Placing directorial confidence in a flawed screenplay, the promising SENSATION veers toward the vicinity of Hitchcock Country before arriving squarely in the heart of Made-for-Cable Land. It's not that the film was initially produced for that B-movie spawning-ground of the 1990s, but
that it has left its arrhythmic heart beating there.
Confiding in his main squeeze, Paula (Claire Stansfield), about some grant-getting experimentation, campus Svengali Dr. Ian Burton (Eric Roberts) is also deliberately feeding half-truths to hired student Lila (Kari Wuhrer) about his confidential sensory project. As Lila demonstrates a burgeoning
psychic skill, Dr. Burton ups the ante on his "visionary" research: the reception of memories transmitted from inanimate objects. Eventually, guinea pig Lila, who's smitten with her professor, realizes her test items belong to dead coed Carrie Reiner.
While spurning the advances of nerdish Denny Sando (Kieran Mulroney), moonstruck Lila falls under the spell of scientific genius Burton, who hopes Lila will uncover the identity of his late lover Carrie's real murderer. When Lila ignores the advice of best buddy Maryann (Tracey Needham) and moves
into Carrie's pad, Detective Pantella (Ron Perlman) suggests that her faith in the good doctor Burton is misplaced at best.
Misinterpreting her psychic clues at times, Lila vacillates between trusting the scientist-stud she fancies and snooping for evidence linking him to a series of coed-killings. Muddying the stream of Lila's vibrations are obsequious Peeping Tom landlord Mitch Snyder (Paul LeMat) and campus masher
Earl Stauber (Ed Begley Jr.), whose advances confuse Lila's psychological well-being, already undermined by an unhealthy identification with the dead woman.
After Maryann is mistakenly iced while wearing Lila's coat, Burton looks increasingly guilty. Later, when Detective Pantella gets knocked out while investigating Burton, the real coed-terminator shows her jealous face; it's Paula who'll do anything to remove any obstacle to her lover's affection.
After nearly being choked to death, Lila breaks free and shoots her stressed-out assailant; Burton and his prized psychic subject Lila go their separate ways.
Weakened by an unsatisfying conclusion (after knocking herself out to clear her professorial hunk, Lila doesn't wind up with the dreamboat), SENSATION sporadically mesmerizes viewers with its unusual approach to sleuthing. Too often, however, the screenwriter wastes the potential of this concept
of interpreting the sensations bounced off the accessories of a murder victim. With sexy Roberts and likeable albeit histrionically lightweight Wuhrer acting out a twisted salute to LAURA, the film achieves a modicum of woozy romanticism.
In technical terms, the director sweeps viewers along on a wave of scary vibrations only to crash them down in the rubble of red herrings and insufficiently motivated suspects. Still, with visual flair to burn, SENSATION delivers its suspense-quotient with enough brio to stop crimesolvers from
ever reaching a restless squirm-state. That cinematic facility must compensate for several downers, such as Perlman's clinched intransigence as the copper, Wuhrer's resemblance to an overripe Nancy Drew as she sifts through her murderous impressions, and that lazy thriller trademark: the sacrifice
of the heroine's best friend.
As a bonus, regular viewers of erotic thrillers will remain alert even when the suspense flickers due to the movie's kinky boudoir flashbacks and hints of perversion throughout. While not first-rate, SENSATION is a sex-charged killer-diller that gives the immoral majority plenty of kicks while
shortchanging the Agatha Christie loyalists who'll wish that more industry had been applied to the vibrational investigation of Carrie Reiner's slaying.(Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: Placing directorial confidence in a flawed screenplay, the promising SENSATION veers toward the vicinity of Hitchcock Country before arriving squarely in the heart of Made-for-Cable Land. It's not that the film was initially produced for that B-movie spawn… (more)