THE ENTITY [1982] [HCF REWIND]

 Posted by on October 19, 2011  Ghost, HCF Reviews, Horror
Oct 192011
 

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HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word.  So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection.  This week, Dr Lenera presents a truly nervewracking horror from the 1980s, based on true events,  that you may not have seen…but should…though maybe not if you’re female!

HCF REWIND NO.25. THE ENTITY [1982]

AVAILABLE ON DVD

RUNNING TIME:119 mins

REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

the-entity

Carla Moran lives in Los Angeles with her three children.  One night, she is violently raped by an unseen being and leaves the house in terror with the kids.  They spend the night at her friend Cindy’s house, but in the morning leave and return home when Cindy’s husband objects.   When the attacks continue, she goes to seek counselling from Phil Sniederman, a therapist.  He believes that the attacks are imaginary and a result of Carla’s troubled past, especially her sexual history.  However, they carry on, and Carla is in total despair until she encounters two paranormal researchers who are only too keen to get involved with the case…………..

Although I think most will agree that there are many chillers that are actually scarier, The Entity is one of the most disturbing of all cinematic ghost stories, a grim, harrowing tale that is all the more grim and harrowing for being based on a true story.  It delves into the murky waters of ghost rape, and does it well because the nastiness is backed up by a strong script that is good on characterisation.  For the first two thirds it really is a superb horror movie, gripping, uncomfortable but very believable.  Then, as it deviates from the real events, the film weakens somewhat in the final third, though it’s never less than compulsive, as long as you can take it!  If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t take the fact that it’s from the early 80s as a sign that it’s tame stuff: it certainly isn’t.  You may not see a drop of blood, but there may be times, especially I think if you are female, you may feel a bit violated at the intensity of what you see on the screen.

The original case centred around a woman called Doris Bither who lives in California.  On August 22, 1974, two paranormal investigators Barry Taff and Kery Gaynor were approached in a book shop by Doris, who had overheard them talking about the paranormal.  She said she had been repeatedly bothered by a ghost, or rather three ghosts, one of whom sometimes even raped her.  They investigated and with others saw lights and a green mist almost forming into a man.  They also took the picture below, which even sceptics find hard to explain.

The attacks decreased and the investigation, for what to me seems like mysterious reasons, fizzled out, but poor Carla continued to be sometimes attacked until her death in 1995, with the sprits seemingly following her from house to house, though the attacks did lessen in frequency and violence.  I read an interview with Brian, Carla’s second son, who says that all three children still sometimes see the ghosts, which used to attack them too but now don’t bother them much.  In 1981 Frank DeFelitta wrote a novel based on the case, which changed names, made the heroine a bit more ‘likeable’, and added the  psychiatrist Phil and a kind of climax, successfully in the first instance and sadly very ineffectively in the second!  Of course such a story was ripe for cinematic treatment and indeed there have been rumours in recent years of a proposed remake, but we are here to talk about the 1982 film, for which DeFelitta adapted his own book for the screenplay.  It was a moderate commercial success at the time of its release, though usually got completely opposing reactions, something it still seems to do after a cursory look on the IMDB!

This movie wastes no time in getting straight into the horror, with Carla raped in the very first scene by an invisible force, and I have to say these rape scenes, of which there are several, are still strong meat today with their sadistic feel and Carla’s children sometimes being witnesses.  The nastiest bit is when she is attacked standing up, and it looks like she is on some horrid torture machine, though some may find the scene where the attacker actually ‘makes love’ to her and gives her an orgasm, more disturbing.   In real life, the three ghosts [it was mainly the ‘larger’ one who would rape her] could sometimes be seen as human-like apparitions, but I think the decision to keep them unseen was the correct one, and the sight of unseen ‘hands’ feeling breasts is almost too uncomfortable.  After all, the less we see and know, the scarier something usually is.  For quite a while The Entity is quite an intense experience, then the mood lightens a little when the paranormal investigators get involved and the film, though still totally absorbing, loses a bit of its grip.  The ‘invented’ climax, which involves a plan to capture the main entity, is not really suspenseful enough and, though it teases us with the chance of seeing the monster and delivers on that something like twenty percent, doesn’t really give us any answers.  Of course there were no real answers, but then why that whole scene?

Running alongside all this supernatural stuff is the human side of the story, much of which is based on the conflict between open-minded parapsychology and close-minded science, and it’s just as interesting.  Although we see visual proof of Carla’s claims right from the offset, we can sympathise with virtually everyone, including at first, the two paranormal investigators she meets, not believing her.  Phil’s claims of Carla’s past  being responsible for her supposedly abusing herself do come across as being quite plausible, because things like having had an abusive father can make a person dislike sex and hurt themselves.  He’s wrong in his theory, but his developing love for this damaged, seemingly fragile but actually very strong woman makes him become convinced that he’s the person who can sort her out.  Their conversations are full of tension and a wierd kind of chemistry, and only their final scene comes across as a bit underpowered.   None of the men in this film seem quite ‘right’, as if we are seeing them from Carlas’ point of view, and though this leads to a bit of inconsistency when we witness scenes Carla is not ‘at’,  it works very well.  Carla’s defiance becomes almost rousing, especially in the final scene, which involves one door being closed and another one being opened, and could be one of the simplest but greatest images of human bravery the cinema has ever shown.

The very inconsistent Sidney J.Furie directs with a firm grip and good use of some unusual angles [usually a sign he was interested in a project, like The Ipcress File], while Barbara Hershey gives a stunning performance, possibly her best ever.  You really feel her terror, her despair, and finally, her acceptance.  Ron Silver is a little creepy as Phil but that was obviously the idea. I should also mention the convincing acting of the kids playing Carla’s three children, and Charles Bernstein’s fabulous score.  From thumping guitars during the attack scenes to the playing of what seems like just one note during suspense moments, it’s music that is almost absurdly simple, but works so well for the movie.   You might think that the subject of a woman being constantly raped by a ghost would lead to tedium, revulsion or even laughs, but instead they somehow made this really fine horror film out of it which is a minor classic and deserves to be better known.  Despite certain problems towards the end, this movie will stay with you and you certainly won’t be able to get these three words out of your mind for days.  “WELCOME HOME, C***”.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Dr Lenera

Dr LeneraI'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

  One Response to “THE ENTITY [1982] [HCF REWIND]”

  1. DAVID GILLESPIE

    Great review, DL. The Entity really leaves the hairs on your neck standing on end after first viewing. I remember watching it and finding it gripping from start to finish. I didn’t realize how much it had it had creeped me out until afterwards. Barbara Hershey is fantastic in the lead role.

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