UK Release Date: 15th May 2017
Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Sidney J Furie
Writer: Frank De Felitta
Starring: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, George Coe, Allan Rich, Jacqueline Brookes, Margaret Blye, Alex Rocco
Synopsis: A woman assaulted by an invisible supernatural being must grapple with the possibility that she has hallucinated everything.
Supernatural horror movie The Entity isn’t one that’s particularly widely remembered outside of cinephile circles. It came out in the same year as the similarly-themed Poltergeist, which had the benefit of some immediately iconic scares and the producing power of Steven Spielberg. It does, however, have something of a reputation for quality, with Martin Scorsese citing it as one of the scariest movies ever made. Watching it on its new UK Blu-ray, it’s a solid and unusually well-made horror movie, but not one with the chills of its more memorable contemporaries.
Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is raped in her home one evening by an invisible, seemingly supernatural force. Her grown-up son Billy (David Labiosa) and younger daughters can’t see anything and, when the attack is repeated, Carla seeks help from psychiatrist Dr Sneiderman (Ron Silver), who believes that the attacks are hallucinations brought about by childhood trauma. A chance meeting with two parapsychologists (Allan Rich and George Coe), however, may provide evidence that her supernatural theory isn’t as impossible as others seem to think.
It’s easy to see why The Entity has become somewhat lost in the shuffle when it comes to the supernatural horror movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The material has an unpleasant, nasty edge that tugs it away from the more straightforward tales of ghostly malevolence and possession that drove films like The Exorcist. Despite the ever-presence of rape and sexual assault as a main pillar of the narrative, the film often seems unwilling to embrace that nastiness fully in order to create something truly horrific. There are a handful of scenes in which this horror is driven home in chilling fashion, but it often seems like a film lacking in the conviction and confidence of its bedfellows.
This is a film that seems to have too many ideas to fit into its already bloated running time. The early attack scenes are efficiently creepy and the story appears to be escalating nicely, only for the arrival of the two parapsychologists and all of their ghost-hunting paraphernalia to add an extra half an hour on to the story and lead it to an infuriatingly overblown and spectacular finale. This finale, though over-the-top is at least solidly directed by Sidney J Furie, who injects a fair amount of tension into what would nowadays likely be a fiasco of cheap CGI.
The ace card that keeps the film on the right side of exploitation trash is leading lady Barbara Hershey. Her performance is pitched expertly between vulnerability and strength, which makes her a compelling protagonist and one it is easy to get behind. She maintains her conviction about what is happening to her even as those around her are consistently skeptical. The final scene is the idea embodiment of this inner steel and it helps to end the film on an ambiguous and intriguing note that is more sophisticated than the typical Hollywood horror climax.
Like many supernatural horror films, The Entity is based upon a real case and, here, there’s a definite sense that the reality is more enigmatic and interesting than the efficient, but messy, fictionalisation.
Slim pickings here, with just an original theatrical trailer for the film.
Pop or Poop?
The Entity takes a compelling real-life story and transforms it into a solid, if unremarkable, horror film.
Furie’s film is an occasionally creepy and always elegant piece of work, helped to that status by an excellent central performance by Barbara Hershey. It falls victim to a traffic jam of ideas and a little too much spectacle in the third act, but the solid enigma of the ending ensures that the audience is left shivering.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
The Entity is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Monday, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.