Original release: February 4th, nurse 1983
Running time: 102 minutes
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Writer: Frank De Felitta
Composer: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Barbara Hershey
Have you ever had that feeling you’re not alone when you are alone? Maybe it was a cold chill that ran up your spine as you walked up the stairs and you chalked it up to the draft from an open window nearby… Or maybe it was the sound of furniture being moved around downstairs as you lay relaxing in the bathtub but then thought it must’ve been the neighbours next door you were hearing… It could’ve been that time you came home and found those items you were looking for weeks ago, now here they are right in the exact place you looked at least ten times before…
Yes, we’ve all been there and done that and found perfectly rational explanations for all these events and much more. After all, the human brain doesn’t like things unexplained; we’re built in such a way that everything must have an answer and it must make sense in our physical world. But what happens when something comes along and defies all rational explanation? Then what?
The Entity was a film I first saw a decade ago. I watched it together with a friend and to be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me because it made me think of all those times I felt a presence in the house. Granted they weren’t anywhere near as extreme as the events that unfold in the film, still, it gave me pause for thought and it’s been on my mind again lately because these occurrences continue to happen.
Based on the novel by Frank De Felitta, which was originally released in 1978 and told the real-life story of Doris Bither who claimed to have been attacked and raped by an invisible entity which she believed were the spirits of three Asian men, the film introduces us to single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) and depicts quite graphically the poltergeist activity within her home, causing her to flee with her children to the home of her friend Cindy (Margaret Blye). However, soon after returning home, Carla loses control of her car on the road and is nearly killed. Following this incident, Cindy persuades her friend that it’s time to seek help and she meets with psychiatrist Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) to start undergoing therapy.
Carla’s therapy does nothing to quell what’s actually happening at home though and when she’s attacked in the bathroom by an unseen assailant Dr. Sneiderman presumes the marks on her body are self-inflicted. This, together with the fact that Carla suffered a variety of traumas in her childhood and adolescence, including sexual and physical abuse, teenage pregnancy and the violent death of her first husband, leads Dr. Sneiderman to conclude that her delusions are nothing but symptoms of her unresolved psychological traumas.
He couldn’t be further from the truth though. It’s only when Cindy witnesses one of the attacks that a team of parapsychologists are brought in and a proper investigation into the entity begins. As a film, The Entity is laced with enough suspense and atmosphere (aided by Charles Bernstein’s masterful score two years prior to working on Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) to have made it one of the major films of that year. This didn’t happen though and I think it’s partly down to the fact that at time the screenplay is quite sloppy, especially Dr. Sneiderman.
Despite Carla’s son, Billy (David Labiosa), her boyfriend Jerry (Alex Rocco) and Cindy all witnessing the entity’s attacks on her, Dr. Sneiderman continues until near the end to treat her problems as delusions in her head. This means we know there’s zero chance of Carla overcoming what’s happening to her as long as he continues to treat her like this and there are far too many attacks on screen that don’t really move the story further. Though the writer wants us to feel a romantic connection between these two characters it’s impossible when we know he’s standing in the way of her getting the help she really needs.
Aside from that, The Entity features a terrific performance by Barbara Hershey whom we see moving from a frightened victim to a woman who decides to take control and face her attacker. It surely can’t be easy to take on a role like this, but Hershey triumphs in what could’ve easily been a tasteless horror shocker but comes across more as a supernatural suspense story. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a film I first watched a decade ago and I still remember it very well. It’s the sort of film that stays with you a long time, much like my own ghostly lodger.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .