Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #211
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: February 4, 1983
Country: United States
Box Office: $13,277,558
Running Time: 125 minutes
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Producer: Harold Schneider
Screenplay: Frank De Felitta
Based on a Novel by: Frank De Felitta
Special Effects: Martin Bresin, Joe Digaetano, Joe Lombardi, Steve Lombardi, Gary Monak, Robert G. Willard
Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum
Score: Charles Bernstein
Editing: Frank J. Urioste
Studio: American Cinema Productions
Distributors: 20th Century Fox, Anchor Bay Productions (DVD)
Stars: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, Alex Rocco, David Labiosa, George Coe, Margaret Blye, Jacqueline Brookes, Richard Brestoff, Michael Alldredge, Raymond Singer, Allan Rich, Natasha Ryan, Melanie Gaffin, Sully Boyar, Tom Stern, Curt Lowens, Paula Victor, Lee Wilkof
Suggested Audio Candy
Charles Bernstein “Relentless Attack”
“Beyond physical reality, beyond ecstasy and pain, to a dark netherworld of psycho-sexual truth”
I still recall the first time my eyes bulged to take in The Entity sleeve writhing around naked on my local video store shelf. My first consideration was that it appeared borderline pornography and it took some convincing before my father finally agreed to end my incessant harping and rent the damned thing. In truth, arousal couldn’t be further from the primary response provoked upon viewing and, needless to say, I didn’t grease one up directly after the experience either.
Its lead Barbara Hershey has matured like a fine Chardonnay. Nowadays she is regarded as MILF but back then it was merely ILF. Her recent return to our screens via James Wan’s Insidious sequence offers further proof that Ms Hershey has a bona-fide infatuation with hauntings but it is a wonder she can contemplate still making these features after the cruel punishment dished out by her unseen and unsolicited assailant here.
The obstinate hellion in question chooses to remain ambiguous and the film benefits from this decision as we are kept as much in the dark as hapless Carla Moran. Ornaments are broken, walls rattled and doors flung shut, all set to Charles Bernstein’s incessant pulsating soundtrack with acts as precursor to any inbound attacks but, when the incubus decides to get a little more mittens-on, it remains shrouded in vagueness. We witness its presence being felt as it callously thumbs her breasts and applies otherworldly pressure to her as it has its way.
On a metaphorical level The Entity showcases the psychological trauma of molestation by reminding us that these assailants are every bit as shadowy as the sadistic anomaly depicted here. On this level, Sidney J. Furie’s film will resonate strongly for some and, even now, I would imagine there are some who would find it all a little too topical and mean-spirited to justify making a repeat pilgrimage. However, as a ghost story it offers an interesting and solemn parallel to the likes of Poltergeist which was also doing the rounds about the same time and reveling in the fantastical. Based on a novel by Frank De Felitta who also penned Audrey Rose, the events depicted are loosely based around a real-life case study from 1976 which makes it all the more frightening.
Hershey’s performance is lion-hearted in the extreme. We feel infinite empathy for her character as she portrays a hard-working single parent of three who works unsociable hours and spends the majority of her time pining for her never-present lover while he is away on seemingly endless business trips. She doesn’t deserve the abuse and, while I would never suggest anyone would, her brave turn elicits the strongest response possible and we will her on to shake the hoodoo. Alex Rocco also impresses as boyfriend Jerry, genuinely and increasingly perplexed by events, he remains her rock even though he himself cannot wrap his head around what is causing her angst. Meanwhile, Furie decided against inclusion of a dream sequence whereby Carla is forced into incestuous thoughts about her oldest son as it was deemed far too controversial and would’ve doubtless caused turbulence.
Although there is no rhyme or reason to the increasingly violent episodes, we are offered insight into her past and it turns out that her abusive father’s foul actions make it very hard for her to forge intimate relationships with the other sex. Furie’s film offers this as a potential cause for the incubus tagging along and targeting her personally although it chooses to remain tight-lipped and this benefits the experience infinitely. Whatever sick twisted hell fuck it is that performs these vile acts, the less known of the better, and it makes it all the more discombobulating when he returns for his evil oats.
Where The Entity falters slightly is the final act when she enlists the help of a group of skeptical psychologists and puts herself in their safekeeping while they attempt to capture the ghoul on record, more to discredit one another than to actually help poor Carla. By the time they fashion a mock-up of Carla’s home in their laboratory with the purpose of snagging the spirit in liquid helium it has all began to lose its way a little. Moreover, their flat refusal to believe something which is clearly staring them in their face shows psychoanalysts in a fairly dour light. It is the instances when Carla returns home and that thunderous score reconvenes that chill the blood and the hokey sci-fi element proves superfluous despite a solid performance from the late Ron Silver as head shrink Dr. Sneiderman.
The Entity is not a few things. It is not, and I reiterate, NOT a date movie. It is also not a reason to keep your hand-lotion on standby. It most definitely isn’t a film for anyone still attempting to deal with their own personal demons with regards to the abominable atrocities they may have faced. What it is however, is a movie which haunts me still to this day that houses more tension than a fiddler’s elbow. It is also a perfect exemplar of why less is so often a whole lot more.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Dread Factor: 4/5
For the Dread-Heads: Forget the sheen being taken off a tad during the over-analytical closing act and instead listen out for that droning audio and check all closets and crawlspaces. The really scary fact about The Entity is that your searches will yield no results and it is here that Furie’s film still manages to effortlessly cause every hair on the back of your neck to stand to attention.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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