The Entity (1982)
August 29, 2022 7:00 AM - Subscribe

Single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is sexually assaulted by an invisible force. She begins therapy with Dr. Phil Sneiderman (Ron Silver), a psychiatrist who believes Carla's traumatic past is motivating her to commit self-induced injuries, rather than anything supernatural. When the attacks continue, Carla invites two college students with an interest in the paranormal to visit her house. After seeing the ghost in action, they agree to help Carla defeat her invisible attacker.

Directed by Sidney J. Furie.

62% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Starz. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a tremendously upsetting and hard-to-take film that is attempting to tell a fictionalized version of a "true" story (that is almost certainly bullshit) in exploitative fashion. In doing so, it inadvertently becomes one of the most searing on-film representations of gaslighting, thanks to Hershey's fiery performance. Then it kind of derails into some weird pseudoscience shit at the end. It's sometimes brave and revelatory, sometimes horrible trash, never boring, frequently terrifying.

It isn't a film a person could stand behind without equivocation. It's maybe amoral. But Hershey's performance will burn you, and there are moments of sheer terror.

Absolute red flashing lights trigger warnings on the sexual assault content. Seriously: be careful.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:05 AM on August 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

This movie was not what I expected AT ALL. I figured it would be exploitative, but I didn't think it would be...harrowing. We were just talking about Hereditary in the A24 thread, and I think this is a similar kind of thing, where you go in hoping to be scared and you end up emotionally devastated. Hershey is an incredible actress, Naomi Watts in Mulholland DR levels of dealing with potentially degrading and -- worse -- potentially unintentionally ridiculous material and just selling it so hard you can't look away for a second. What a powerful movie...probably moreso than anyone could have guessed it would be.

The last act in the lab is, admittedly, a little silly and contrived. But somehow even it works; we think we're going to get an easy way out of this story, even a way that lets us laugh it off a little, but we are very, very wrong.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's a film that is way better than it has any right to be, that is for sure, and it's mostly Hershey that makes it work. It does walk a very narrow line of making a film about abuse that does not revel in that abuse, and I will not say that it always walks that line successfully. It's kind of like watching Irreversible, where the center of the film is a nine-minute harrowing rape scene that is about violence and hate instead of sex, but which, at the end of the day, is still something you are watching as entertainment. I don't think The Entity tries to implicate the audience in the same way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:27 AM on August 29, 2022

Film/video artist Peter Tscherkassky used footage from this movie for his film "Outer Space," which is one of the most effective and unsettling experimental shorts I've ever seen.
posted by tomorrowromance at 11:48 AM on August 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

I can't say that I'm a fan really and find the whole film pretty terrible but buoyed largely by the sincerity of Hershey's very committed performance. I am a fan of Tscherkassky's film Outer Space which is a good use of the Entity and redeems it slightly for me.

Canadian director Sidney J. Furie has such an oddball filmography - cult films like Boys in Company C, Leather Boys, Little Fauss and Big Halsy, and Ipcress File and utter junk (I know they have their fans but oof) like Ladybugs, Superman IV and the Iron Eagle series. Hopefully we'll get to see Daniel Kremer's documentary on Furie at some point.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I put this on DVD about fifteen years ago, and like Ashwagandha, I can say I'm not a fan of the film as a whole, but can appreciate Hershey's performance and marvel at how the 70s were such a weird decade that this was a mainstream film informed by popular theories about paranormal phenomena that were not considered "fringe" or "whacko."
posted by infinitewindow at 3:44 AM on September 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

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