her claim is that she witnesses the crimes, not as an outside observer, but through the eyes of the killer. The killings become personal as her publisher, her publicist, and two of her models are hideously murdered. How many more must die before she can discover the gruesome secret behind the murderer’s connection to her? Continue reading “Eyes of Laura Mars”

The Taking

By Dean Koontz
ISBN-13 978-0553593501

Publication Year: 2004

Tags: Horror, Suspense

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

From the book cover: On the morning that marks the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. A luminous silvery downpour is drenching their small California mountain town. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now, in the moody purple dawn, the young couple cannot shake the sense of something terribly wrong. As the hours pass, Molly and Neil listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. By nightfall, their little town loses all contact with the outside world. A thick fog transforms the once-friendly village into a ghostly labyrinth. And soon the Sloans and their neighbors will be forced to draw on reserves of courage and humanity they never knew they had. For within the misty gloom they will encounter something that reveals in a shattering instant what is happening to their world—something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency. Continue reading “The Taking”

Nightflyers

(1987, Rated R) Catherine Mary Stewart (Miranda), Michael Praed (Royd), John Standing (Dr. D’Branin), Lisa Blount (Audrey), Glenn Withrow (Keelor), James Avery (Darryl), Hélene Udy (Lilly), Annabel Brooks (Eliza Scott), Michael Des Barres (Jon Winderman). Music: Doug Timm. Screenplay: Robert Jaffe (based on the novella by George R. R. Martin). Director: T. C. Blake. 90 minutes.

Tags: Science Fiction, Horror, Suspense

Notable: Dark sci-fi long before George R. R. Martin became Game of Thrones; comparatively low-budget film makes good use of atmosphere and suspense to supplant glitzy special effects.

Rating: ★★★★☆

In hope of finding an alien life form known as the Volcryn, a research professor is granted a small crew for a deep-space journey. The limited budget leads to the hiring of a computer-operated freighter called the Nightflyer, whose sole crew is Royd, the captain, who appears only as a hologram. Following a trail of weak psychic energy which may be the wake of the Volcryn’s journey through the galaxy, events on-board the ship lead the research team to wonder if the greater mystery lies within the ship itself. Continue reading “Nightflyers”

Signs

(2002, rated PG-13) Mel Gibson (Graham Hess), Joaquin Phoenix (Merrill Hess), Rory Culkin (Morgan Hess), Abigail Breslin (Bo Hess), Cherry Jones (Officer Paski), Ray Reddy (M. Night Shyamalan), Patricia Kalember (Colleen Hess). Music: James Newton Howard. Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan. Director: M. Night Shyamalan. 106 minutes.

Tags: Horror, Suspense, Kitsch, Stupid

Notable: Apart from indicating just how bad Shyamalan can be, not a helluva lot.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Well, there’s two hours of my life that I won’t get back.

Former minister Graham Hess (Gibson) wakes to find a 500-foot crop circle in his cornfield. As worldwide reports show similar, nearly identical crop circles all over the globe, people begin to fear that this is not a hoax, like the ones in the early 1980s; aliens really are here, and no one knows if they’re friendly or not. After sightings of ships and actual aliens, the world throws itself into panic, and they fear that the human race may be run. Hunkering down in his farm home with his brother Merrill (Phoenix) and two children (Culkin and Breslin), Hess must find a way to survive the possible “end times” without the power of his faith. Continue reading “Signs”

The Wicker Man (1973)

(1973, R) Edward Woodward (Sgt,. Howie), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle), Diane Cilento (Miss Rose), Britt Ekland (Willow), Ingrid Pitt (Librarian), Lindsay Kemp (Alder MacGreagor), Russell Waters (Harbour Master), Aubrey Morris (Old Caretaker/Gravedigger). Music: Paul Giovanni (performed by “Magnet”; “Corn Rigs” sung by Paul Giovanni). Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer. Director: Robin Hardy. 88 minutes.

Tags: Thriller, Suspense, Horror

Notable: Britt Ekland before she became a “Bond girl”; Edward Woodward’s first leading film role

Rating: ★★★★☆

A hard-nosed, devoutly Christian police officer from the mainland, Sgt. Howie (Woodward), is sent to the Island of Summerisle to search for a missing young girl. What he finds is a small, isolated population devoted to the faith and practices of the “Old Gods,” with all the accompanying pagan sensuality, nature worship, rites, and rituals, along with a firmly-established wall of secrecy and misdirection from every person on the island. Continue reading “The Wicker Man (1973)”

The Internecine Project

(1974, PG) James Coburn (Prof. Robert Elliot), Lee Grant (Jean Robertson), Harry Andrews (Bert Parsons), Ian Hendry (Alex Hellman), Michael Jayston (David Baker), Christiane Kruger (Christina Larsson), Keenan Wynn (E. J. Farnsworth), Julian Glover (Arnold Pryce-Jones). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn (based on “Internecine” by Mort W. Elkind). Director: Ken Hughes. 99 minutes.

Tags: Suspense, Thriller, Spy vs. Spy

Notable: New meaning to the phrase “Timing is everything”; reliance on low-tech gimmicks, for the most part

Rating: ★★★★☆

Robert Elliot (Coburn) is a renowned professor of economics who is about to be promoted to the highest chairmanship in the U.S. government policy-making committee. He is also a former corporate spy who must get rid of anyone or anything associated with his dark past. As the masters of intrigue would say, he must “clean up his network,” which means killing four people. He creates a perfect plan that some call the Circle of Death – in a single night, his former associates will kill each other, in a perfect circle of mutually assured destruction. Continue reading “The Internecine Project”

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

(1971, rated G “but may be too intense for younger children”) Arthur Hill (Jeremy Stone), James Olson (Mark Hall), Kate Reid (Ruth Leavitt), David Wayne (Charles Dutton), Paula Kelly (Karen Anson), Ramon Bieri (Maj. Manchek), Kermit Merdock (Dr. Robertson), Eric Christmas (Sen. Phillips), Ken Swofford (Toby). Music: Gil Mellé. Screenplay: Nelson Gidding (based on the novel by Michael Crichton). Director: Robert Wise. 130 minutes.

Tags: Sci-Fi, Suspense, Alien Contact

Notable: All of the tech that you see was directly from then-current-day laboratories, showing we’re further ahead than we all thought before; actor Arthur Hill really used the mechanical hands himself; James Olson, usually cast as a “bad guy,” gets to be the hero for a change.

Rating: ★★★★★

A NASA probe, Scoop VII, has crash-landed near the tiny town of Piedmont, New Mexico (Population: 68). An Army team of two sent in to find and retrieve the satellite finds a town full of dead bodies, and they too are swiftly killed through no identifiable means from a distance. A biological agent is suspected, creating a “Wildfire Alert” – an immediate priority to scramble a specific team of scientists to gather at a huge underground facility specifically created to combat a biological emergency of this type. Jeremy Stone (Hill) petitioned the government to create it a few years earlier, citing a failure to avoid contamination at the NASA lunar lab; now, the facility, and the scientists who have been called, are about to be put to the test. Continue reading “The Andromeda Strain (1971)”