Plot: What’s it about?
Single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) lives alone with her three children – a grown teenage boy named Billy and two young girls. She works in the day and takes night classes to try to support her family. One night, at home, she is sexually assaulted by some sort of spiritual force. She explains what has happened to her friends but she is basically shrugged off. After another attack at her house, and a frightening experience in her car, she seeks the help of psychologist Phil Sneiderman (Ron Silver.) The attacks continue and become even more violent in nature. While she is analyzed, she continues to struggle with the demonic force that seems to be insatiable. Her children are also put into danger. As the film continues, she seeks assistance from scientists while the attacks continue.
This film is very difficult to review. The film will undoubtedly not be liked by many viewers due to the numerous supernatural rape scenes. These are absolutely uncomfortable to watch, but they do serve a purpose in the plot. Two of the scenes are pretty explicit and will probably cause some viewers to turn off the film immediately. When the film was first released it was largely maligned because of those scenes and I feel like that is a valid opinion. I understand where those reviewers are coming from. That said – the principal concept of the film is unnerving and absolutely works. The film is effectively dreadful and frightening. Whether the film is likable is a much more difficult question and can only be answered by the viewer. For example – Martin Scorsese said he considered the film terrifying and named it one of the eleven scariest films of all time. Other critics were harsh on the film and complained that it was dull for long stretches of the picture and only intermittently suspenseful. This can be seen as a strength or a weakness depending on the viewer. I felt that the long periods without music to raise suspense made the assault scenes nearly unbearably intense. This all seemed very intentional to me. The music in the film by Charles Bernstein beats like a mallet during the attack scenes. In the special features interview with Bernstein he called the music that plays the “thrasher.” It is very effective and definitely jarring. Scary as hell would be a good phrase to describe it.
The central performance by Barbara Hershey is exceptional. It goes without saying that it must have taken a lot of bravery to play a role that calls for numerous scenes involving sexual assault. She carries the film. Ron Silver turns in a good performance as well. The direction of the film by Sidney J. Furie brings the best out of the actors. The film is well-shot by cinematographer Stephen H. Burum and I enjoyed the mise en scene of the film. The finale of the film strays a little bit further than the realism of the rest of film, but I was happy with the film overall.
The film was based on a novel by Frank DeFellitta that was based loosely on some true incidents that occurred to a woman. I think that this film may find more acceptance in a world that has experienced the #metoo movement. The ways in which Carla is violated, and then discredited draw a strong parallel to the stories that have flooded the press over the last couple years. In that sense, the film was looking forward and probably could not be fully accepted at the time of its release.
Video: How’s it look?
Shout!Factory have provided an attractive transfer in 1080p with an AVC encode in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film uses a fairly muted palette, but skin tones look natural. Fine detail is sharp. The film uses fairly dark lighting schemes but I never saw any noticeable crush enter the frame. I can’t imagine any fan of the film being disappointed with what’s been offered here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Shout!Factory has provided three different tracks to choose from: DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 4.1, and DTS-HD MA 2.0. All three tracks sound pretty decent, but I enjoyed the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track the most. The film only kicks into overdrive during the attack scenes but the added depth in the surround tracks adds extra intensity for the viewers. It was nice of Shout!Factory to give so many options but I would just stick with the 5.1 track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Inner Strength – this new interview with actress Barbara Hershey is great. She discusses how she did not look a the film as a horror film, but as a character study. That goes a long way towards explaining her great performance in the film. She also discusses what attracted her to the role, her thoughts on working with director Sidney J. Furie, and the difficulty of acting against an invisible character.
- Seeing Is Believing – in this new interview with actor David Labiosa (who plays Billy in the film,) he discusses how he landed the role and his memories from the film.
- High Dread – this new interview With Composer Charles Bernstein focuses on his work on the film. The compositions in the film are very effective so I was excited to see this interview. He discusses how he aimed for “discomfort.”
- Spirits & Sprocket Holes – Editor Frank J. Urioste discusses some of the strange occurrences that happened while he worked on editing the film. This is really interesting and lends even more authenticity to the film.
- Audio Commentary – author/filmmaker Daniel Kremer (Sidney J. Furie: Life and Films) discusses the film at length in the context of the director’s career. This is pretty smart and entertaining.
- Trailers From Hell – The Entity with audio commentary by Luca Guadagnino – a two minute piece.
- The Entity Files Featurette – this archival featurette is an extended interview with parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff who explains the real story that inspired the novel and film. This is really interesting.
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Still Gallery
The Bottom Line
The Entity is a frightening film that will turn off many viewers due to the sexual assault scenes in the film. If the viewer can get past the initial shock of those scenes, they will find a suspenseful film with a strong central performance and some really frightening sequences. The film also draws some stark parallels to some of the issues recently raised in the #Metoo movement. I feel like the finale of the film strays a little but too far from some of the earlier character based and realistic material, but I still enjoyed the movie overall. Shout!Factory has provided a great looking transfer and the special features are exceptional. Fans will want to pick up a copy, but others may want to rent first due to some of the uncomfortable material in the film.