The Entity Review

Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is a divorcee with three children. She leads a normal life…but someone, something invisible, is after her. It attacks her in the bedroom; it rapes her in the shower. Nothing can stop it. Carla’s psychiatrist, Sneiderman (Ron Silver) thinks it’s all a manifestation of some trauma. A group of parapsychologists, sensing one of the best proofs of the supernatural they’ll ever find, try to persuade Carla that the Entity is real.

The opening credits give the source of The Entity as a novel by Frank DeFelitta, who also wrote the screenplay. But stay until the end and you learn that it’s a fictionalised account of a true case, one which still continued at the time the film was made. Chilling stuff…but The Entity is uncomfortable viewing in ways that its makers may not have intended. Perhaps sexual violence is a much more sensitive issue over twenty years on, but you can’t help feeling a little uneasy at watching Carla (based, let’s not forget, on a real person) being brutalised on screen. Shots of her breasts being fondled by invisible hands may have been a tour de force of prosthetic makeup at the time, but the whiff of exploitation isn’t far away. This is the film’s money shot. During the several attack sequences you sense Sidney Furie’s direction become more excited. He’s overfond of tilted shots in any case. Charles Bernstein’s very loud music score is a worse offender. A high, sustained synthesiser note warns us that danger is near…and then it gives way to a repeated thump theme that sounds like a brutal parody of sexual intercourse, and is the crassest of miscalculations.

The major reason to see The Entity is Barbara Hershey’s performance. Since this film was made, she’s gone on to defy the general rule that actresses’ careers stumble after the age of forty, and is still doing good work in her fifties in films like Lantana. However, back in 1981 she was mostly remembered for being typecast in hippie-chick roles (1970’s The Baby Maker being a prime example), and for changing her surname to Seagull for a few years. If anyone deserved awards for acting beyond the call of duty, then Barbara Hershey in The Entity would have my vote. She’s always convincing, both as “normal” Carla and a Carla at the end of her tether. The attack scenes must have been physically and emotionally demanding as well. Hershey may well have earned herself an Oscar nomination had the film containing her performance been more prestigious. Another fine actor yet to be noticed by most cinemagoers, Ron Silver, has a more stereotypical role as Carla’s at first disbelieving but eventually caring psychiatrist. No-one else in the cast makes much of an impression.

This is a budget release from Fox, encoded for Regions 2 and 4. The main feature is anamorphic, in the correct ratio of 2.35:1. And this is a film which does make good use of the Scope format: panning and scanning would be ruinous. Only a year or so later, the film would probably have had to be framed with a 4:3 TV set in mind. There’s nothing wrong with the transfer: it’s sharp and colourful, with strong blacks and good shadow detail. It’s a bit darkly lit in places, and Furie goes in for a lot of shallow-focus shots, but these are all due to the original film. There are fifteen chapter stops.

The Entity was a relatively early Dolby Stereo film, and it’s clear that the makers wanted the soundtrack to make an impact. It’s remixed on this DVD into Dolby Digital 5.0 (not 4.1 as it says on the packaging). If you play this so that normally-pitched dialogue is audible then right from the outset Bernstein’s score plays very loud. It’s designed to keep the audience on edge but as I say above is as much an irritant as anything else. The attack scenes are a perfect excuse for directional effects, and it’s one the sound mixers don’t pass up. There’s no LFE channel, but the subwoofer occasionally gets some redirected bass from the other speakers.

The only extra is the trailer, a “green-band” (MPAA-approved for all audiences) running 1:22. It’s non-anamorphic 2.35:1, overly soft, pink-hued (possibly faded) and riddled with artefacts.

The Entity is a film that does hold your attention though is ultimately dislikeable. It’s certainly worth seeing for a fine lead performance, and Fox’s DVD has a good picture and sound.

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