The Entity

Director: Sidney J. Furie
Babara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa

There is a prime aim that I have being the proprietor of The Unknown Movies that I hope quickly becomes clear to any visitor, casual or regular reader. That aim, of course, is to inform readers of good or great movies that they may not have heard of before, or movies that they may have come across before but have not had enough reason to become curious about enough to actually sit down and watch. Another aim I have with this web site is to inform readers of bad movies that they may sooner or later come across, or have come across and are considering watching; sharing my recollection of the pain experienced when watching the movie in question hopefully will persuade readers not to watch the movie and save themselves a painful experience. Those aims are pretty obvious ones, I think. But at the same time, I have other, more personal aims that I hope manage to reach readers of this web site. One of those aims I have is to infect readers with one of the philosophies of life that I try to follow, that being, "Life is short - have fun while you are alive!" I try to express that by reviewing for the most part movies that are more or less constructed to be entertaining. Oh, occasionally I review something artier in nature for variety's sake, but otherwise I seek out movies that are fun to watch. Another thing that I try to convey in my choice of movies to review is the kind of person that I am. Specifically, that I am not some sort of prude. Among other things I love to see in a movie, I love hard-core bone-crunching action as well as bloody and creepy horror.

I fully embrace the R rating set by the MPAA, and there certainly have been a lot of times when I've enjoyed a movie that has upset the MPAA enough to fail to get an R rating. All the same, I have to admit that there are some kind of movies whose subject matter make me so uncomfortable that it takes a lot of effort for me to watch the movie - that is, if I can make the effort at all. There are movies that have been funded by Telefilm, Canada's feature film funding agency, which has little idea as for movies that are both good and entertaining. Another example: I have several times in the past revealed that I have a secret fear of being imprisoned in real life for a crime I did not commit. As I result, I have reviewed very few movies concerning that subject matter, since seeing the wrongly jailed person in the movie haunts me for days after watching the movie. (Related to this particular kind of cinematic reluctance is watching movies that depict various kinds of abuse that happens in prison, which is why I am reluctant to watch the Morgan Freeman movie Attica despite my copy of the movie gathering dust at the foot of my television set.) Yet another kind of movie that I am extremely reluctant to watch are pornographic movies. I have seen a few such movies in my lifetime, and I have to admit that I feel extremely unclean after watching the participants in these movies absolutely degrade themselves. In fact, I have only personally reviewing one pornographic movie for this web site (Let My Puppets Come), and that was because all the sex acts in that particular pornographic film were done by puppets and not by humans.

One other kind of cinematic portrayal that makes a movie more often than not a hard sell for me is a movie involving sexual violence, specifically rape. No, I have never been raped, and to my knowledge none of my friends or family members have suffered from this vile act. But from true The Entitystories I have come across over the years, I have learned that rape is a devastating act to the victim, one that can scar for years or even for the rest of the life for the victim. Though there have been some movies where rape has been portrayed in a ridiculous manner (like Jack Frost), generally I don't find rape to be fun to watch in a movie, and as a result I have been very reluctant to watch a movie that has a rape act (or more than one such act) in it. So you may be wondering why I decided to take a look at The Entity, which deals with a woman suffering from repeated rapes. I'm not sure. It may have been its interesting cast, it may have been that it promised to be a rare exploitation movie released by a major Hollywood studio, it also may have been that the movie made the unusual mix of rape with the supernatural horror genre. Whatever the reason, or reasons, I sat down to watch it, but I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to it. The central character in The Entity is a woman named Carla Moran, who at first has a happy life being a single mother and having her boyfriend Jerry (Alex Rocco, Bonnie's Kids). But suddenly her life becomes anything but pleasant. One day, right out of the blue, she is sexually assaulted in her home by what appears to be some kind of invisible spirit. As the next few days pass, she and her family encounter more of what seems to be poltergeist activity, both of a sexual and non-sexual nature. Carla's friends and family seem to think that what is happening to Carla is a psychological problem of some sort, and press her to get some psychiatric treatment. Eventually, Carla gets in contact with one Dr. Phil Sneiderman (Silver, Lifepod), who, after studying Carla's troubled life in the past, thinks that she is unknowingly inflicting the assaults on herself. Carla soon realizes that she'll have to take drastic and unconventional actions to try and stop the assaults.

After watching The Entity, and looking at my list of topics concerning the movie that I wish to discuss, I have decided that the first thing I want to discuss are the sexual assault sequences. It's not because I am eager to report what they are like to my readers - far from it, as I hope my introduction to this review made clear. Nor is it because I feel that my loyal readership wants to immediately know what these sequences are like - I'm sure my readers are as uncomfortable about the idea of reading about them as I am about writing about them. It's because I want to get the topic out of the damn way as quickly as possible. There are a total of five scenes when the Carla Moran character is sexually assaulted by the spirit (though there are also some additional sequences when she is terrorized in a non sexual manner by the spirit.) I do have to admit that director Sidney J. Furie (Iron Eagle) does direct these five sequences in a way that I don't think just about anyone will get a thrill out of them. The assaults do eventually become truly exploitive with the sequence towards the end of the movie when we see Carla totally naked while being sexually assaulted by the invisible spirit. Though I think there's a good chance that Furie's intention with that scene was to make sure viewers could understand Carla's true torment and humiliation with what was happening to her. I base that with how Furie handled the assault sequences previous to that one, which are more restrained yet show true horror all the same. In those previous sequences, Furie focuses on one specific aspect. The first assault sequence, Furie puts almost all of the focus on a close-up of Carla's face, showing the pain she is going through as she is being attacked. A later assault sequence focuses on Carla's three children panicking and crying as they witness their mother going through an attack. There's a different aspect focused on in each assault, which assists making all the assault sequences stay horrifying and not become repetitive.

Another way that the assault sequences come across as truly horrifying is with the care that was given to making the character of Carla Moran. Not just with the screenplay (written by the same writer who earlier wrote Z.P.G.), but also with actress Barbara Hershey. The movie does stumble at the beginning by having the first assault sequence happening just five minutes in - which doesn't give us enough time to know what Carla Moran was like before her torment started. But The Entity does recover from this misstep. After the first assault, Carla is told quickly by others that it was all a dream, something that she almost believes... but we can see from her subsequent words and actions that she knows something she doesn't understand did happen. As more assaults happen, the character evolves slowly from one that is passive to one who finds she has to take charge and do something. I think there will be some viewers who might not believe that a woman sexually assaulted several times over a matter of days could not be extremely traumatized. Normally I would think that, but Hershey manages to sell this particular rape victim to the audience. She does get some help from the screenplay (we learn her character has had severe trauma in her youth), but she gives the character of Carla Moran a strong yet believable spirit. Hershey does on occasion let her character's guard down to show some weaknesses, like the very well acted scene when Carla is in bed with her boyfriend; Hershey's tone shows Carla has a deep down fear of him leaving her. But as I indicated about the character earlier, we find out that Carla's been a fighter all of her life. With this material, Hershey makes Carla a believably determined woman despite what's happening to her, so much so that we can believe a couple of scenes where Carla actually finds time to laugh out loud.

Hershey isn't the only good performance to be found in the movie. As the psychologist who doubts Carla's claims as to what is happening, Ron Silver also gives a credible acting job. In his early scenes when he is learning about Carla, Silver puts an almost casual tone to his words; from this, we can sense that this doctor has seen and heard it all (at least he thinks so), and that he now approaches any case as simply routine. When the situation begins to heat up, Silver in each subsequent scene adds more concern and passion for his patient while at the same time showing in a believable manner that this doctor simply isn't prepared to believe something that he didn't learn in a textbook in medical school. The scenes where he and Hershey are debating not only greatly show the acting talents of each actor, they are the strongest and most memorable moments in the movie. However, actor Alex Rocco is pretty much wasted. Though he has an impressive crying scene after seeing his girlfriend assaulted by the spirit, in the end he only gets three short scenes in the entire movie, and could have easily been written out. Other characters in the movie, ranging from Carla's best friend to a couple of parapsychologists who get involved with Carla, are also inadequately written, with the problems ranging from them suddenly disappearing to being introduced in a contrived manner. Actually, the biggest scripting problem with The Entity is that it makes the running time go far too long - the movie runs over two hours in length. While I wasn't bored at any moment, I did see that a number of scenes in the movie could have been shortened or eliminated entirely. But while I did think that the screenplay could have used an extra polish or two before filming started, I think that what was done with the screenplay by the various other hands on the project make the movie work. Certainly, Furie did make the horror sequences in this horror film genuinely horrifying. But even better are the scenes involving Hershey and Silver. They are so good in their roles that even if you eliminated the movie's horror angle, they captivate the audience all the same. I never thought I would recommend a horror movie primarily because of its acting, but after 21 years of being a movie critic, I am still being reminded that there are constant surprises in the world of movies.

(Posted June 19, 2019)

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See also: The Klansman, No Dessert Dad..., The Untold Story