The Best 1980s Sci-Fi Horror Thriller You’ve Never Seen Might Be Totally Forgotten, Quentin Tarantino Calls It One Of His Favorites

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

Quentin Tarantino has covered many genres throughout his filmmaking career, but he’s never tackled a horror film. That doesn’t mean he’s not a fan, however. In fact, the Kill Bill director claims the 1982 horror thriller The Sender is his favorite.

A Tarantino Favorite

Tarantino shared that The Sender was his favorite horror film while joining Edgar Wright, the writer and director of Hot Fuzz, for a commentary special for the action comedy’s DVD release. During the special feature, the pair talked little about Hot Fuzz, instead discussing the most influential movies throughout their careers. They covered over 190 different features, most of which you’ve probably never heard of, including this forgotten sci-fi horror thriller.

British Horror

The Sender is a 1982 British psychological horror thriller directed by Roger Christian and written by Thomas Baum. The film is a tantalizing exploration of trauma, telepathy, and the blurred lines between reality and hallucination. The script is brought to life by a talented cast of actors you’ve probably seen before, including Kathryn Harrold (Raw Deal), Željko Ivanek (Seven Psychopaths), Shirley Knight (As Good As It Gets), and Paul Freeman (Hot Fuzz). 

Breaks The Boundaries Of Reality

The Sender unfolds with the discovery of a young man (Ivanek), disoriented and amnesiac, attempting to drown himself on the shore of a lake. Labeled as “John Doe #83,” he is admitted to a mental hospital under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Gail Farmer (Harrold). As John’s peculiar behaviors surface, including the projection of his dreams onto others, Dr. Farmer delves deeper into his psyche, uncovering a web of suppressed memories and psychic abilities.

Amidst visions of a haunting maternal figure and the relentless pursuit of his own demise, John’s telepathic powers spiral out of control. Dr. Farmer’s attempts to understand and aid him are met with skepticism from her colleagues, culminating in a risky electroshock therapy session. However, as the truth of John’s past begins to surface, the boundaries between reality and illusion blur, leading audiences to a climactic showdown at the end of The Sender.

Explores The Theme Of Trauma

At its core, The Sender grapples with the theme of trauma and its lingering effects on the human psyche, as shown through John’s journey. Baum loosely based the screenplay on his own upbringing, inspired by his experience growing up with an agoraphobic and overly protective mother. 

The concept of telepathy, which appears as a main theme in The Sender, is probably not based on real-life experiences. Using telepathy, John projects his dreams onto other characters in the film, creating a metaphor for the interconnectedness of human consciousness and showcasing the blurred lines between the self and the other. 

Hard To Find, But Possible

Because the film covers such deep abstract concepts, director Roger Christain decided to bring a distinct visual style to The Sender, weaving together elements of surrealism and psychological tension to create the foreboding atmosphere of lingering dread. Tarantino is certainly not the only audience member who remained on the edge of their seat while watching the film flick between terrifying images of John’s hallucinations to the stark, clinical interiors of the mental hospital.

Now, The Sender is a forgotten thriller of days long past. But thanks to Quentin Tarantino, as well as horror auteur Wes Craven (writer/director of Nightmare on Elm Street), more cinephiles are discovering this film. It’s hard to find this movie on streaming, but you can rent it on AppleTV, Google Play, Amazon, or YouTube.