As far as ‘memory movies’ go this one is up there with the best of them. The memory I’m about to convey is uber-indelible, and still affects me to this day. From time to time I still have dreams about being in a room with an invisible force that either grabs me and/or tries to possess me. I had one of those dreams just last week. I was already familiar with The Entity before it aired, probably from seeing the TV spots, and the night I saw it was out of sheer curiosity. It happened in the living room, where I set the mood for watching TV at night. Everyone in the house was fast asleep, all the lights went off, and I huddled on the couch with an afghan over me. I think it came on late, like around eleven o’clock, by the time it was over I quickly turned on the light next to me, and went to the kitchen to get something to drink, flipping on the light there too. The movie scared me so badly I didn’t want to go to sleep just yet. Let’s put it this way I needed a palette cleanser right quick, so I watched the Men At Work concert that was on right after. I think it was live too. After that I was okay, but back then when I was a kid I still had a healthy fear of the dark and that night The Entity made it worse. I turned on both lights in my bedroom as I got ready for bed, which I generally didn’t do. Let’s see, the movie hit theaters in February of 1983 which would have made me fourteen. When exactly I saw it on cable, I can’t say. Guessing, maybe, ’84 or ’85? The only other movie that scared me this bad was The Exorcist (1973) and to this day both still manage to dredge up remnants of unease when I put them on, which is all that frequently.
Contrary to what you may believe not all the best ghost movies were necessarily made back in the day. 1981 is considered back in the day now, yes, of course, but I mean waaaaay back in the day. I’m talking The Uninvited (1944) and The Haunting (1963), moving down through the time line you’ll have to add The Legend Of Hell House (1973) and The Changeling (1980) to the list. I also found the mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s Rose Red (1999) to be worthy too, as well a little seen spooker called, The Skeptic (2009). I’m also tempted to add the British mini-series, The Green Man (1990). Good Lord, how could I forget to add Poltergeist (1982)?! And, yes, I’m going to add Amityville III (1983) to this list too, because that one creeped me out when I first saw it too. There are probably some others, but I’ll leave it there. What the first four have in common is they don’t rely on any amount of gore of elaborate FX to scare you. What I’ve always found the most frightening about the best ghost movies is the unexplained phenomena (i.e. foul smells, disembodied voices, poltergeist activity, half seen shadows, etc) they mainly focus on. That’s what scares me the most. I will say, though, Poltergeist and Amityville III are the exception for me, both of those flicks come with copious amounts of special effects, yet they still manage to creep me out. Except for a few moments of effects where we do get to see an “entity” materialize and the “light show” it puts on, The Entity terrifies by showing you what an invisible, supernatural force can do without even showing itself, and, fuckin’ hell, that’s frightening beyond belief! You don’t believe me, watch the movie!
Before I start, if you’re a rape and/or sexual abuse survivor, you might want to exit this review right here, because simply put this movie is about a woman who gets repeatedly raped by an unseen entity. Based on a novel by the late Frank DeFelitta, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director, Sidney J. Furie, this is one of only two movies I ever seen made about an incubus. There’s another movie in existence called, The Incubus (1981), that I reviewed on my For-The-Hell-Of-It Reviews site which is more in the vein of a creature feature. The Entity is never referred to as an incubus, but that’s what it is, and you might consider this movie more of a “realistic take” on the incubus myth, made all the more frightening when it’s revealed just before the end credits it’s based on a real life case.
Retrospectives from Fangoria #243 (May 2005) and Rue Morgue #124 (July 2012). Click photos to enlarge and read.
As I’ve stated there are many frightening things about this flick, one more I’d like to mention is the fact there’s never any “origin” given to the entity, why it chose mother-of-three Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey), that ambiguity works for the movie. It says that supernatural shit can just randomly hit you like a car accident, and right in the beginning, after Carla’s come home from a long day, kissing her two girls, Julie (Natasha Ryan) and Kim (Melanie Gaffin), good night, and having a short talk with her oldest, Billy (David Labiosa), she’s attacked out of the blue in her bedroom. Smelling something foul, she’s struck across the face by an unseen presence—enough to bloody her lip—thrown down on the bed, a pillow shoved over her face, and raped. She’s raped a total of five times throughout the movie.
The movie attacks the phenomena first from a psychiatric point of view before coming at it from a parapsychological one. For a while the “entity” is clever and only “presents itself” to Carla, forcing her to, at least, consider the possibility she may be going crazy. Her son, Billy, doesn’t even know what to make of it, and isn’t even sure why they all ran from the house that first night she was raped. She tells her best friend, Cindy (Margaret Blye), but she insists she see a psychiatrist at the walk-in clinic at the local university not believing her rapist just “vanished.” The late Ron Silver now comes into the picture as psychiatrist, Dr. Sneiderman.
We also get a skull session scene with all the psychiatrists after they’ve interviewed Moran, getting to see what they think is possibly wrong with her, but it’s not until the “entity” fucks up and lets others see what’s really happening that gets Carla feeling some sense of vindication after she tries to get everyone to now believe what’s happening to her is real! The first sign of this is when Carla is shoved down on the couch and raped in front of her kids. Billy can’t get to her, something tosses him back, and when he really puts some muscle into it, arcs of electricity shoot into his fingers and he’s flung back one final time resulting in a broken arm (Labiosa actually did break his arm in that scene too). Again, however, Sneiderman feels Billy is just helping his mother with her sickness, but the movie shifts into full paranormal mode when Carla is staying at Cindy’s place, waiting for her and her husband to come back when the “entity’ strikes again. But it’s not in rape mode this time, it simply trashes the apartment, and when Cindy and George (Michael Alldredge ) rush back in to see what the hell happened, they actually witness the tail end of this “supernatural tantrum.” Finally, witnesses!!
Carla and Cindy’s hunt for books about the paranormal at the local book store brings a fortuitous encounter with two parapsychologists, Joe Mehan (Raymond Singer) and Gene Kraft (Richard Brestoff), who get involved. This is where the film shifts a little into minor FX mode as the entity decides to show itself in the form of an electrical light show, balls of shooting light, and then a full-on manifestation (an ectoplasmic, green glowing thing is the best way I can explain that) when the head of the team, Dr. Elizabeth Cooley (Jacqueline Brookes), demands it show itself.
Carla has a little seen boyfriend named, Jerry (the late Alex Rocco), who best as I can figure is a traveling salesman-type who spends a lot of his time on the road, but he’s back and back for good. That is until one night when they plan to have sex and the entity decides to rape her again, and Jerry gets to see what’s been plaguing her that she couldn’t quite bring herself to tell him about. Freaked out, he eventually bails on the relationship. The final act veers into the science fiction realm only in so far as what the parapsychologists have in mind for trapping the entity. They create a mock-up of her home in the university’s gymnasium and construct a system above it that will fire liquid helium at the entity in hopes of freezing it. As you can guess this whole experiment goes belly-up when they don’t anticipate the entity has the ability to take control of their system and usd it against them, mainly Carla as it tries to kill her with liquid helium, but her defiant speech to the force proclaiming it can do whatever it wants to her, but will never truly have her, angers it to the point where it explodes the canisters trapping itself in this iceberg. Only a temporary setback, for it quickly escapes in an explosion of ice!
The final shot of the film is Carla back home at an indeterminate point in time, her house is empty, and she’s moving, but wants to have one final look around. The entity gets in the last word, literally, as we hear it speak in a disembodied voice, “Welcome home, cunt.” The front door shuts, but confidant now she has the power in this twisted affair, she calmly walks over and opens it, eager to join her kids and best friend outside as they pack the family’s belongings in the car. The crawl at the end that reveals the movie you just saw was based on a real-life case also tells us the Morans moved to Texas.
The film does come with some minor practical effects, courtesy of the late FX artist Stan Winston. During two of the rapes we see her tits being manipulated by unseen hands (a fake chest piece), and a full-on, fake, naked body of Hershey on the bed being man-handled to make it look like an invisible force is affecting her physically. We also get more fake boob manipulation. If you look close during a couple of shots you can tell the only thing real in that scene is Hershey’s head and her long hair is covering the seam on her neck that would obviously show the borderline of the prosthetic body connected to her.
Before I end this review I must mention the score, which is as frightening as the movie itself thanks to composer, Charles Bernstein. There’s a slight touch of The Exorcist in it, but wholly original. This movie proves given the right talent and focus a horror movie can frighten without the use of any gore, or CGI whatsoever. The Haunting (1999) remake would be a good example of how not to make a haunted house flick. Yeah, that’s right, I went out of my way to throw some shade on that damn, disappointing movie. I regret nothing.
Now defunct Anchor Bay was the first company to put out The Entity on DVD back in 2005. Lionsgate now owns the company, and “Anchor Bay” released it on blu-ray back in 2012. That blu and the DVD are still in print! Australia’s Umbrella Entertainment released their blu earlier this month, and you can get this version on their website or on Amazon. (Note: Amazon says it’s Region B, which technically it is, but it will play on standard U.S. blu-ray players, thus making it “unofficially” region free).
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 English Dolby Digital—English SDH subs only
I don’t own the U.S. blu, or the Eureka U.K. blu, so comparisons with them cannot be made, regardless I found Umbrella’s transfer to be excellent in clarity and color, clearly an upgrade on any of the existing DVDs.
Extras included . . .
- Finding a Voice for The Entity with Composer Charles Bernstein (33:15)
- Robert McNaughton Remembers The Entity (2:55)
- Posters & Still Gallery (17 photos)
Note: Not ported over from Anchor Bay’s 2005 DVD was the screenplay (DVD-ROM) and The Entity Files (27:27), an interview with Barry Taft, one of the parapsychologists who investigated the case. These two extras only appeared on the 2005 DVD, the 2012 blu-ray and re-release of the DVD were barebones.
If you want to know even more about the actual case read this 2009 interview with one of Doris Bither’s (the woman’s real name) sons.