July 4, 2011 This "raped by a poltergeist" thriller isn't the greatest. But it is way out of print, nearly impossible to find on DVD unless you're willing pay $50 or more for a copy on Ebay, and it features the most explicit non-CGI footage of a poltergeist assaulting a woman ever filmed.
Worth renting for sure -- especially when the cost of renting is basically nothing because you are already on an all-you-can-eat rental plan, and the film streams instantly in DVD quality to your HDTV.
That's right. "The Entity", starring Barbara Hershey, may be out of print on DVD, but it is very much in print at Netflix streaming -- and it looks as good as DVD in the format. So who cares if it's out of print?
Here's some history.
A year before Steven Spielberg wowed the world by producing "Poltergeist" (directed by Tobe Hooper) a similar, albeit much more R-rated, ghost story was released to theaters with little success. Starring then up-and-coming Barbara Hershey and directed by veteran filmmaker Sidney Furie ("Dr. Blood's Coffin"), "The Entity" cashed in on the poltergeist craze of the time. Ghost stories had expanded to the point where people believed that spirits of the dead could actually commit carnage and even rape. We had seen rape before in the superior "Legend of Hell House," but "The Entity" focuses on the theme, with Hershey playing a single Mom who becomes the target of a horny spirit that repeatedly rapes her, in one case in front of her own children.
The one scene that had the whole filmwatching community abuzz from this movie was a scene where Hershey is lying topless, having her breasts fondled by an invisible being. The effect was an early one provided by make-up master Stan Winston, and Hershey didn't even need to really be topless for the shoot.
It actually presents a gripping story, because Hershey isn't sure if she's going mad. Silver plays a psychiatrist who is attempting to bring her back to sanity. Her kids don't know what to think. One unrealistic aspect of the story: Even after being attacked repeatedly in her one-story home, she doesn't move out of there. Her excuse for not leaving: She has a lease. Not much of a reason, actually. But, then again, the spirit does attack her out of the home too – including while driving her car, and even while sleeping at a friend's home. Every attack is accompanied by a pounding film score that sounds like an amped-up version of John Carpenter's "Halloween" chase music.
This isn't the kind of subject that could ever make it in front of a camera today. Part of the reason is that no one really takes poltergeists seriously anymore. But another big reason: rape has become quite taboo. We're simply too politically correct these days. In that sense, "The Entity" makes for a thrilling nostalgia trip back to a time when filmmakers could ironically get away with a lot more. Far from being exploitation, the film's examination of her battle against this spirit is really an allegory for an abusive relationship: She's disempowered by experts who won't believe her and friends who think she's crazy, while her children watch, powerlessly. No one can help her.
If the film has any flaw, it's simply that it isn't up to par with other "thoughtful" horror films like "Rosemary's Baby" or, most notably, "The Exoricst," which obviously had a huge effect on the serious feel and mood of "The Entity." The ending also drags and, sadly, gets a little to Spielberg-esque. So it isn't a classic. But it's miles ahead of most other big-budget Exorcist clones, like "The Sentinel." By the late '80s, serious adult horror like this had actually become a thing of the past.