The Entity: Nitro-Powered Horror-Movie Metaphor Hell

08/29/2012 4:00 AM |

The Entity (1982)
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Friday, August 29, at 11:59 p.m., part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Midnight Movies

There may not be, outside of David Cronenberg’s wonder cabinet, a more nitro-powered horror-movie metaphor hell than the one fueling this 1982 ordeal, trailing into the Reagan era long after the post-Exorcist zeitgeist had gusted through. Supposedly based on a true case, the thing centers on Barbara Hershey as an ordinary working-class woman who is repeatedly attacked and violently raped by a huge, invisible being. Aurally and visually calibrated like a Taser, Sidney J. Furie’s movie doubles-down on the ‘70s-genre grittiness (the aging, prolific director knew his postwar realism) and then wallops you with unrelenting trauma; the bizarre prosthetic effects, of Hershey’s body being manhandled and fucked by unseen hands and—*gah*—body parts, would be merely one of the most lashingly Surrealist visions in American movies if it weren’t also deeply upsetting on so many levels that it’s like the movie is writing its own library of outraged feminist theory.

Symbologistically speaking, it’s a volcano in constant eruption, with a Charles Bernstein score that rattles your teeth. (20th Century Fox didn’t know how to sell this baby, but the poster did use the word “threatening,” which is accurate.) The anxiety the movie produces was too hot to handle, and after delays it was dumped, only to be semi-rediscovered by Austrian experimentalist Peter Tscherkassky in 1999, reedited as his renowned short “Outer Space.” It remains unnerving and savage, arguably the most eloquent movie ever made in Hollywood about the struggle of the sexual underclass.