Review: The Entity
Blu-ray: The Entity (1982)
Single mother of three Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is violently raped in her home by an invisible assailant. After seeking help from a Psychiatrist, who believes these attacks to be a symptom of mental illness, Carla resorts to getting help from a team of parapsychologists.
Based on the book by Frank De Felitta, who based that on the horrific story of Doris Bither, The Entity is a rather unusual horror film. I remember feeling quite horrified watching it with my parents on VHS back in the day as at that point (a LONG time before CGI effects) Carla’s nudity and rape seemed nothing more than vague titillation and I was embarrassed. However, as an adult one can view this film on many levels, and it’s only the last ten minutes or so that the ‘we’d better wind this shit up, let’s use liquid nitrogen!’ ending, smudges what could have been a quite serious (and entertaining) look at a woman in a horror film who was different from most other ‘Last Girls’.
There are a multitude of ‘Split Diopter’ shots (where the background is just as in focus and close as the foreground), which give a very disjointedly odd look, perhaps hinting at the ghost world and human world being on the same plane? The sound design is very effective also and modern filmmakers (James Wan) could learn a lot from making the music jumpy right as the jump happens rather that bang on for ages beforehand.
What raises this above contemporary horror is the acting. Hersey is such a good actor and gives credence to a woman who admits she was sexually abused by her father, who got pregnant at 16 then proceeds to have further children while hinting at ‘free love’ and drug use. She is the totem ‘slut’ that is going to get it for being a whore as in all slashers, but when confronted by Ron Silver’s Dr Sneiderman (who always reminds me of Al Pacino), is more than willing to undergo treatment for mental illness, because she herself finds it unbelievable that some unknown invisible entity is raping and beating her.
Of course the film can’t be out and out – ‘we don’t believe her because she’s a mad woman’ its also got to be entertaining so includes some horror tropes such as Carla nearly getting killed when her car mysteriously goes out of control in traffic, electricity zapping about like lightening stunning people and the Entity forming as.. umm.. green sludge?
But the underlying message is and remains throughout the whole film, a strong one. That this woman who is viscously attacked is in fact just mad, that her lifestyle has led her to become a victim of her own mental illness, in short, no one believes her, until one evening she’s raped in front of her children.
The film shifts a gear after this, and it becomes a battle for her life. When Carla happens to meets 2 initially skeptical parapsychologists, and they witness several paranormal events they agree to help her. Reality crashes in again and we see a group of Psychaitrists, mostly men, underline the ‘mad bitch’ mantra resulting in Dr. Sneiderman confronting Carla, trying to convince her that the manifestation is in her mind. This is a film that totally underlines the power of men, professional medical men who refuse to listen, who blame the woman. Again a horror staple – If she was a virgin would she be attacked and raped? Hummm….
The infamous rape scene occurs when her boyfriend Jerry (Alex Rocco) visits and despite its ropey full body cast replacement effects, which back when this film was released were truly fantastic, it still packs a huge emotional punch, as Jerry stands helpless not comprehending what’s happening and Carla whispering ‘help me’, well it’s horrific, and on my recent re-watch I found it extremely hard to stomach and found it immensely disturbing and effective.
The actual end of the film is a typical crowd pleasing (liquid nitrogen) Hollywood ending and a little confusing, however, huge kudos for not giving us a HAPPY ending. A very thought provoking film that has definitely stood the test of time, truly disturbing and dare I say? A classic of 80s horror cinema.
The Entity will be available to buy from 15th May, 2017.