Recently there was much talk online about a recent Netflix acquisition called Veronica. Out of nowhere a bunch of people were praising the film as crazy scary and quite good, then others came out and declared it a total bore. Deciding to add it to my Saturday night viewing schedule I found it to be a pretty hollow experience. Nowhere near good enough to thrill me yet not awful enough to provide much fun. Some of the scares would have been effective had I given a crap and not been convinced that the whole thing was leading towards a cheap twist, which it somewhat did. Frankly due to it's general storyline involving the evils of spirit boards it felt like another one of those dull Ouija movies.
Watching something like Veronica makes me wonder how so many people could find it scary or entertaining. Were they simply caught off guard? Maybe they have very low standards? It's just very confusing for a guy who can walk back to his bedroom and bring out something much better and more frightening.
I'm not here to bash on Veronica's brief burst of internet fame though. Actually I wanted to use it as a bridge towards talking about a much better film with some similar themes. The whole time spent watching a girl who apparently struggles with sexuality and is burdened with parental responsibilities, in this case for her siblings reminded me of the 1982 shocker, The Entity.
The film has a an wide range of talents in-front of an behind the camera. Directed by Sidney J. Furie (who has an incredibly diverse list of credits) and staring Barbara Hershey and Ron Silver, with a script from Frank De Felitta based on his novel. It should also be noted that Felitta's original book is supposedly focused on true events though there are arguments against the legitimacy of that case. Regardless of any basis in reality, Felitta can count this among his list of worthwhile horror credits along with Audrey Rose and Dark Night of the Scarecrow which he also directed. One has to wonder how he would have approached this story from the directors chair but it's tough to complain when Furie does an excellent job overall.
The Entity is the tale of a single mother name Carla Moran who struggles with almost nightly visitations from a sexually abusive entity. The film waste no time in getting to the scary shit either as we're offered just a few moments with Carla before she suffers her first attack. That's vital to the progression of the story as her connections to others make up so much of the deeper meaning to this film. She has a negative history with men ranging from her abusive father to past husbands. Her current lot in life is with her three kids, a decent traveling salesman boyfriend, one female friend, and upon seeking aid, a doctor (Ron Silver) who begins to develop feelings towards her.
A particularly interesting aspect to the film is that it become perfectly clear that something supernatural is afoot, there's no trickery on that end. However; we never learn exactly what the cause of all this mayhem really is. It could be a ghost such as Carla's father or one of her ex-lovers. Maybe it's a demon that latched on during a low-point in her life. Or could it be a psychic manifestation of of her sexual frustrations as a woman chained down by motherhood? Multiple potential explanations are given without any singular answer. While this may sound frustrating, the writing handles it beautifully as it makes the subject Carla's fear so ambiguous. Should she be weary of her past, a dark force from beyond, or herself?
Hopefully I've made it clear that the movie has some good dramatic elements and surprisingly deep writing, but let's remember that I wanted to tell you about the scare-factor. The Entity features so many freaky sequences that it becomes an issue as the audience starts to build a tolerance for all the abuse. The initial attacks are all downright terrifying and highly sexual but eventually you'll become exhausted from seeing this poor woman raped over and over again by some unseen force. The final act of the film attempts to correct this issue by changing things up, but we'll have to come back to that.
Two elements that help to make this film so scary are the cinematography by Stephen H. Burum who finds ways to make normal rooms look threatening, and then there's the music. Charles Bernstein who is likely best remembered for his work on Nightmare on Elm Street does what may be his best work here. The main theme is good enough but if you really want a clue as to what makes so many scenes extra spooky just head over to Youtube and look up Bath Attack. Quentin Tarantino even sampled the song for Inglorious Basterds so a few of you may already be familiar with the tune.
As I mentioned earlier, the film takes a bit of a left turn in the final act and I'd say it weakens the film considerably, though not enough to kill the effect. By that point in the story, Carla is aided by a group of ghost-hunting academics who seek to find proof of the supernatural. This involves an outlandish plan to capture her tormentor, and well... it just gets weird before wrapping up.
Even with the oddball final act, The Entity is an incredible fright-fest. Direction is tight, the drama is engaging, and above all the terror is based around something quite real as it draws parallels to abusive relationships. Martin Scorsese has apparently praised the movie as one of the scariest horror films ever. I may find most of the mans work to be overrated but it sure sounds like he's got some solid taste in fright flicks.
Apologies for taking so long between posts. Last week was a weird one and I ended up with portions of three separate articles before finally completing this one. There should definitely be another post up before the week is out. Can't say when or what it will be exactly, I'm actually looking into putting my name in for a city council seat. If nothing else I'm guessing there's a worthwhile story in trying.