Film: The Sender (1982) Rated: R Written by: Thomas Baum Directed by: Roger Christian Starring: Zeljko Ivanek as John Doe Kathryn Harrold as Dr. Gail Farmer Paul Freeman as Dr. Joseph Denman Shirley Knight as Jerolyn, The Sender's Mommy
By Rob R.
Pre-screening memories: The Sender was a film that was one of those under-the-skin creepouts that truly affected my young mind.
By the time I was able to catch it on my friend’s HBO, I had already been exposed to the blood and guts of Friday the 13th and that ilk, which I appreciated more for gore and special effects.
As an aforementioned devotee of Fangoria, I had my horror cherry popped at an age shared only by early American frontiersman and the Palin children. I was therefore able to distance my mind from the more splatter-centric brethren of the horror genre. They occupied my interest on a purely technical level.
The Sender, though, was one I recall being something that “could actually happen.” I remember there being long periods of silence, which allowed a young mind to ruminate over what was being shown to it. Of course, now two decades later I cannot remember but a few isolated scenes:
* The opening in which lead (played by a young Zeljko Ivanek, whose name I committed to memory even way back then), walks directly into a public swimming beach in an attempt to drown himself. The sheer terror of his near drowning had one of those lasting ‘Jaws‘- like impacts on my land-lubbing psyche.
* The other scene involved a rat exiting the mouth of one of the characters. I do not recall the circumstances that would precipitate a large rodent to dwell in one’s esophogus, but on a freak-out scale, it was off the charts.
* I recall a female psychologist trying to help poor Zeljko, and in my mind’s eye I can only remember Kelly McGillis, but that is most likely due to my decidedly un-Amish-like crush I held for her at that time, thanks to the double threat of Top Gun and Witness.
*There was also some climactic scene with electroshock that rivaled Jack Nicholson’s in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but with much more gore.
Memories of the film play more like a dream, which I’m sure have more to do with the psychosis suffered by its lead, but I’m happy to revisit electroshock of nostalgia just the same.
New memories: Man, did I have good taste as a kid. Not only was this film still creepy, but the performances still held up, music was haunting, plot deeper than I remember. And all this from the guy who directed ‘Battlefield Earth?’
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Our ‘guest’ Script Supervisor Sally Jones:
Sally is entering her fourth decade in film, overseeing scripts from a wildly diverse lot of films. As the supervisor, Sally’s job was to help interpret the words of the script into physical action, and she was present throughout the filming of The Sender.
Included in her long list of supervisory credentials are a few you may have heard of, such as:
- Return to Oz
- Heaven’s Gate
- Withnail & I
- Patriot Games
- Black Hawk Down
- Vanity Fair
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
- Mamma Mia!
Jones is currently working again with The Sender director Roger Christian on the horror-mystery Prisoners of the Sun, starring David Carvet, John Rhys-Davies and Emily Holmes.
We thank Sally for sending us her Sender memories.