The Power

Corinna Faith’s supernatural horror film “The Power” is yet another project to add to the growing collection of movies where the message they wish to impart takes precedence over telling a good, old-fashioned, spine-tingling story. This is becoming a worrisome trend. Should it continue, “message filmmakers” might as well just put up PowerPoint slides to explain or express their anger or frustration about a certain topic and chuck out moving pictures altogether for ninety minutes straight. Because what is the point of casting actors, having dialogue, and showing events unfold when all of it add up to a soporific bore? What is the inspiration here? Outside of its message, why tell this particular story? What is special or unique about it? Why is it worth our time? Horror masters are turning in their graves.

The message here is thoroughly confused. We can all acknowledge that there is a long history of doubting women when they report feeling uncomfortable, of being attacked, assaulted, raped. But in this film, our protagonist named Val (Rose Williams), a nurse on her first day at a hospital situated in East London, finds herself at the mercy of an angry spirit that aims to take revenge on those it deems responsible for its death. Doing so requires possessing Val’s body and committing murder. So, let’s get this straight: the spirit takes away our protagonist’s ability to control her own body for its own ends. Yet somehow the feminist message is supposed to be taken seriously. Give me a break. Surely the contradiction must be acknowledged and confronted.

That aside, the picture leaves a lot to be desired. There is a terrific premise whereby London in 1974 is plunged into darkness come sundown due to controlled power outages that directly result from trade unions and the government being at war. Clearly, there is alienation brewing between the working class and the privileged whose job is to serve their constituents, but this is never applied to the would-be terrifying occurrences that unfold during the hospital’s midnight shift. There is a clear power divide between lead nurses and staff nurses; nurses (women) and doctors (men); experienced and those only starting out. But Faith’s screenplay fails to dig into this idea.

Instead, we get the usual ghoulish hauntings where Val, who is terrified of the dark due to her own personal traumas, enters and exists dark rooms and corridors with nothing in hand but a pale light source. The camera follows her while moving as slow as molasses from one point to the next. When faced with a glass or mirror, sure enough she spots a ghostly figure standing right behind her. Cue the screeching of the soundtrack even though the apparition does not make a sound. Because the point, you see, is to make you jump out of your seat—shock—rather than to deliver a slow, calibrated build-up of suspense that eventually lead up to genuine horror.

Humor can be found, I guess, in the staff members that Val meets. One or two nurses are actually good at their jobs, but all of them are jaded. They are overworked, underpaid, under appreciated, sometimes disrespected. They take one look at the idealistic Val and scoff; when asked, for instance, why she became a nurse or why she chose to work at that particular hospital, her answers sound earnest but robotic. They believe she’s about to be eaten alive because she is soft in mannerism and expression. But this is a horror film and there is certain to be irony. There is nothing new here; it is the same formula refurbished into a ‘70s milieu.

Sitting through “The Power” should be considered a form punishment. It insults both the patience and the mind because the filmmaker pretends that her viewers have never seen an effective, smart, efficient, and atmospheric ghost story with a point to make. When you have to play dumb to and for your audience, it is all downhill from there. Who is this movie for?

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