February 3, 2017 This Week in Horror Movie History – The Entity (1983)
This week in Horror movie history, back on February 4th of 1983, the supernatural film The Entity premiered in theaters across the US. A story of unknown forces, much like 1973’s The Exorcist, The Entity was based on a true life account. Directed by the distinguished Canadian Filmmaker Sidney J. Furie, who has worked on such films as 1965’s The Ipcress File and 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the screenplay for The Entity was written by famed Author Frank De Felitta from his 1978 novel of the same name.
Previously known best for his 1975 novel, Audrey Rose, a feature film of the aforementioned story was put out in 1977. Although, it was not until years Hollywood caught on to the intense plot of The Entity to bring it into production at the dawn of the 1980s. Finally doing so, filming was complete by 1981, but The Entity did not see the light of day in theaters until limited release in 1982, and then, the full-fledged release in the winter of 1983. Now, nearly three decades later, this paranormal masterpiece is still a haunting encounter of the highest order.
The story follows a young mom by the name of Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey: Beaches 1988, Black Swan 2010) and her three children; a teenage boy named Billy (David Labiosa: Bulletproof 1996, Mega Piranha 2010) and two young daughters named Julie (Natasha Ryan: The Amityville Horror 1979, Ladies Man TV series) and Kim (Melanie Gaffin: Taxi TV series, Armed and Dangerous 1986).
A seemingly normal family lead Carla working to make ends meet as a single mom to support her children and pay the rent, one night while lying in bed she is violently sexually assaulted. Terrifying within itself, the worse part about it, the perpetrator is immaterial. This experience leaves Carla completely mortified, unable to come to grips with it all.
Unsure what is real or fiction, Carla is determined to keep her sanity and protect her children. Aggressive and relentless, the invisible rapist keeps coming back for more, repeatedly assaulting Carla, but now even follows her outside the walls of the house.
Seeking help, Carla meets with Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver: Timecop 1994, Ali 2001); a highly intelligent and logic based doctor who is intent on seeing Carla through these episodes. Unfortunately, matters only escalate, pushing Carla to the edge of madness, leaving Dr. Sneiderman and his staff questioning her mental health. With few people believing she is truly being haunted by a serial rapist, it soon comes into focus that Carla will have to seek help beyond traditional doctors to rid herself of this entity.
Much like other films produced during the ’70s and ’80s decade, The Entity does have a slow build to emphasise the tense moments ahead. For example, there are casual, natural everyday moments directly before each assault on Carla. In addition, an extremely nerve-racking soundtrack from Charles Bernstein (Cujo 1983, A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984) is used during each attack, amping up the terror ten fold.
While opinions may vary, The Entity is absolutely a ghost story. filled with an unsettling vibe. That in mind, Furie himself has stated in the past he does not look at The Entity as a Horror film, but more of a “supernatural suspense movie.” A fair assessment from the director, there is no denying horror comes from a variety of different places, and to most individuals, an entity ruthlessly assaulting them is unquestionably horrific and terrifying.
Making the events on film that much more effective is the knowledge that it is based on the true life story. That story is the one of Doris Bither, who experienced alleged hauntings in her Culver City, California home back in 1974. Bither claimed that the ghosts of three Asian men were raping her.
In real life, Bither had four children, financially struggling, lived in a home that had been condemned twice, and marred with a history of physical abuse. Also seeking help from paranormal investigators, like depicted in the film, in real life, the violent acts reportedly decreased frequency and intensity after their meeting.
Not wanting to pass judgement, Furie and Lead Actress Hershey did not meet with Bither before or after production of The Entity. The end result was a frightening film that would make anyone’s skin crawl.
Speaking of skin crawling, in the scenes where Carla’s is attacked, there are clearly finger impressions on her chest, arms, and legs, but with no visible hands in sight. A mind-twisting special effect, the visual effects team reportedly designed a hot air stream system to bring it to life. This practical, non-computerized process made the scenes look extremely genuine, coupled with the wonderful performance by Hershey as she struggles to fight off a non-existent force.
While some critics had mix opinions on the effectiveness of The Entity, universally, all praised the tremendous acting of Hershey. She was believable, and despite the unbelievable situations, came across quite logical. That in mind, while playing the role of a victim repeatedly assaulted, Hershey’s portrayal of Carla was that of a strong, independent woman, who while afraid, stood up to her fears. This is reality was never more evident than in the closing of the film when she is alone in the house until a voice breaks the silence saying “Welcome home, cunt” prior to the front door slamming shut. Unrattled, she opens the door, walks out, and drives away with her family. This boldly moment imprints the idea that this relentless entity will follow her wherever she goes, leaving viewers mind’s to run wild with fear.
A moderate success at the box office, The Entity did not go unnoticed, and the year of widespread release, Barbara Hershey won the award for best actress at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. A year later, in 1984, Charles Bernstein was nominated for best music in a film at The Saturn Awards.
As for the cast, Hershey has gone on to a fantastic career in film and television including roles in 2010’s Insidious, 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2, and a recurring role on ABC’s Once Upon a Time as Cora Mills. Not to be forgotten, the late Ron Silver, always a powerful actor, was awarded a Tony in 1988 for Best Actor for the film Speed-the-Plow.
A film that is still affects all these years later, even famed Director Martin Scorsese considers The Entity one of the scariest Horror films of all time. Not recommended to see alone, The Entity haunts long after an initial viewing.