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Two Horror Films from Anchor Bay

The Entity (October 9/10)

Based on a book by Frank De Felitta, The Entity follows single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) as she's repeatedly attacked by a malevolent (and invisible) force in her home - with the situation quickly exacerbated by Carla's realization that nobody believes her (especially not Ron Silver's sympathetic yet dubious psychiatrist). It's a decidedly novel premise that's utilized to consistently underwhelming and frequently dull effect by filmmaker Sidney J. Furie, as the director has infused the proceedings with an aggressively deliberate pace that inevitably proves disastrous. And while the initial attack (and the handful of subsequent demonic encounters) are admittedly quite well done (despite the silly hard-rock theme that accompanies such moments), The Entity is primarily devoted to long sequences in which Carla attempts to convince various figures that what's happening to her is real and not just a figment of her imagination. The inherent pointlessness of these interludes is heightened by the fact that it's made clear almost immediately that Carla is telling the truth, so it's impossible not to wonder just why Furie is placing such a tremendous emphasis on questions surrounding Carla's sanity. The movie's repetitive structure - ie Carla is attacked, Carla seeks help from Silver's Phil Sneiderman, Carla is attacked, etc, etc - cements its place as an aggressively overlong and redundant piece of work, and it does seem likely that the picture would've benefited from a far more sensationalistic approach (ie the whole thing is just too sedate and slow for its own good).

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I Spit On Your Grave (October 7/10)

A vast improvement over its unwatchable, hopelessly dated predecessor, I Spit On Your Grave follows a young woman (Sarah Butler's Jennifer) as she arrives at an isolated cabin in the woods to work on her second novel - with problems ensuing as Jennifer runs afoul of several nasty locals. There's little doubt that director Steven R. Monroe's decision to jettison the grungy, rough-around-the-edges vibe of the 1978 original immediately separates the movie from its notorious precursor, with Monroe's slick sensibilities - the filmmaker's ongoing reliance on shaky camerawork seems to be his one nod to the first film's grindhouse origins - ensuring that the viewer is immediately drawn into this decidedly simple story. It certainly doesn't hurt that Butler manages to turn her character into an extremely sympathetic and likeable figure, although, as one might've expected, this also ensures that the pivotal attack is just as unpleasant as one might have feared. Monroe's decision to dwell on the violent encounter, ie the whole thing seems to transpire in real time, almost proves disastrous, as the pervasively distasteful atmosphere often threatens to alienate the viewer completely - with the only thing keeping one from tuning out completely the promise of Jennifer's inevitable revenge-themed exploits. It probably doesn't help that the assailants are portrayed in almost eye-rollingly one-dimensional terms, with the inclusion of a laughably sleazy cop within the gang threatening to send the movie into abject parody. And though the assault is followed by a less-than-enthralling stretch in which the thugs attempt to move on with their lives - ie wouldn't it have been more interesting to see what Jennifer has been up to? - I Spit On Your Grave picks up for an impressively brutal final half hour detailing Jennifer's merciless campaign of vengeance against her attackers. It's a thoroughly punishing stretch that's rough even by the standards of some of contemporary horror's most brutal efforts, which ultimately ensures that the movie is destined to alienate as many viewers as it entertains - yet for those that can stomach it, I Spit On Your Grave is a stirring remake that, in the final analysis, more than justifies its existence (ie compare this to such aggressively needless reboots as Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc, etc).

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© David Nusair