The Entity (1982) – WTF Really Happened to This Horror Movie?

The WTF Really Happened series looks back at the 1982 supernatural horror film The Entity, starring Barbara Hershey

Possession is a relatively common topic on this channel and show and that’s probably because it’s something that has been recorded and pushed as factual by the people claiming to be possessed or investigators for a long time. It generally falls under the scope of he said/she said with most of the presented evidence as fact being very up for interpretation. These are almost always then turned into movies as that open for interpretation aspect of it can lead to a bunch of elements being added for entertainment and dramatic purposes. Today we look at a movie that is based on a book that was inspired by a true story. It’s not exactly possession but it is a poltergeist of a movie that is something very different and was taken quite seriously in both real life and as a movie. The Entity (buy it HERE) is an entertaining and original movie that pushed some boundaries but how close is it to the purported true events that happened to Doris Bither? Keep your eyes and ears open for the signs of a vengeful spirit as we find out what REALLY happened to The Entity.

The Entity was originally a novel written by Frank De Felitta based on the case of Doris Bither. De Felitta was a novelist, screenwriter, and even director that is most famous for The Entity and his other novel Audrey Rose that was also turned into a feature horror film. While the book was based on the real-life events that Bither claimed to go through, it has plenty of differences and embellishments too. The director of The Entity nor star Barbara Hershey ever spoke with Doris and even though the author of the novel wrote the screenplay, the director didn’t want, nor did he consider The Entity a horror movie but rather a suspense thriller and true to form, the movie rarely plays itself as a direct horror movie.

The book was written in 1978 and even after the author’s previous adaptation Audrey Rose failed to make an impression at the box office with 2 million made on a budget of 4 million, 20th Century Fox took a flyer on the same author and allowing him to be the screenwriter again. The director is Sidney J. Furie who got his start all the way back in 1957 with A Dangerous Age and is still alive with credits as recently as 2018. Besides today’s movie, he may be most well known for his direction for Ladybugs, Iron Eagle, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. That’s quite the diverse catalogue and doesn’t include his various TV shoots either. The in front of the camera talent is fairly large but the three main characters are played by Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, and Alex Rocco.

Rocco is easily known best for his role in The Godfather, but I suppose a Simpsons fan would recognize his voice too. The Emmy winner had over 170 credits to his name but apart from this and The Lady in White, he mostly stayed away from the horror scene. Silver made Silent Rage the same year this movie came out and that’s really it for horror. Barbara Hershey wasn’t the first choice for the role. Originally the studio offered it to heavy hitters like Sally Field, Jane Fonda, and Bette Midler who all turned it down. Hershey almost turned it down too after reading the script and objecting to the nudity required and what the character was to go through, but the director assured her of special effects and body doubles to ease her mind. Hershey showed up in higher class projects like Beaches and Hannah and Her Sisters but has had a late career horror boom with things like Riding the Bullet, Black Swan, and of course the Insidious series of movies.

Speaking of the special effects, the makeup and body suit were done by 4-time Oscar winner and legend Stan Winston. They look strange at first but hold up remarkably well, even on high definition blu ray. The movie made 13 million on its 9-million-dollar budget and it was mostly received positively from critics. Originally it was optioned for Roman Polanski and was made under a tax shelter law. The original script also had some strange incestuous subplot between Carla and her oldest son that was basically community voted out of the movie as it felt weird and against the rest of the movie.

The Entity begins with hard working single mom Carla Moran trying to better herself by learning new tasks as well as working to take care of her 3 children. She comes home to her youngest two asleep and her oldest in the garage working on his car. When she is alone in her room getting ready for bed she is suddenly assaulted by an unseen force. The bedroom violently shakes, and she is smacked across the face before seemingly being sexually assaulted. When she finally is allowed to get up, there is no one to be found and her scared children are left to search the house but find nothing. She tries going to sleep again but the room starts to groan and shake as it did before so she nopes herself and her children out of the home. She goes to her best friend’s house for the night where she tells of what is going on. They have a beach day and go back to the house, with best friend in tow, and nothing happens. The next day, however, Carla is driving to work, and the entity takes over her car and almost gets her killed in traffic. It is here when she goes to a doctor named Sneiderman who works out of the local college campus.

(Factometer 50%) Carla Moran is actually based on Doris Bither who, like Carla, was a single mother in LA who was trying to take care of her children. In real life, she had 4 children living with her instead of 3. In the movie there are two different fathers of her children, but the real Bither had 4 children by four different men. In 1974, Dither went to a psychologist named Barry Taff to tell him about the sexual abuse that had been thrust upon her by some unforeseen entity. While the family in the movie are living in a house that was left to them by one of the fathers of the kids, the real-life Bither family was stuck living in a condemned home.

Bither speaks with Dr. Sniderman who doesn’t believe her story but believes she believes these things are happening to her. She goes home and is assaulted in the shower this time, but it is from more than one creature. Two smaller spirits are holding her in place while a third is the one who assaults her, presumably the same one that acted on her before. She goes back to the doctor and now has actual bruises and other signs of assault that would admittedly be hard to do herself due to the angles and force. He decides to accompany her home and learns a lot more about her and her life. There was abuse when she was younger, both sexually and physically, and she tells him of the relationships with the father of her older son and the father of her two youngest. He doesn’t fully believe her still but wants to help her. After he leaves, another event occurs that sees her oldest child try to intervene and be thrown across the living room by a spectral ball of light.

(Factometer 40%) Dr. Sneiderman doesn’t have a real-life counterpart or at least in terms of his motivation. The doctor of the movie doesn’t believe in the paranormal and fully believes these events are happening because of the abuse Dither suffered both as a child and the stress that she is going through as an adult taking care of her children. The three poltergeists that allegedly stalked and abused Doris are accounted for here and she did say there were two smaller ones that held her in place while the third did all of the assaulting. Her oldest son also tried to help her during one of the attacks and was injured in the process. The difference here is that all 4 of her children were quite aware of the entities and even called him Mr. Whose It. The children having multiple fathers is a shade of real life too as Dithers 4 sons were conceived from 4 different men.

Carla meets Sneiderman and his whole team of doctors who conduct an interview with her. At the end of the session, it is determined that the episodes are due to mass hysteria and a delusion brought on by her damaged psyche, sexual issues, and even her want of masturbation. Sniderman is mostly aligned to what they are saying but is also still very much wanting to help her. Carla goes home and is attacked again by the entity at night with this time her receiving pleasure as almost a lure to keep her satisfied which is after she gets to see her traveling boyfriend. She tells the doctor who urges her to commit herself for observation and her safety, but she refuses and is angry he no longer wants to help. She goes to her friend’s house again and the entity has followed her here and destroys much of the living room and kitchen. In a book store looking for any kind of help via literature, she runs into two men who are looking for evidence of exactly what she is describing.

(Factometer 25%) While there is no real life Sniderman, the two men she meets in the bookstore are representative of Barry Taff and Kerry Graynor whom decide to investigate the claims of Dither. They conduct an interview at her house and find out much of the information about Dithers personal life that Sniderman does in the movie. The difference is that they want to believe her and the supernatural events. While there wasn’t a specific best friend she leaned on, Dithers neighbors corroborated hearing and seeing things happen at the house.

The two parapsychologists accompany Carla to her home and are skeptical before seeing some of the evidence she was trying to tell them, including the blue lightning. They convince their superior Dr. Cooley to launch a full-scale investigation with the tools available to them at the college they work for. A full team comes to the house and installs various equipment while Dr. Ssneiderman tries to talk her out of this and that it isn’t the way to recovery. He goes above the parapsychologists’ heads and attempts to get their funding cut but is refused. At night, she summons the entity by calling out to it and the team thinks they can trap it after seeing it take the form of green mist. Carlas’s boyfriend Jerry comes home, and she tries to tell him whats going on before he sees it himself and leaves her out of fear and shame.

(Factometer 50%) It is true that a team of about 30 researchers accompanied Taff and Graynor to the house to attempt to see the entity. They had her try and lure it out by antagonizing and swearing at the being and they all agreed that they saw a green mist in a corner that eventually tried to form into the torso of a man. Unfortunately they lost their proof with the inability to photograph properly. There was no boyfriend to lose at the time nor was there a doctor who was opposed to the experiments and attempted trappings of the entity.

The team at the college decides to set up a trap that they can capture the entity using liquid helium to freeze it. Sniderman tries to stop it but is thrown out and when they go ahead with the scheme, Carla is almost killed by the structure and the liquid helium. They do briefly capture the entity in a massive block of ice, but it shatters and escapes just as quickly and nobody outside of the para team is willing to corroborate the story. Carla goes home and is greeted by the entity actually speaking to her, but she says she no longer fears it. The family leaves the house, and we get a scroll about the supposed true story and that the attacks continue to this day.

(Factometer 25%) The team didn’t try to lure the entity to be trapped but they did conclude there to be supernatural occurrences. Just as the movie states, it wasn’t the house that was stalked by the poltergeist, but Doris and she was attacked after moving out. She even claimed to be impregnated by the spirit, but doctors found it to be an ectopic pregnancy. She was very quiet about the events until her death but one of her sons became very vocal after her death and gave interviews, mostly about the children’s side of the story.

The movie follows the book side of things closer but still keeps in line with what Doris Bither told the team in the 70’s. While the book and movie added plenty of extra elements and pizazz, it captured the original story and events fairly accurately while adding a lot to flesh out a more compelling story. Check out the movie as it’s a wholly original slice of 80’s supernatural fare and then look up the events of what inspired it after.

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Really Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To check out the other shows we have on the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel, head over to the channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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