October 29, 2012

The Entity (1982)

"Supposedly based partially on a true story, a woman is tormented and sexually molested by an invisible demon."

We're on the vinegar strokes now with only two days left until Hallowe'en (although it's really three if you include the final daytime) so here's another supernatural '80s classic to get you in the mood.

Unlike most '80s movies which I've reviewed, I didn't see "The Entity" when it first came out. I'd heard about it and seen the advertisements for it in the newspaper, but it didn't really appeal to me. I think it must have been overshadowed by "Poltergeist" which had similar subject matter, and I made the wrong decision by only seeing the latter theatrically. I don't think I even saw "The Entity" for the first time until the mid-1990s when it was shown on TV.

I've made up for youthful lack of judgement now that I've seen "The Entity" half a dozen times since (including rewatching it only a couple of hours ago), but I have to say that I've never found it particularly scary. The trouble is that I enjoy "The Entity" far more as a means to ogle Barbara Hershey than for any reason. I'm sure I'm not alone in this as the exploitation aspects of "The Entity", and the manipulation of Barbara Hershey's fun bits with jets of air to resemble fingers, are likely to induce even more lecherousness from a modern audience.

Let's be honest here, most people who went to see "The Entity" at the cinema also only did so because they wanted to see Barbara Hershey naked. I can't blame them for it because she was very sexy back then. Although she's started to look as scary as Karen Black nowadays, there was something very attractive about Barbara Hershey in her prime which had very little to do with her otherwise average looks. Depending on the angle and the lighting, Barbara Hershey can appear 10 years younger or 10 years older in "The Entity" which makes her appeal a large range of the horny male population although not without some obvious confusion being caused for MILF fanatics.

Of course, Barbara Hershey used her gifts to full advantage in her role as Carla Moran with facial expressions which either make her look like a vulnerable little girl or an empowered warrior princess depending on the scene. I'm still not sure how much of Barbara Hershey's performance in "The Entity" is actually good acting rather than just the fact that I fancy her, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

I'm not going to write a thorough review of "The Entity" since it's over two hours long (some would say overlong), and I'm sure you are very familiar with it anyway. I will just say that I never realised until fairly recently that "The Entity" was directed by the same Sidney J. Furie who directed "Doctor Blood's Coffin" and "The Ipcress File" (1965). Neither of them are particularly great movies, but both have a cult following especially by me.

I'm sure you also know that "The Entity" was based on the book of the same name by Frank DeFelitta which, in turn, was based on the true story of Doris Bither. Obviously, quite a few dramatic liberties were taken in both the novel and the movie, but the story itself is certainly very scary if it's really true. If you want to know more, Google is your friend.

"The Entity" adds a few suggestions about incestuous thoughts and their manifestation into poltergeist activity which have no part of the "true story", but they work fairly well dramatically despite being a red herring. Just look at the way Carla touches her son as she's talking to him at the beginning of the film as it's all very icky. Is the boy's later broken arm a metaphorical warning against Oedipal masturbation? Probably not, but I'm sure somebody would think so.

90% of the male characters in "The Entity" aren't very likeable and they all represent "types". I would love to see someone write an article on the subject. Maybe I'll write one eventually since it's on my list of things to do along with one about the relationships in "Stir of Echoes". Suffice it to say that Ron Silver comes across as a bit creepy as the psychiatrist Phil Sneiderman, and Alex Rocco as Jerry Anderson (nothing to do with the late creator of "Thunderbirds") is very sketchy too.

Although I have no problem with recommending "The Entity" to all lovers of the supernatural and paranormal, it isn't without some massive flaws. Not only are the blue, lightning-like, electrical effects (as also used in "Prom Night II") quite dated, but the thumping guitar chords and drums whenever anything spooky happens gets annoying pretty fast. The last 20 minutes are way too far-fetched and do their best to ruin the atmosphere of the rest of the film plus there's no real resolution at the end. Listen carefully to the last words the entity itself speaks for a quick chuckle.

For an '80s "horror" movie, "The Entity" can seem far more like a '70s exploitation flick in places if you are in the right (or wrong) frame of mind. I'm not sure how polarising the experience will be if you watch it in company so be prepared to watch this on your own as a kind of guilty pleasure. If you want to have the willies put up you or just want to see Barbara Hershey get several invisible willies put up her, "The Entity" is the film for you.

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