Roger Christian provides a startling array of jack-in-a-box reality intrusions like the moment an ECT machine is switched on and an entire operating room erupts in an hallucinatory slow-motion explosion; or The Senders frenzied attempt to kill a flickering tv set that keeps taunting even when it is ripped from the wall and smashed to pieces, a sequence that culminates in the sensational ripping off of a patients head by a slap of the hand. Often the most unsettling effects are the incursions of atmosphere that eerily hover between real and unreal without noticeable division.
Most post-Elm Street sequels and imitators broach these reality/unreality themes with a thorough banality but The Sender has a story that whips right through a daring conceptual switchback involving telepathically mass-broadcast hallucinations, a twisted series of suppressed nightmares and one startling mid-film revelation regarding Shirley Knights mother. There is never a moment the plots ingeniously cruisy turns run dry. (Although the latter half of the film does divert away from matters concerning the psychic powers into ones concerning the mother. Nor does the film leave an audience clear exactly where she is coming from at the end). A genuinely fascinating film.
Despite such a strong debut, Roger Christians subsequent films have failed to maintain the promise he held here. His other genre films include the little seen childrens space opera Lorca and the Outlaw/2084 (1984), the historical biopic Nostradamus (1994), the notorious Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000), Prisoners of the Sun (2013) and Stranded (2013). Christians other non-genre films are the unexceptional crime thrillers Final Cut (1995), Underworld (1996), Masterminds (1997), American Daylight (2004) and Bandido (2004).
Kathryn Harrold maintains a business-like authority, while Paul Freeman of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) fame presents plausible sympathy as the villain of the piece. The Sender also the first leading performance of the unpronouncably-named Slovenian-born Zeljko Ivanek who has gone onto become a regular, usually playing lawyers, on shows such as Homicide: Life on the Streets, The Practice, 24, Heroes, Big Love, True Blood, Revolution and in films such as Dancer in the Dark (2000), Hannibal (2001) and Argo (2012).
The Sender should not be confused with The Sender (1997), an action film about alien visitors that also involves psychic powers.