31 Days of Hell: The Entity (1982) - Reviewed

Remember the scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds where SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) sneakily appears at a restaurant alongside movie theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) and the soundtrack starts in on a menacing outburst of percussion and heavy electric guitar strumming as Shosanna recalls Landa as the man who murdered her family when she was still a child?
While meant to signify Shosanna’s horror upon the realization that her family’s killer is standing right behind her, my own thoughts drifted away to a far more deeply disturbing terror as I recognized where the dreaded music written by Charles Bernstein was in fact sampled from: the 1982 supernatural shocker The Entity

Loosely based on the nonfiction novel The Entity by Frank De Felitta (Audrey Rose) who adapted his own novel for the screen concerning what became known as the Doris Bither case, director Sidney J. Furie’s film concerns single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) who lives at home with her two young daughters and older son and quickly finds herself the victim of an unfathomable horror.  In the simplest way I can put it, The Entity depicts the terrified young woman being brutally gang raped by evil spirits…over and over and over again!  When psychiatry with Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) and medical examinations turn up dead ends, the bizarre and unstoppable sexual assaults continue in frequency and intensity.  Much like Poltergeist, parapsychologists are contacted but they can only do so much to help themselves.

Aside from a goofily over the top optical effects driven finale written only for the movie, The Entity is the kind of film that could never be made today.  People would be up in arms over this thing and only die hard horror buffs going through the back catalogs of 1980s thrillers are likely to come across it.  Treading a fine line between supernatural terror and unflattering exploitation, the idea of spectral rape is twisted enough but The Entity goes as far as utilizing prosthetic visual effects wizardry via Stan Winston (Aliens; Predator) to show Barbara Hershey’s naked body being groped and her breasts squeezed and licked by invisible forces.  It’s a truly unsettling effect that has lost none of it’s punch even if the age of the prosthesis begin to show. 

Part of what makes The Entity so deeply disturbing isn’t so much the repeated unprovoked unstoppable spectral rapes occurring seemingly without warning or relent, but who is unlucky enough to see them happen firsthand.  In arguably the film’s most horrific scene, Carla is preparing a birthday party for her young daughter replete with cake and ice cream.  After blowing out the candles in a moment of joy, Carla is lifted off her feet by…what?  Thrown onto the couch as her son tries to come to her rescue, the poor woman is brutally gang raped right in front of her sobbing and terrified children.  Looking at this scene now, I have to wonder just how you could direct a scene like this and what you tell the tear streaked child actors. 

Barbara Hershey, it goes without saying, attacks the role with utter fearlessness, conveying this woman’s terror, hurt and increasing anger towards an incomprehensible and unstoppable evil.  Where so many other actresses turned this sort of thing down, Hershey goes the full distance.  Special attention also goes to Ron Silver as the psychiatrist whose character is more or less designed to be an adversary for the audience to hate but he portrays the man with conviction and plausibility.  Mostly though, this is Hershey and the effects department’s film who together create an unfathomable horror not seen onscreen before or since. 

Though the film’s director would sadly go on to direct the infamous Cannon Films’ Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, this is clearly the high watermark in his career.  In a recent poll, Martin Scorsese cited The Entity as one of the scariest films of all time and I couldn’t agree more.  Watching this for the first time in broad daylight with the window blinds open, I was thoroughly terrified from beginning to end and at times my shock ranged from the horrors depicted onscreen to the notion that anyone would make a film about this subject at all.  One thing is for sure, until the day comes that someone outside of the 2003 Bollywood remake Bawa decides to remake this, there will never be a horror film quite like this again!

- Andrew Kotwicki