119 min., 1983
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
My rating: ★★★
You felt him in you, though?
* * *
Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is a single mother with three kids: Billy, Kim and Julie. (Billy is from one father, and Kim and Julie come from another). She is dating Jerry, who spends a lot of time on the road but generally seems like a good guy. Carla has a good job, and family life has been decent for her of late.
All that changes when she is attacked and raped by an invisible force. At first she thinks she just didn’t see the assailant, but when it happens more and more frequently, she knows that she has been targeted by some kind of ghost. An entity, if you will. To make matters worse, it seems capable of following her out of her house, like the time it tries to crash her car with her in it, or the time she hides out at a friend’s place, where it finds and attacks her, trashing the entire room.
No one seems to believe her, so she starts thinking she might be crazy. She goes to see Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver), who agrees with her self-diagnosis. He delves into her troubled past, which includes a hellfire minister for a father, who had a sexual interest in her (it’s unclear if he ever acted upon it), an abusive first husband, being pregnant and alone at the age of sixteen, things like that. He feels the incident with the car was a suicide attempt, and his colleagues quickly dismiss her case, deciding she’s afraid of her own masturbation and is trying to explain it supernaturally to the rest of the world.
And then she is attacked in front of her kids. Billy tries to save her, only to be flung across the room with a broken wrist. As luck would have it, she runs into a couple of professional ghost hunters in the occult section of the local bookstore, and she finally has allies in her battle against the entity.
This is supposedly based on a true story that took place in 1976. Even after the movie was released, the real Carla Moran was still being attacked by the entity. Of course, this is in the era of horror films which routinely represented themselves as based on or inspired by real events. This is actually based on a novel by Frank DeFelitta, who also wrote the novel AUDREY ROSE was based on. He adapted THE ENTITY for the screen, as well.
These events never really happened. However, this film is a great metaphor for the post-rape experience. No one ever wants to believe the woman. If they believe something happened, it’s usually her fault. And if someone makes that final leap in belief—like Jerry does—they can’t be around the woman anymore. It’s a level of pain and hurt that they can’t accept, and they can only run away from the situation.
Director Sidney J. Furie does the perfect job of exhibiting this metaphor. He has gathered a great team of actors and special effects experts to pull this off. Hershey is wonderful in the role of Carla Moran. She plays the ordinary single mom well, up until she has her first encounter with the entity. Then, she pulls off terrified very well. She’s always wary of everything around her. Yet at the same time, she has to pull it back so she doesn’t scare the shit out of her kids. The most interesting scene is when she’s sleeping, and the entity begins raping her at that moment. She doesn’t know what’s really happening, since she’s dreaming, and she responds favorably to the entity. Then, she cums and wakes up and realizes what has really happened, and she’s absolutely disgusted and frightened by what has just happened. Not just with the entity, but also with herself for liking it when she didn’t know what was going on. Very complex.
Ron Silver is another actor of note in this film. He tries to remain reasonable throughout the whole ordeal, even though he knows the entity doesn’t really exist. When Carla is raped in front of her son, Sneiderman accuses Billy of lying for his mother. At one point, the doctor even has the temerity to suggest that the entity might be her subconscious reaction to being sexually attracted to her son. Yet his drive to protect his patient is very much in the right place. When the ghost hunters come up with a plan to capture the entity in suspended animation with liquid helium, Dr. Sneiderman understands the danger to Carla and overcomes a lot of obstacles in order to save her from what could happen. In any other film like this, he would be the hero of the story. Sadly, he’s misguided, and Silver plays it perfectly.
The special effects are what really make this movie, though. Without them, you have a lot of actors responding to nothing, and that’s in a world without CG effects. No one was trained for such things back then, and it would have come off poorly. The masterful moments all involve the ghost rape scenes, in which Carla’s body has to move in response to the entity’s touch. Her breasts flatten of their own accord. Her body fluctuates as it runs its hands all over it. The only way to pull something like that off is by creating a life-like body double for her, and it is so realistic it looks indistinguishable from her actual body.
The only drawback is the electric bolts that the entity sometimes exhibits. They look all right, but they’re not really necessary. Plus, they give the impression that the entity might actually be an invisible Emperor Palpatine, which is too silly to reconcile with the rest of this harrowing picture.
A lot of wonderful pieces come together to make this an awesome movie, but there is one thing that doesn’t fit, and it has to do with the story: why now? Why didn’t the entity come to Carla sooner? Or later? What changed in her life to cause it to start attacking her at the precise moment that we start following her story? Motivation is too important to stories like this, and it’s glossed over in this case.
If you can get over that small—but important—question, then you will thoroughly enjoy this movie. In fact, it might haunt you for quite some time after. It was ahead of its time, and it’s perfect for ours, in which #yesallwomen is a cry to arms.Have You Read...?