Monday, October 12, 2009

the entity [1981]

allegedly based on a true story barbara hershey portrays the horrifying struggle of a single working mother who is repeatedly attacked and raped by an unseen malevolent force. it is this force that cannot be witnessed and therefore apprehended i find terrifying. the movie does a pretty good job of creating dread. there are few things truly terrifying as physical assault, particularly sexual assault.

hershey does a credible job as she plays carla moran, a woman who is struggling to understand and stop these attacks. the filmmaker teases out those moments when moran is alone, playing with the viewer's expectations of the worse to happen. and when these attacks do happen, savage beatings made more sinister for the fact that she is the only one visible in the room, the noose of dread tightens on the viewer's neck.

perhaps i find this film so scary because i think rape is most definitely the worst crime an individual can suffer. that loss of control over your own body thru the agency of another person intent on harming you and the loss of the feeling of safety of your environment, your home, car, outdoors, the very air you breathe, is just so fucking terrifying. in addition to that throw in a mean-spirited ghost doing the attacking and you have a horror movie scarier than any garden-variety monster found in almost every creature feature.

furthermore, moran can't escape her victimhood. in most ghost stories the protagonists are safe once they leave the confines of, say, the castle or the mansion. in this film the creep ghost follows moran wherever she goes. one scene i find particularly blood-curdling is when moran is driving her car on busy city streets in broad daylight. the ghost takes control of her vehicle and tries to kill her with it. that is i think another manifestation of the rape motif in another context. it is a manipulation of power for the sake of demented sexual gratification which is tied to, i think, control over another's body and, hence, life.

ron silver plays a parapsychologist who attempts to get to the bottom of moran's haunting. the movie loses a bit and goes slack when moran agrees with the good dr in an attempt to bring the ghost into a controlled environment in order to study and perhaps exorcise it from moran. yet from this exercise moran gains a bit of her sanity back in her life which was so totally unmoored from her ordinary existence as a woman and mother.

then the movie ends. the attacks subside over the years, get less intense, then finally cease. it would be interesting if the movie were made today as a fake documentary. it's not a great movie by any means. what makes this movie so powerful for me is hershey's performance. a lesser actor might've made moran shrill without the heroic fight of a real survivor. hershey plays it well as a believable ordinary woman who is fighting for her life. another thing i find terrifying is that the attacker is unseen. what can't be seen often can't be comprehended and that is in all probability the more terrifying thing of all.



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