The Entity (1982)

*. Poor Barbara Hershey. She could’ve been, should’ve been a legendary scream queen. Black Christmas, where Hershey played the last girl, came out before Halloween, and was a very good movie in its own right, but it didn’t have anything like the same impact. Then this movie came out the same year as Poltergeist, and is a much better movie, but it fell into eclipse too.
*. Sure, horror afficionados today will talk your ear off about how good Black Christmas and The Entity are, but at the time both pretty much disappeared, and Barbara Hershey went on to other things. But then, even though she’s very good in both movies, maybe she didn’t want to be a scream queen. I can’t say, but I did think it was nice to see her back in a somewhat similar role in Insidious nearly thirty years later.
*. The story of The Entity is based on “actual events” (Carla Moran was a woman named Doris Bither). Well, so was The Amityville Horror. What I find interesting, and something I mentioned in my notes on The Amityville Horror, is the way the DVDs for these movies are packaged with bonus features that treat the subject matter as absolutely authentic. In the case of The Entity it’s a featurette called “The Entity Files.” I’m not sure why this genre gets this kind of treatment. I mean, I like The Entity but I don’t believe in any of it for a second.
*. Billy does look a little old to be Carla’s son, not to mention a bit too tough to be threatened by a ghost. In fact, David Labiosa was thirteen years younger than Hershey, and the film does say that Cara had Billy when she was just a kid so . . . I guess it’s OK.
*. Sidney J. Furie wasn’t looking to re-invent the wheel. He really loves him some Dutch tilts. He uses lighting to cast ghoulish shadows on faces, even when you can’t explain them. And then there’s that banging/clanging score. Effective? Annoying? Cheap? All of the above? I like it.
*. The Rube Goldberg-MouseTrap device at the end is ridiculous. Up till then the movie was doing so well making a virtue out of its cheap budget by not showing the creature and getting by on familiar low-budget horror-film techniques. Then the campus Ghostbusters build an entire house in a gymnasium to capture the entity? How would that work? Why would the entity only attack Carla in an exact replica of her home? Why would a spiritual entity freeze when doused in liquid hydrogen?
*. Still, as sketchy as the science is you do have to give this some credit as one of the earlier science vs. the paranormal films. There had been ghost hunters before, but after this film and Poltergeist it would really become a genre.
*. It’s an oddly anticlimactic end. The giant exploding iceberg looks silly, and then Carla just drives away. But we are told the entity still haunts her. So?
*. I do like the conference room full of doctors puffing away on their cigars, cigarettes, and pipes. Was that the way things (still) were in hospitals in 1982? I don’t remember.
*. A feminist film? I would say so. Carla is a hard-working single mom threatened by sexual domestic violence. The men she looks to for help are useless. Dr. Sneiderman thinks she’s a hysteric and her lover Jerry is even worse: a lecherous older man who turns into a blubbering coward when the going gets tough. Meanwhile, Carla’s saviour is another woman: Dr. Cooley, who runs the parapsychology lab the medical old boys club want to shut down. Finally, Carla faces her antagonist at the end and, while admitting it may be able to rape her it will never “have” her. It’s a moment that could have been ridiculous, but Hershey sells it and makes it into something powerful.
*. Though it has its fans, I get the sense this is a movie that most people still don’t know. Personally, I think it’s a pleasant surprise. It’s not great, but if you haven’t seen it, it will probably beat the hell out of your expectations.

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