Carla is a single mother of three trying to make things work. She’s making little money at her day job but hoping to get a good job after she finishes her typing school. Unfortunately, her fortune quickly takes a turn for the worse when she is assaulted in her bedroom by an unseen assailant, and Carla feels she’s been raped by the entity and two others holding her down. The attacks continue, forcing her to seek out psychiatric help from Dr. Sneiderman, who feels it’s all in her head. However, after other witnesses see the supernatural acts, Carla seeks out the help of parapsychologists at the local university to expel the demonic spirits.
Director: Sidney Furie
Actors: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, Margaret Blue
Year of Release: 1982 (original)/2017 (Blu-Ray)
Sidney Furie’s 1982 film The Entity is based off of a true story, adapted by Frank De Felitta into a novel and subsequently a film screenplay. The actual case of Doris Bither, otherwise known as the Entity Hauntings, is a sad story that most likely had no true connections to supernatural phenomena; however, The Entity as an adaptation certainly enhances some of the events of those “hauntings” into a surprisingly adept look at emotional and psychological trauma and the plight of a single mother attempting to understand her real phenomena while being unknowingly misled by modern science unwilling to allow for mystical acts of nature.
Barbara Hershey plays the afflicted woman Carla, who, as the film explains, has experienced her own fair share of psychological and physiological abuse in her past. The first half of the film finds Furie focusing on Carla’s interviews with Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) after she experiences a supernatural rape and nonsexual assaults. The psychological focus allows the audience to understand Carla as a protagonist and also gives reasoning why she would be left open to these kinds of paranormal attacks; it also forces the viewer to question whether Carla’s experiences truly are part of her own psychic hallucinations.
Both Silver and Hershey give great performances and play off of each other very well. The first hour of the film is some of the most rich and rewarding, not only because of the various attacks in Carla’s home – all quite disturbing due to their sexual nature, sometimes taking place in front of her young children – but also because the film brings up interesting questions about how to define real and imagined trauma. There is a moment, though, where The Entity presents two paths the film could travel. One is more problematic, that Carla truly is hallucinating these events making her a weak character that is a constant victim.
However, De Felitta and Furie choose to take the film in a different direction, treating the entity as a literal manifestation of a dark force and dropping the psychological exploration in the second hour for a paranormal investigation. While some may not like the direction, it is arguably the better decision: the paranormal entity is a real force for Carla to overcome and not some psychological trauma that she has carried with her over time, and it allows her character to strengthen and progress from the timid woman at the beginning of the film.
In this sense, The Entity showcases a great example of a powerful woman throughout. Hershey’s character has overcome past abuse; she’s forged a life for herself and her kids despite some bad experiences; and at the end of the film, she’s found a strength in battling the entity despite its constant presence in her life, even after the film ends. There’s no perfect resolution in The Entity, and Carla’s hauntings presumably continue; but Furie shows us that she’s figured out how to confront the beast, like waging a war. It’s indicative because of the entity’s only piece of dialogue throughout the film: “Welcome home, cunt.” It seems sinister, but more than that, it’s a verbalized threat meant to scare because the entity’s actions no longer affect Carla the way they used to. There’s a powerful motif here, and thankfully it doesn’t rely on Carla’s past vulnerabilities.
Furie’s film is often spooky and disturbing, with some great special effects from Stan Winston and his crew. Charles Bernstein helps by providing a memorable score, and the cast puts in an excellent performance. The Entity might not have the same visceral scares as The Exorcist nearly ten years before it, but its more sexual focus is a welcome addition to the paranormal genre. In many ways, this is an overlooked gem in the horror genre (though many seem to be appreciating it more and more).
The Entity is never really explicitly violent. Its scare scenes are more psychological, and any violence that occurs is bodily rather than bloody. The gore isn’t the point of the film, and at no point does it seem lacking.
The film is intentionally sexual, although not in a titillating way. There are numerous nude scenes as Carla is tormented by the entity, but these are body doubles using a realistic dummy to depict Carla’s pulsating flesh as though an unseen force is groping her. However, there is one scene of Carla undressing for a bath – though I suspect that this too is a body double due to camera shots that never show Hershey’s face when nude.
- Some great pulsating special effects that still look good.
- There was an incestuous plot line cut from the film – however, you can still see some of that theme make its way into the plot, especially in the movie’s opening scene between Carla and Billy.
- The “Thrasher” theme when the entity first makes its presence known does sound a lot like what one might think of as a modern death metal/grindcore song.
- Finding a Voice: A Conversation with composer Charles Bernstein
- Robert McNaughton Remembers The Entity
- Theatrical trailer
- Poster and Stills gallery
- Reversible Blu-ray sleeve
Umbrella Entertainment has done an excellent job with this HD transfer of The Entity onto Blu-Ray. The film is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio and preserves what I would consider to be the original filmic look of the movie. There’s a healthy grain presence and relatively little apparent damage. Skin tones look organic. The film features a dark palette with a lot of shadow presence but there’s no lack of clarity in the darker scenes.
The film gets a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is rather good; however, I did tend to notice a few drops in audio during scenes where music swelled, and I found that this was sometimes inconsistent. Still, not a bad audio track, and the film also comes with English subtitles.
Umbrella Entertainment has provided two new special features for this release. The biggest one is a new interview with composer Charles Bernstein, who gives a 30-minute interview about his work on the soundtrack. Umbrella’s extras include question cards before Bernstein’s responses, and the questions get quite in-depth about the nature of Bernstein’s decisions when crafting the soundtrack. Overall it’s an illuminating interview. The second new feature is a very short feature with Robert McNaughton, who shares a somewhat dull memory of auditioning for the part of Carla’s son. This is only three minutes long, and truly does not add much.
Also included is a gallery, theatrical trailer, and reversible cover artwork (the same artwork, just without the annoying rating symbol on the front).