Friday, August 6, 2021


 by Anthony King

“Welcome home, cu...” Nevermind.

*TW: A major plot point of this movie deals with sexual assault*

Last night, as I was watching the opening sequence of The Entity, my son yells out from his bedroom, “Dad!” I walked back, somewhat annoyed, but lovingly asked what he wanted. “Turn on my light! There's somebody in here!” I pulled the cord on the ceiling fan, the light flashed on, and there was Eben, curled up in a ball hiding under his blanket. I sat down next to him and told him he must have had a nightmare. “No,” he says. “I wasn't asleep. I saw this short person with a gray face, a big smile that curled up to his ears, and a long nose.” Long story short, we're moving. But if The Entity has taught me anything it's that a poltergeist doesn't stay with the house; it stays with the person.

The first time I watched Sidney J. Furie's haunted house movie was because my friend Daena said it was her favorite movie. She neglected to tell me that not only was it a haunted house movie, but it was also about a ghost repeatedly and graphically sexually assaulting Barbara Hershey. Supposedly based on real life events but fictionalized for the film and book upon which it's based, both written by Frank De Felitta, The Entity follows Carla (Hershey), a single mother who works a day job while taking secretarial classes at night in order to make ends meet and hopefully provide a better future for her children. Within the first 10 minutes of the movie, Carla is pinned down and raped in her bedroom by an unseen force. Trying to explain to her kids, her friends, and even doctors what occurred proves to be pointless as no one believes her. The attacks on Carla keep happening at her home, at other people's homes, and even in her car, until one by one, people start to believe her after witnessing the attacks.
While the rape scenes are some of the most graphic and uncomfortable I've ever witnessed, at the same time I'm completely amazed at how these sequences were made. In any other movie that centers around the sexual assault of a woman, the abusers are shown to be disgusting, creepy, scary men. That, along with the cries of pain and twisted facial expressions of the victim, make for a harrowing experience for the viewer. In the case of The Entity, we only see and hear the cries of Carla, yet for me it hits harder than, say, The Last House on the Left or Revenge. The way Hershey plays these sequences is exactly how someone in this exact instance would be reacting: she's absolutely terrified, feels completely violated, but can't quite comprehend what is happening because, although she knows she's being attacked, she can't see the attacker. As the viewer, I too am horrified. But Hershey's actions and reactions are remarkable. She whips her head before turning back to camera with blood on her lip after being punched by the ghost. Her legs are forced apart and hands forced above her head as she is assaulted in the bathroom. And the best (worst?) part: her breasts are fondled while she lays in bed, finger indentations appearing on her skin where there are no fingers. Her acting, along with the camera work, editing, and special effects by Stan Winston, make for alarming yet completely hypnotic sequences.
Sneiderman, the doctor who Carla sees is played by the always comforting Ron Silver. He spends much of his time on screen being a complete schmuck, but that takes nothing away from the love I have for him. I trust him implicitly. And again, we're treated to a completely believable performance. We know what's happening to Carla is really happening. But imagine someone – a stranger – coming to you and saying that they were attacked by a ghost. Sneiderman obviously cares about Carla as a person – a woman even. “The bruises are real. The pain is real. Your feelings? Are real,” he says to her. I love that line because it shows this doctor knows what Carla is feeling is real. He's just trying to get to the bottom of it because he's a man of practical science. For that, I hold nothing against Sneiderman.
There is so much to say about The Entity, from it's haunting score by Charles Bernstein including the pounding electronic heavy metal guitars during the attack sequences, to the awkward and sometimes icky relationship between Carla and her oldest son Billy. Furie also makes it a point to show the area of California where they live surrounded by factories with tall smokestacks that loom in the distance. That alone can make for an interesting analysis. But Furie also takes every chance he can get to say, “Look what I can do!” On top of nearly every static shot being filmed at an upwards angle (“This is a thriller!”), there are enough split diopter shots to make your head explode.

Tobe Hooper's superior Poltergeist came out six months after The Entity. The glut of haunting and possession movies that were made for television alone in the late '70s and early '80s shows us just what the people wanted. While The Entity goes off the rails at the end with the parapsychologists and their ludicrous experiment involving thousands of gallons of liquid helium, and the fact this it's over two hours long when it could easily be a tight 87 minutes, I still consider it one of the scariest and thrilling poltergeist movies. But does it really need that final line of dialogue?


  1. Great write up on a movie that i think would be considered pretty obscure these days. I only saw this movie once when it hit a precursor to cable tv decades ago yet i still recall scenes from it. Terrifying in execution and concept. That, combined with the 'based on a real story', really messed with me. (Kids who grew up with horror during the 70s and 80s will likely recall a similar, probably more widespread, phenomenon with The Amityville Horror. The paperback of the house with the eye windows was EVERYWHERE and we were all freaked out moreso that it was supposed to be real.) Thanks again for the great writeup/review...keep em coming!

    PS: I cackled at your line "long story short, we're moving"

  2. Barbara Hershey's performance is the heart of the film. As you write, Anthony, she is the one who makes the attack scenes so harrowing. I bought a deeply discounted DVD of it years ago and was not disappointed