The Entity (1983)

The Entity is a supernatural horror drama that bears all the hallmarks of classic 1970s horror though it was ultimately released in 1982/1983. The best reference point for The Entity is probably The Exorcist for its viscerally serious exploration of its subject matter and also for its connection with a real-life incident.

The Entity is based on a 1978 novel by Frank De Felitta (who also wrote the screenplay), which is yet another parallel with The Exorcist, which was based on William Peter Blatty’s novel and was similar adapted by the author from his own work.

The film stars Barbara Hershey as a single mother in Los Angeles who is raped and tormented by an invisible assailant. Like The Exorcist, The Entity traces its origins to a true story, that of the 1974 case of Doris Bither, a woman who claimed to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted by an invisible entity, and who was observed by doctoral students at the University of California, Los Angeles.

However, unlike The Exorcist, there are no religious aspects to The Entity. Instead Carla Moran (Hershey’s character) is caught in between the polar schools of psychology and paranormal science. The film finds thought-provoking sequences in this conflict with Moran unfortunately the victim in the thick of things.

That said, at slightly over two hours long, the film does drag out the narrative a little bit too long and with better editing, might have delivered a tighter story in the end. Speaking of the ending, sadly, it is also utterly unsatisfying as no answers whatsoever are presented. No relief either for Moran (and neither for Bither in real life, it seems).

Which, depending on your perspective, makes The Entity either an engaging tragedy or a disturbing exploitation. I can understand why women’s groups were offended by the film’s plot but at the same time, agreeing with the film-maker’s prerogative to tell the story, such as it is.

Again, as with many 1970s horror movies, it walks the tightrope between crassness and provocative human terror and it is of the kind that would highly unlikely be repeated in contemporary times. However, with the latest news that James Wan would be rebooting The Entity soon, that assertion will be put to the test.

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