Sidney J. Furie
Barbara Hershey - Carla Moran
Ron Silver - Phil Sneiderman
Margaret Blye - Cindy Nash
David Labiosa - Billy Moran
Jacqueline Brooks - Dr. Cooley
Raymond Singer - Joe Mehan
Richard Brestoff - Gene Kraft
Alex Rocco - Jerry Anderson
Genre - Horror/Drama/Supernatural
Running Time - 125 Minutes
i remember years ago that the late Anna Nicole Smith once claimed to the media that she had slept with a ghost that haunted her home, and that it was the best sexual experience of her life. The media scoffed at her "newsworthy item", but I always thought it could be possible. After all, people have seen and heard ghost activity for years. There are other planes of existence other than our own. Who is to say that she didn't experience this?
Then again, maybe she left her vibrator next to her in bed and believed this ghost story after a late-night viewing of 1982's THE ENTITY, starring Barbara Hershey being victimized by a horny poltergeist. Smith was pretty much off of her rocker before her passing, God rest her soul. But you wouldn't be off of your rocker if you took two hours to watch this ghost story since it's a pretty damn good one!
Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is a very stressed out woman. She's a single mother of three children. She works in the day and goes to school at night. The bills keep piling up on her. Her boyfriend is never around due to traveling on business. And to break the camel's back, she's also being raped by an unseen force during the night! And Carol Anne thought she had it tough...
Anyway, Carla is at the end of her rope and decides to seek psychological help for her ordeal. She explains to Dr. Phil Sneiderman (Ron Silver) her torment, but he dismisses the supernatural rape as Carla exorcising her repression of sexual desires due to bad things in her childhood. When the ghost continues to violate Carla, Dr. Sneiderman becomes a bit too obsessive and personal with Carla, skeptical of the whole "ghost" deal and trying to force her into a mental institution for "her own good".
Realizing that science won't help her, Carla encounters a team of para-psychological investigators who believe in Carla's story. They decide to use Carla as a guinea pig to prove that ghosts exist by trapping it when it appears. Is Carla really getting raped by an evil spirit? Is it all in her head? And why does busting make me feel good?
THE ENTITY is a film that was delayed a year in its release date, competing with the much more mainstream [and topically similar] POLTERGEIST in 1982 [1983 in the United States], causing it to do just okay at the box office. It's a shame because THE ENTITY is a good film dealing with the supernatural, even though it may turn off viewers looking for something fast paced and visually stimulating, which THE ENTITY is not. In fact, it's more of a drama than an actual horror film, although the idea of being physically violated by a ghost is a pretty scary one.
THE ENTITY was based on a 1978 novel by Frank De Felitta, who also wrote the screenplay. It's a good screenplay for the most part, really capturing the trauma and ordeal of the situation in a realistic [as much as possible] way instead of turning it into a gimmick to sell movie tickets. This works because the story is really grounded in reality through Carla's experience as a mother and a victim of something that's beyond her control. She's just a regular woman, with ordinary kids, living in a regular house that she's struggling to pay for. The only supernatural element in her life is her rapist, which she tries to treat by going to doctors who are grounded in the laws of science. Nothing is played for laughs here. The characters don't do ridiculous things that would make one roll their eyes towards their actions. It makes the rape scenes more effective because we're on Carla's side right from the beginning just because she's human and characterized as such. You never understand why anyone, let alone a ghost, would want to do this to this woman. All we know is that we want her to get away from her tormentor and go back to living as much as a normal life as possible. The rape scenes are treated as real and brutal events, making one feel sort of dirty and violated for sitting through each one of Carla's traumatizing experiences.
As a matter of fact, I think the strongest part of the screenplay is the treatment of the character portrayals in the film. While we sympathize with Carla since she's a victim of a horrible crime, we also feel for her children, who are confused by the whole ordeal. While Carla doesn't want them involved, they're caught up in the whole mess because their mother is. They're just as much victims as their mother. I also liked Carla's best friend, Cindy, who helps her out even when she's slightly skeptical of Carla's situation until the spirit destroys Cindy's house to scare Carla. She never acts like she knows better or tries to convince Carla that she must have misunderstood. She supports Carla through it all, which is pretty rare for a best friend character in a horror film. Even the ghost hunters aren't treated as the cliche greedy bastards using Carla for fame and fortune. They seem genuinely interested in helping Carla deal with her problem while trying to prove [to others and maybe to themselves as well] that paranormal activity does exist.
Unfortunately, the psychologists are a bit frustrating to watch, even though I understand that you do need that level of skepticism in this type of film. But these doctors just come off as pretentious and close-minded fools. Dr. Sneiderman starts off as an okay, caring psychologist who wants nothing but to help Carla. But along the way, the dude just gets creepier, more clingy, and too obsessive and overprotective than any doctor should be with his or her patients. This is made more annoying when said doctor attempts to discredit everything Carla believes in just to prove that he's right about the situation. Even after these doctors SEE the ghost with their own eyes, they still won't believe it! I understand why the characters were portrayed this way, but I just wanted to slap them all silly.
I also felt that the beginning of the film was stronger than the finale of the film. The last act of the film, while interesting, was a bit over-the-top with the faux-Moran house that was booby trapped to freeze the ghost to prove its existence. It just didn't feel realistic or natural compared to the rest of the story, coming off as just silly. Even the way they trap the ghost is a bit unbelievable. I do like that the filmmakers try to inject some horror/sci-fi elements to the dramatic narrative, but it should have been evened out instead of lumped to create a visually memorable conclusion. It's not a horrible ending at all. It just doesn't fit. Also, why was this ghost doing this to begin with? Nothing was explained about its motive. Maybe that was the point but I really wanted to know why Carla was specifically picked by this ghost for what he did to her.
I do think the rape sequences carry a powerful, profound message that somehow turned people away from this film at the time of its release. I think if viewers tried to look beneath the surface, they would see what the film was trying to say about rape. Like Carla, many rape victims are tormented by despicable people that are "ghosts" - not in the literal sense obviously. Most victims struggle to remember who violated them in this horrible manner, making many attackers seem transparent to their victims. Carla couldn't see her offender because he was literally a ghost, creating a sort of allegory for rape victims who can't seem to remember who attacked them. It's a frightening thought that makes the film very effective for those who understand the message.
There aren't many special effects in THE ENTITY. However the ones we do see are quite effective. The house shaking, the banging noise that becomes really annoying every time the ghost rapes Carla, the invisible hand prints on Carla's breasts when she's attacked, and the freezing of this evil spirit all worked on various levels. It's not a gory film but it's a brutal one.
The direction by Sidney J. Furie, who would unfortunately direct 1987's SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, is good. THE ENTITY isn't meant to be a stylish film with odd angles and quick editing. Furie takes his time with the story [it's a bit long but at least it's not a horrible film] and lets the situation resonate with not only his characters, but with the audience as well. Like I mentioned earlier, the subject matter isn't used as a gimmick. Furie lets it known that these attacks Carla is having are of supernatural origin and not due to psychological damage. He lets the viewer in on the strength and weaknesses of his characters, creating well-rounded people that create a debate between psychology and parapsychology and what's best for someone in this situation. The sound of the spirit's attack is used very effectively, making the audience cringe due to the sound, as well as knowing what the sound represents to Carla. It's the kind of direction that lets the screenplay do the talking, only stepping in to enhance on a strong story visually and sonically.
The acting is pretty damn great here. Barbara Hershey is amazing in this film. She takes the subject matter so seriously that you really believe she's being traumatized by a supernatural rapist, even if that sounds far-fetched on paper. She carries every emotion so well that I bought everything she offered to the role. I'm surprised she didn't get an Academy Award nomination for this role. She's that good here. Ron Silver also does well as Dr. Sneiderman. While the character was a bit flawed, Silver was still solid in the role and he was very believable. He had great chemistry with Hershey and I was expecting some sort of love connection between them for a moment, but it never materialized. David Labiosa was also quite good as Billy, Carla's son. I'm surprised his career didn't go anywhere after this. The other actors in the film were also great. I have no complaints about the casting of this film at all.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WEARING A CHASTITY BELT TO BED FROM NOW ON
- David Labiosa, who plays Barbara Hershey's son in THE ENTITY, has a darker pigmentation than Hershey. Looks like she lives by her last name - I guess she likes her chocolate dark, like her men.
- Carla was raped by an evil ghost. Oh c'mon! BEACHES was a good chick flick! So you cried at the end? Get over it, Casper!
- Carla got an orgasm by the ghost. Looks like Patrick Swayze is still DIRTY DANCING in the afterlife.
- Some skeptics thought the electrical discharge by the ghost was just a short circuit. If so, then Johnny 5 is a cruel prankster with an insatisable sex drive.
THE FINAL HOWL
While not the most pleasant-to-sit-through horror film out there, THE ENTITY does deserve attention for taking a laughable premise and turning it into something effectively dramatic and creepy. While the narrative loses steam as it moves towards the end, the performances [especially by Hershey] are top-notch and keep the film afloat. This film is not fun at all, but it definitely works in what it's trying to do. Definitely a captivating horror film that's rare to find these days. Check it out.
3 Howls Outta 4