Every now and then there’s a horror film re-release that really takes you back in time. You know that feeling… It’s a film that you haven’t thought about for years, but once you see it available for sale your mind is transported through time to years gone by, when you were just setting off on your journey into the world of cinematic terror.
The Entity is one such movie for me. I have no idea how many times I saw it when I was younger; but it must have been a lot, judging by the fact that I could recite the dialogue when I watched it again for this review (I’m generally very bad at remembering that stuff).
The story is set around Carla (Barbara Hershey), a single Mum of three who is trying hard to make ends meet in a male dominated world that doesn’t easily accommodate working mothers seeking to better themselves.
And her job is made yet harder when, inexplicably, violent paranormal events start to take place in her home. This poltergeist activity is focussed on Carla but has an effect on the whole family as they are made to witness the terrifying and often sexual assault on their matriarch.
Her doctor thinks that her experiences are purely psychological, but a team of paranormal investigators offer hope for a resolution when they witness the activity and confirm that there are darker forces at work.
The Entity can be seen as the inspiration for many horror films that followed, most obviously Paranormal Activity (2007) and really set the precedent for a new kind of shocking horror – a brutal, invisible threat, seemingly unstoppable in its persuit of a vulnerable woman.
Making the distessing rape scenes yet more impactful is a troubling sound track that builds to a terrifying, pulsing electric guitar crescendo. This twinned with a couple of pretty explicit scenes of paranormal molestation make for a film that’s hard to watch at times. In fact, it’s surprising that it wasn’t heavily censored or even banned seeing that it was a product of the video nasty era.
The realistic special effects, chilling plot and the sexual nature all make for an unforgettable, genre defining film. It was dubbed ‘one of the scariest horrors of all time’ by Martin Scorsese, and it was probably made all the more realistic thanks to the inclusion of that dubious statement that it was ‘based on a true story’.
Indeed, the novel upon which the film was based was inspired by a real, documented case of paranormal activity (known as the Doris Bither case). But some of the events in the film, such as the elaborate simulation of her home and use of liquid helium are pure fiction.
Sidney J. Furie’s intepretation of the story is probably as much of a comment on early eighties America as it is the paranormal. As an independent woman’s struggles to be taken seriously in a patriarchal society it’s assumed that she is fabricating claims of rape get attention. And the solution to her troubles – as prescribed by medical profssionals – is to find a strong man to put her right.
The Entity is another awesome example of classic eighties horror, which deserves its place up there in the Hallows with Poltergeist and The Fog. Simple, yet powerful, it’s an essential piece of horror history.