The Entity is a demonic possession film from 1982, billed as being based on a true story from 1976. The lead character, a single mother called Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey), is attacked and raped by an unidentified, violent entity that is never seen. It moves things around, so is something like a poltergeist. The action is set in Los Angeles. She is of course very disturbed by these events, and is encouraged by a friend to see a psychiatrist.
Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver) encourages Carla to undergo therapy. When she experiences another attack that leaves her battered and bruised, his suspicions increase. She has had a rough past—an abusive childhood, a husband who died under violent circumstances—and the doctor wants to know if there is any truth to these paranormal experiences. She refuses to have herself committed, but receives help from paranormal investigators that she meets in the occult section of a bookshop. They then witness an attack, and that’s where the film gets a bit silly.
The movie only works at all because of Hershey’s presence. She was an interesting actress from the beginning of her career, but never quite got the roles she deserved. She is on camera for almost the entire film, and her presence on the screen elevates The Entity from being another bog-standard demonic possession film. Due to the success of The Exorcist nine years before and The Omen a few years after that, the occult and fear of it had come back to the public consciousness in a big way, spawning a raft of copycat films (none of which held a candle to The Exorcist, other than The Shining). It’s a very physical role, and marks the beginning of a strong run of films for Hershey in the 80s that almost made her a bigger name.
The picture is directed by Sidney J. Furie, who was Canadian but got his start in Britain by directing The Leather Boys and The Ipcress File. He also directed The Boys in Company C, one of the very first Vietnam films, starring former drill sergeant R. Lee Emrey. More recently, Furie has been making straight-to-DVD war movies and thrillers—it may not be a glittering career, but he has done a film almost every year since 1958. Furie considered The Entity to be a “supernatural suspense film” rather than a horror film.
The film suffers from an overly long length. At just over two hours, it needed at least 20 minutes cut to pick up the pace. However, Martin Scorsese listed it as number 4 on his list of the most terrifying films ever made. While not considered a horror director, Scorsese is an avid watcher of the genre and has used a lot of techniques from horror films in his own. He said he liked the way that frightening events happened in such a banal landscape.
Incidentally, the real story involved an alleged rape by three male Asian ghosts. The woman concerned had indeed had a traumatic childhood, had experienced several abusive relationships and had problems with substance abuse as well as living in a condemned house. Investigators claimed that they did photograph some mysterious orbs, however. Her experiences may well have been the result of mental illness. Moving away did not stop the attacks completely, but they eventually happened less often. Her story was the basis for a novel by Frank D. Felitta, who was also the author of supernatural schlock like Audrey Rose.
The only added feature is the trailer.