Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s with a really unhealthy fascination in the supernatural; ghosts, hauntings and things that generally made very loud bumps in the night, meant being really caught between a rock and a hard place. It was the golden age of horror films but naturally I and anyone else similarly inclined and impaired by youth were too young to see them. However that did not mean that all was lost, as unlike today many of these films were adapted from bestselling books and it was easy to pick them up at libraries or bookshops and immerse oneself in another terrifying world. These well-thumbed novels are all still sitting in the bookcase and are occasionally picked up and re-read and of course the films have now been see many a time and can be freely watched at leisure. Among titles I am talking about are The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty), The Amityville Horror (Jay Anson), The Omen (David Seltzer), The Manitou (Graham Masterton), Ghost Story (Peter Straub), Carrie and The Shining (Stephen King), Incubus (Ray Russell) and The Entity (Frank De Felitta). The last two were particularly contentious titles as the beings from other dimensions involved in them were not only likely to scare the bejesus out of you but they physically assaulted and raped their victims too. These were books to keep hidden from prying parental units that’s for sure.
Written by the author of another spooky classic ‘Audrey Rose’ in 1978, Frank De Felitta had been inspired by real life events known as the Doris Bither case and the account of a woman who claimed to have been attacked and raped by three malevolent entities. Filmed in 1982 the film centres on Carla Moran played by Barbara Hershey who finds herself in a similar terrifying position. Carla is a struggling single mum bringing up a son in late teens and two young daughters and although not without her fair share of emotional baggage, there is no reason given for these sudden inexplicable attacks. The first occurs completely out of the blue in her bedroom where she is violently flung on the bed, a pillow stuck on her face and raped by invisible forces. Of course with no attacker found in the locked up house it is difficult to explain to children and friends but the attacks occur in more frequency and in one instance in front of her family resulting in static discharge striking her son who is trying to defend her and breaking his wrist.
She ends up at the university under care of a team led by psychiatrist Dr. Phil Sneiderman (Ron Silver) who although sympathetic obviously goes down the explainable route looking into her past for answers. After the house of a friend is literally torn apart by some serious poltergeist phenomena her friend finally can’t help but believe her and some parapsychologists at the universe also get involved managing to record some of the strange inexplicable pulses of light that are flung by the seemingly now weakened attacking forces. They decide to recreate Carla’s home environment within the university campus and set up a controlled experiment hoping to both save her from further attacks and even capture the spirit and banish it from the world back to where it came from; naturally it isn’t going to go without a fight.
The attacks are totally horrific and although not dwelled on in an exploitative nature are really ghastly to watch. This is due in no short measure to the accompanying jarring staccato score courtesy of Charles Bernstein which accompanies them. Seriously you need to be prepared to jump out your seat when these happen. Hershey is fantastic in her part and after becoming aware of exactly what is happening plays a gritty survivor determined give as good as gets. By comparison most of the rest of the people involved are ineffectual and out of their depth; her on off boyfriend for instance is talking about marrying her one second but as soon as he witnesses things is off like shot, never to be seen again. Effects do have a somewhat retro feel about them now but are on the whole commendable and that’s hardly surprising as Rick Baker is one of the team involved and the film is one of those genuinely frightening ones of which they just don’t seem to make the likes of nowadays. Having not seen this for probably 15 years or so, it still put the shits right up me, I don’t mind saying and I would imagine watching it as a woman would put it on a whole other level of horribleness. Running at 125 minutes the pacing is perfect and never gets boring, there is a lot of psychological talk but it is all very interesting and draws you into things making you really feel a sense of understanding toward what the main character is having to live through. It also allows you to have a little bit of relief between the harrowing attacks.
I’m certainly far from knowledgeable on director Furie’s oeuvre and looking him up see that he started out with films like Dr Blood’s Coffin before getting involved with on Cliff Richard star roles such as The Young Ones (1961) and highly regarded spy thriller The Ipcress File (1965). In fact he has some classic titles in his filmography in which I think as far as horror films are concerned The Entity is one of them. We won’t sully him with talk of Superman IV and Iron Eagle here!
Originally released on Beta and VHS via CBS Fox I seem to remember this one causing a slight stir in the video shop rental days and although not having any real problems or getting withdrawn it was one of those “forbidden fruit films,” that many like me would not have been allowed to watch. Eureka have unleashed it here on debut Blu-Ray UK presentation and it looks and sounds great; in fact too great as far as those musical attack scenes are concerned. There were no extras and it would have been nice to catch up with some of those involved in the making of it and perhaps have some background on the original case that inspired the book and film and one has to wonder if people like Barbara Hershey would even be keen to talk about what can’t have been an easy film for her to make. As far as that true case is concerned although lessening in frequency, apparently sporadic attacks occurred until Bither died in 1999. That really makes you think and sends a shiver down your spine!