Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Entity (1982)

This one played at the New Beverly about a month ago and I didn't know anything about it except that the premise involves Barbara Hershey getting raped by a ghost. Obviously this was a can't miss premise in the post-Exorcist era even if it sounds utterly ridiculous now. And sure enough, that's what happens, about five times during the course of the movie, each time accompanied by the most awesomely tasteless, throbbing music that you've ever heard in a rape scene in a movie. It's basically loud, insistent porno music, and it returns every time the ghost (or whatever) goes after Hershey.

What's most interesting to me about this movie is that it seems to exhibit cinematic split-personality disorder. On the one hand we have what we see happening to Hershey - she gets slapped and raped by invisible forces, and this is all seen objectively - there's clearly a ghost (or something) attacking her.

At the same time, the movie introduces Ron Silver as her psychiatrist, a sympathetic, rational guy who proceeds to make a very compelling case that Hershey's character is, in fact, nuts - that she's had an unhealthy sex life, that her relationships with men have been unstable, and that the whole thing is a figment of her imagination. This is combined with a number of subtle touches director Sidney J. Furie adds to the movie, constantly bringing in reflections and mirror images (like the above) to suggest that she's doing it to herself - this is all pretty convincing, cinematically, especially given Barbara Hershey's completely committed, nuanced performance...

Except for when the blue lightning bolts attack Hershey's son, or at the end of the movie, when scientists manage to trap and freeze the entity as a giant blob of blue goo. WHUH? I guess the filmmakers thought that making both sides of the debate convincing would be quirky and ambiguous, but...WHUH?

Anyway, Furie's direction is controlled and Hershey gives a very strong performance, so I recommend the movie on those levels, but otherwise it's a lunatic film (which also means I recommend it).



Joel E said...

I have never seen this, but from your description I wonder if that isn't what the director was originally going for, only to be shot down late in production by some executive who decided that audiences would feel cheated if they didn't get their lightning effects and frozen goo?

Of course, the porno music makes you wonder.

Jeff McMahon said...

The scale of the scene involving the frozen goo looks so big and complicated that I have to assume that it was part of the film all along. I don't feel like reading the book ('Based on a true story!') to find out if that's where it came from.