Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - THE SENDER and THE BABYSITTER on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Olive Films - THE SENDER and THE BABYSITTER on Blu-ray

THE SENDER (1982; Roger Christian)
This is one of those little-known gems that makes you want to keep digging through the masses of old movies from years ago to keep trying to find more like it. It's a unique animal, but the best I could do to describe it would be to call it an X-Men origin story meets A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Maybe even a tiny bit of Stephen King mixed in there. THE DEAD ZONE comes to mind. THE SENDER is all about a man (Ċ½eljko Ivanek) who attempts to drown himself and then ends up in the care of a state facility wherein he is taken under the wing of one of the doctors there (Kathryn Harrold). It takes a little time for her and the rest of the staff to figure this guy out. At first he's just seen as a suicidal amnesiac, but they slowly come rob realize that he is quite extraordinary (and rather scary). I like the movie a lot for the atmosphere that's created and this looming sense of dread that cloaks the whole thing. The movie also creates a constant questioning of reality that keeps the viewer uneasy throughout. Hopefully I'm not overselling it, but I truly think it is a remarkably effective horror thriller and one of the better efforts from thst year. Though I've have only been aware of for only the last 4-5 years, it's becer something of a favorite. I once read that Quentin Tarantino was quite fond of it as well. I believe he once called it his favorite horror film of 1982. Not only that, but there's a story about him creating an alternate cut of the movie with some footage from a version that was taped off of TV and that he would rent that version out at the video store where he used to work. Based on how much I like the available cut of this movie, I'd love to see that TV footage some day.
This movie fits nicely alongside things like FIRESTARTER, SCANNERS and THE FURY, even though it is much more quiet and reserved than those films. Kathryn Harrold is a highlight here and I am a devoted fan of hers. Look for her in MODERN ROMANCE and INTO THE NIGHT if you get the chance. THE SENDER also features actor Paul Freeman, who is best known as "Belloq" from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Just as an aside, I can't believe this film was made by the same guy that did BATTLEFIELD EARTH.


THE BABYSITTER (1995; Guy Ferland)
In the past few years, I've started revisiting a lot of films from the 1990s with a nostalgic eye and it's been oddly comforting. Not only am I far enough removed from that decade now for it to be its own distinct thing (like the 80s), but I've actually come to miss a lot of the actors that were popular during that time.  I'm ever fascinated (and saddened) by the way that Hollywood and the public at large cycles through actors and how their popularity wanes often for no reason at all. Just the mere idea that people and the media can be totally obsessed with a person in a really intense way for a decent amount of time and then completely forget about them has always been disheartening. 
The 1990s were a particularly potent time for me because I was working in video stores for the major part of that decade. This meant that all of the stars of that period were even more amplified for me because I was at least aware of pretty much every movie that they did. Alicia Silverstone was one of those "It Girl" actors of the time that I ended up getting a little sick of. It might have had something to do with the kinds of characters she played and her go-to smirky look that was a staple of her acting arsenal. There just seemed to be an arrogance of "yeah I'm the hottest gal around" that came through that kind of turned me off. This was of course amplified by my having to see her face on the many different movies she made during the 90s via all the VHS tapes that I often had to return to our rental shelves at the video store. So needless to say, I grew tired of her and never really gave her a fair shake as an actor. I wasn't even a fan of CLUELESS back then. But twenty years or so is a long time and the lens of retrospect can really make a difference in one's viewpoint. As I mentioned, the 90s are now a time I recall with a lot more fondness regardless of the actual quality of a lot of the movies that came out back then. The 90s has it tougher than the 80s though in that the 80s has a much more distinct flavor of music fashion and other general aesthetics that create a deeper cache of entertainment value, even in the bad movies. The 90s has it's own tunes and styles of course, but they are a bit more bland in my mind so what's left to stand out is the actors. 
Another thing that was quite popular in the 1990s was the thriller genre. This probably stemmed from the success of movies like BASIC INSTINCT in the early part of the decade and perhaps even FATAL ATTRACTION in the late 80s. Again, my awareness of 90s thrillers was most certainly magnified by the video store environment I was working in, because it certainly felt like we were getting new thrillers in constantly. I remember the movie FEAR (with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon) was a really big renter for us for some reason. Another big thing that spawned off of that was the rise in popularity of "erotic thrillers". Shannon Tweed made many of these and I recall they were also quite popular renters at my video store. So THE  BABYSITTER falls into that category really. The movie plays out as a series of fantasies (usually involving Alicia Silverstone) had by the various characters. While it isn't the most original thing I have ever seen, I was absolutely drawn in and entertained by the cast and the movie's blurring of the lines between what was real and what wasn't. Silverstone was fine, but there was a lot more going on here. The oft-underused Nicky Katt played a great unstable assh*le and Jeremy London (MALLRATS) an interesting straight ahead boyfriend type who finds himself in a messed up situation. Katt has always been able to get right to the core of a certain kind of scary dickhead that really hits close to home for me. There were a few guys in my high school class that harassed me from time to time and Katt seems to have been channeling  their essence in this movie and DAZED AND CONFUSED. Katt is a great actor though and I have the utmost respect for him. I wish he was used more. His appearances in movies have dropped off a bit in the last 5 years and that is quite unfortunate. Also not to be underrated is the late, great J.T. Walsh who also plays a pivotal role in the movie.

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