THE POWER (2021)
Starring Rose Williams, Charlie Carrick, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Nuala McGowan, Emma Rigby, Diveen Henry, Paul Antony-Barber, Shakira Rahman, Clara Read, Marley Chesham, Joe Haddow, Maria Major, Mark Smith, Amy Beth Hayes, Robert Goodman, Anjelica Serra, Sarah Hoare, John Mackay, Shubham Sharaf, Paul Brightwell and Ahna Ruddin.
Screenplay by Corinna Faith.
Directed by Corinna Faith.
Distributed by Shudder. 92 minutes. Not Rated.
There are so many odd little occurrences in world history that briefly life-altering but then are quickly forgotten or never really explored. Take the British “Three Day Week” blackout rule in the early 1970s, which forms the centerpiece of this taut supernatural thriller.
This happened in England from January to early March 1974. Due to the energy crisis and a miner’s strike, as explained by Wikipedia: “Commercial users of electricity were limited to three specified consecutive days’ consumption each week and prohibited from working longer hours on those days.” It was a very unpopular law and quickly led to government upheaval, with the Conservative Party losing their majority, at which point the rule was revoked.
However, in the decades since, the Three-Day Week blackouts have been pretty much forgotten by history, at least by the people who did not have to live through them.
The Power takes place during these mandated blackouts. It is set in an old, rundown London Hospital. It centers around Val (Rose Williams), a young nurse who must take her first shift overnight, only to be haunted by the darkness, some shadowy secrets about the facility and the angry spirit of a former patient.
I should mention here that the few articles I have read about this situation while preparing for this story all said that hospitals were exempt from the Three-Day Week blackout rule because they were deemed essential services. However, okay, we’ll allow the movie its premise, because it is a cool story idea, even if it perhaps isn’t exactly historically accurate. Then again, what ghost story is, really?
While The Power isn’t a perfect film and the ending sort of gets away from the filmmakers (again, rather common with ghost stories), it is a surprisingly strong chiller. Let’s face it, hospitals are scary places on a good day, and a nearly abandoned hospital (most of the patients who could be moved were taken to places with electricity) which is mostly the pitch black – that is a recipe for some nightmares.
Smartly, they slowly start the scares, eventually ratcheting up the horror until things nearly explode. However, first they get us used to the life and the politics of the doctors and nurses of the hospital. Long before she must deal with angry spirits, Val must deal with a humorless boss, gossipy co-workers, an old schoolgirl frenemy, a couple of lecherous hospital workers and some nearly catatonic patients.
(Nerdy anachronism alert: As a bit of a horror in-joke, one of the nurses discusses a scary book she is reading – Carrie by Stephen King. It would be a nice touch, but that book wasn’t released until April 1974, about a month after the short-lived London blackouts were over.)
Then when the lights go out (parts of the hospital are kept alight by generators, but other parts are pitch black) the real scares start to happen.
Unfortunately, like I said earlier, The Power eventually has to work its way up a special effects driven spectacular ending. The problem is – and this is a problem for many films about hauntings – the small subtle scares that came earlier are much more frightening and interesting than the over-the-top climax.
Still, even though the film somewhat loses its way in the end, the smart and subtle chills that lead up to it and the stunningly atmospheric filming make The Power definitely worth switching on.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 7, 2021.