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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Entity

1982 | United States | 125 min | More...
A still from The Entity (1982)
D+: 2 stars (out of 5)
on Sun Feb 18, 2024

Barbara Hershey plays a single mother who finds herself under repeated, violent sexual assault from an unseen force. Everywhere she turns for help, she finds men eager to dismiss, manipulate, or abandon her.

First, her psychiatrist. After Hershey explains her predicament—an uncomfortable sequence that borders on confessional—he says, before he can help, “We have to find out what the problem is.” Ron Silver shines in the part, conveying volumes with his regretful tone masking a skeptical condescension.

When another assault leaves her covered in bruises and bite marks, Silver has Hershey explain herself to his fellow clinicians. In a crowded, smoke-filled room, she endures questions from old men sporting more skeptical stares. After she leaves, they ignore the physical evidence and focus on her sexual history.

Exasperated, she turns to a group of parapsychologists. Sensing a means to advance their careers, they approach Hershey after an attack, feigning concern, saying, “Maybe this doesn’t seem like the best time for this, but we’re afraid for you.” They then propose a dangerous experiment that treats her as a guinea pig.

This comes after her father-figure boyfriend leaves her after witnessing an attack.

Hershey’s alone. As much an inhuman “entity” as the force attacking her.

To reinforce this, director Sidney Furie leans on two-shots and closeups. These, combined with the small rooms of Hershey’s modest home, lend a documentary feel. But as the attacks escalate, Furie proffers a subtle increase in Dutch angles and other dynamic techniques to mirror her unstable reality.

This subtext and formal rigor, along with Hershey’s fearless performance, almost overcome a dismal third act that sees Hershey fleeing laser beams and a cheap optical effect involving a giant ice block. It’s as though screenwriter Frank De Felitta—who adapted his own novel—grafted on the end of a B-level sci-fi feature. According to Daniel Kremer, author of Sidney J. Furie: Life and Film, Furie regretted the ending.1 Hershey called it contrived.2 Even editor Frank Urioste disliked it.3

It’s a fatal flaw. I can admire Hersey’s performance and Furie’s direction and still admit the ending stinks. Directorial style and convincing performances can’t overcome an aborted script. Abandoning the first two acts’ intimate, character-driven approach opens the door for critics to paint the film as misogynistic exploitation reveling in Hershey’s graphic sexual assaults. I don’t agree—Hershey’s raw intensity and vulnerability renders these scenes grueling, not titillating—but the stylistic devolution leaves one doubting the prior acts’ sincerity. When your ghost goes from a stand-in for domestic abuse to shooting lasers you’ve lost the metaphor. Disappointing given the film could have joined Rosemary’s Baby in the social discourse.

  1. Daniel Kremer. Audio Commentary, The Entity, Shout Factory, 2019
  2. Inner Strength – An Interview with Actress Barbara Hershey, The Entity, Shout Factory, 2019
  3. Spirits & Sprocket Holes – An Interview with Editor Frank J. Urioste, The Entity, Shout Factory, 2019

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Sun Feb 18, 2024 via Blu-ray (Shout Factory, 2019)

    Commentary watch. Daniel Kremer (author of Sidney J. Furie: Life and Films) offers less a running analysis and more of a Sidney Furie appreciation audio essay.

    It proves insightful, as we learn Furie came into the picture having been fired from The Jazz Singer after quitting Night of the Juggler. He needed this job, and the producers knew it. An early test came when Furie wanted to cast Craig T. Nelson as Barbara Hershey’s boyfriend and the producers wanted Alex Rocco. Rocco got the part.

    Kremer is enthusiastic in his praise for the director, pointing out the myriad of stylistic choices and non-traditional setups, including Dutch angles, intense close-ups. But Kremer also reveals the film’s financing (involving tax deals) required the film shoot over ten weeks—double the usual length.

    This diminishes Furie’s achievement, as he opted to tinker with technique instead of fixing the bigger problem—the ending. Kremer won’t admit it doesn’t work—he’s too close to his subject—but admits Furie “regretted” it.

    Watched on
    Mon Dec 21, 2020 via Blu-ray (Shout Factory, 2019)