Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #6: "The Entity"

Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is an independent woman and proud of it. She's a single mother of three, works all day, and attends typing school at night, all with her sanity intact. But on a night no different than any other, the unspeakable begins to take place in Carla's home. An invisible force barges in and violates Carla in the worst ways, before disappearing as quickly as it arrived. Overcome with distress as is, she's further angered when it seems that there's no logical solution to what's happening. The more well-meaning psychiatrist Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) delves into Carla's past, the more frequent and intense her attacks before. Whoever or whatever Carla's assailant is, it's real, though it'll take something special to bring it down in our world.

Schindler's List. United 93. The Passion of the Christ. These are very admirable films, from artistic and thematic standpoints, though it's a little weird to say I "like" them. They reached their respective aims as effectively as they could have, but it'll be a long time before I pop any of them in on a rainy afternoon. As much of a sore thumb as it looks stacked against these pictures, The Entity is just the same, ostensibly a mainstream creepfest that deals in unexpectedly mature and very disturbing concepts. Just as startling is that the film, having been released when most moviegoers based their image of the supernatural off of the Amityville clunkers, makes it to the end without a scratch on its overall dignity. The Entity is a tough sit, but it survives by servicing its characters more so than the gorehound crowd. There are images of sexual assault that are difficult to watch, but the absence of some simplistic objective on which to hang these sequences spares the film the ravages of crass exploitation.

From shocking beginning to harrowing end, The Entity is firmly focused on Carla and never once wavers. Psychologically and physically, she's put through the mother of all wringers, savaged by a demonic aggressor and tortured by the fact that there's sound way to deal with it. A wrenching scene in which Carla breaks down and ponders submitting to her assailant is as riveting as the more showy attack sequences, both of which are still tastefully handled. Things do start to come apart in the third act, when the story edges away from mimicking its real-life basis and throws in a climax with Carla being pursued by a possessed freeze gun. It's never skipping hand-in-hand through a field of silly alongside The Manitou, but it definitely shows how the biggest pyrotechnics show you can muster is no match for a performance like Hershey's that encapsulates all manner of torment most of us can only imagine.

I hadn't known The Entity was such a hot commodity before I hit it up, with new discs on Amazon beginning at $110 as of this posting. I tracked my copy through the library, so unless you have a chum who's up on his '80s horror collection or a dusty VHS of your own laying somewhere, chances are you've seen the last of this ditty for some time. In any case, I'm dying for a current viewer's take on The Entity -- after so many films have instructed us when to be scared like good little puppies, I'd like to see how they do with something that actually has a reason.

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