By 1982, the year when Roger Christian’s The Sender was released, telekinesis had already made its mark in genre cinema thanks to Scanners, The Fury, Carrie, and Patrick. And more would follow with the likes of Cameron’s Closet and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. It would allow for an inspired mix of science fiction tropes and then burgeoning practical gore effects, a match that clearly attracted quite a few different filmmakers, including future Battlefield Earth director, Roger Christian, with The Sender.
Christian’s film distances itself from the likes of Scanners and The Fury because its central character isn’t so much concerned with weaponizing his ‘gift’ as he is just sort of dealing with it. He attempts suicide in the early moments of the film, only to end up at a mental institution. It’s there that we find out he is capable – not only of making things levitate and do what he wills them to – but to force his dreams on to others. Putting The Sender ahead of 80s dream themed cinema like A Nightmare On Elm St and Dreamscape. The dreams tend to involve crawling creatures and jump scares but are effective and there is little reliance on the out-and-out gore chic of the time, though there is some inspired use of shattered glass nonetheless.
I first heard of The Sender on the commentary track for Hot Fuzz which features Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino just talking about movies casually for 2+ hours (it’s a seriously exhausting, wonderful listen) and Tarantino mentions it and has referred to it as his favorite horror film of 1982, even going so far as to recut it via its theatrical and TV versions. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to claim it to be the best horror film of 1982 – The Thing, Tenebre, and Alone In the Dark came out that year too – but it is hugely underrated and time has unfortunately not been kind to it on home video. Luckily, Olive Films have brought it back out and in a new Blu-ray edition. Time to have that telekinesis horror marathon you’ve always put off.
Olive have put out The Sender on Blu-ray for the first time – from what I can tell – and it looks solid. It was released on DVD a few years back through Legend Films who took over a bunch of random Paramount catalog titles and put them out on disc bare bones and with not so great transfers. This is definitely a step up from that with solid colors and dark blacks throughout. Film grain is apparent and inherent for the duration, there is some minimal damage and dirt that pops up but nothing overly problematic. This is honestly better than I ever expected to see The Sender look and it follows Olive’s track record of putting out quality scans of marginalized titles without investing into restoration. And, it works. Audio is DTS HD MA 2.0 and it gets the job done well, with everything remaining balanced and no pops or distortion present. There are no special features, as per usual with Olive.
The Sender is an often overlooked entry into telekinesis genre cinema and 80s horror in general. It is finally available on home video in a quality presentation that should please fans and welcome newcomers. The disc may be bare bones, but the transfer makes up for it and I’m happy to have this one at home. Recommended.