The Entity (1981)

MARCH 14, 2010


For years I had heard of The Entity as “the movie where she gets raped by a ghost”, but I always assumed that this was sort of a spoiler; an event that the film built toward (not unlike describing It’s A Wonderful Life as being about a guy who sees what life would be like without him). So I was surprised to see it happen pretty much in the first 10 minutes of the movie. “OK, but NOW what?” I asked the TV. The TV ignored me and kept on playing the movie, but I soon had my answer: not much.

Granted, the film is based on allegedly true events, so I can’t knock it for being a bit inert, but I CAN knock it for being over two hours long when it repeats a lot of stuff. Two scenes of the ghost following her to her friend’s house, at least four of her talking to Ron Silver (who believes she is just crazy), several more rapes, etc. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but I felt like it sort of started at one level and never really went higher. I think a touch more development prior to the first haunting, and then some editing (really, just remove any 20 minute chunk in the middle of the film) could have resulted in an even better film.

But it’s still a pretty good one. True or not, the ordeal is pretty terrifying, elevating it above the usual haunted house type movie. The first time we see Barbara Hershey’s body being poked and prodded by unseen hands (a Stan Winston effect, if I’m understanding the credits correctly) is not only a terrific effect in the technical sense, but also a creepy one. The tricky subject matter keeps the film from having any real sense of humor (though I must admit I laughed when Silver asked if the ghost ejaculated, partially because of his deadpan expression, and partly because I think the idea of ghost jizz is pretty funny), so even when the story occasionally dips into Poltergeist territory, the tone is unlike it or any other haunting/ghost film I can recall.

And as with Emily Rose or (to a lesser extent) Haunting in Connecticut, I liked that they provided enough plausible “evidence” for me to consider that Hershey maybe was just crazy. Silver has a reasonable explanation for pretty much everything, and it’s a concrete fact that her character suffers some serious sexual hang-ups (molested by her stepfather, impregnated as a teenager by a man twice her age, etc), so his theories certainly hold water, at least for a while (the scene in her friend’s apartment sort of solidifies the “it’s a ghost” idea once and for all).

The ending was a bit of a letdown though. Again, the film never really builds tension or suspense, but there is at least an attempt at a climax when Hershey is placed in a replica of her house, albeit one equipped with liquid helium tanks that will hopefully freeze the ghost while she remains safely inside a contained area (so it hinges on the ghost being kind of gullible, I guess). But the “attack” is fairly brief, and Silver never really has that “Oh shit, she was RIGHT!” moment that I think we deserve after listening to him argue with our heroine for the entire movie.

Sidney J. Furie directed the film. You may know him from the Iron Eagle films and a couple of late period Dolph Lundgren films. Entity is one of his rare dips in horror (he’s also billed as an uncredited director of Devil Doll), which is a shame as I would have liked to have seen one where he was allowed to have a little more fun without being tacky/insensitive. Half the movie seems to be shot in canted angles, and there are a lot of De Palma esque di-opter shots to enjoy (thank CHRIST for once Netflix offered a widescreen transfer for an instant viewing, and the quality was pretty good as well). I think he could have made a terrific, or at least, very stylish, slasher movie. Sadly, he seems to have retired (he had to exit his last film for health reasons, and he directed his first film over 50 years ago!), so I doubt we’ll get one. Hopefully he’s at least back in good health.

This showed at midnight at the New Bev a few months ago, and I missed it for some reason, but I’m glad I caught it at home. Not only would the length have guaranteed some dozing, but it’s not really a midnight type movie. I caught Irreversible there at midnight, and while the movie was quite good, it didn’t have that crowd experience that I associate with midnight screenings. If I’m gonna drive around LA at 2 am (where the bullshit LAPD never bothers to stop people that are driving without their headlights, a scarily common sight in Hollywood and even on the 101 freeway), I want to have a good time more than I want to see a good movie.

What say you?

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  1. I hadn't heard much about THE ENTITY until Uncle Creepy mentioned it on The Twitter last year, so I checked it out on DVD and loved it. I think it's one of the only films around that deservedly gets a POLTERGEIST comparison. All the practical effects -- furniture moving, stuff flying across the room, etc. -- were excellent, and I love that everything is treated realistically. I mean, these supernatural attacks happen, but then eventually life has to get back to normal, just like it really would. Also, Barbara Hershey's performace was incredible. She could have made an excellent Ellen Ripley. This is in the top 10% of all horror movies for me.

  2. I don't know. I'm usually of the mind that I'll watch anything at least once, if only to have a reason to mock it, but the idea of ghost rape creeps me out a bit too much. I've never been a fan of stories that use rape as a plot device, and from your review it seems that the ghost rape is a big chunk of the story. I think I'll sit this one out.

  3. i think you should always find a link to the "true" story. here, allow me:


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