The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THE POWER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THE POWER

the power review
A novice hospital nurse is forced to confront her past while working a night shift during a blackout.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Corinna Faith

Starring: Rose Williams, Emma Rigby, Diveen Henry, Charlie Carrick, Shakira Rahman, Gbemisola Ikumelo

the power poster

To say Britain was a mess in the 1970s is an understatement. Labelled "The Sick Man of Europe", the UK economy was ravaged by inflation which lead to regular trade union strikes. With fuel production halted by striking miners, Britain was forced to adopt a three day week and electrical blackouts were enforced at night to save energy.

Writer/director Corinna Faith's feature debut The Power takes place in the blackness of the corridors of an East London hospital on one such night in 1974. It's such a great setting for a horror movie that it's amazing that it hasn't already been employed, but Faith is so focussed on getting the film's message about abuses of power across that she never fully exploits the potential of its setting.

the power review

Rose Williams is Val, a local EastEnder working her first shift at a rundown hospital. After getting on the wrong side of the grumpy matron (Diveen Henry), she is forced to work the night shift. With all the patients relocated save for a few newborn infants and those too sick to move, Val is left alone with a skeleton crew of nurses, including her old school bully Babs (Emma Rigby) and a creepy janitor, who do their best to make her debut shift a testing experience.

As if the harassment of her coworkers wasn't enough, Val is absolutely petrified of the darkness, seemingly due to a traumatic experience during her childhood years spent in a notorious orphanage. When the lights go out, Val begins seeing visions of a male face in the shadows and is physically assaulted by an unseen force. When she tells the other nurses about her attacks they refuse to believe her, referencing some past incident where Val "made up" a story about her headmaster. Val's sole ally comes in the form of Saba (Shakira Rahman), a young Indian girl who also seems aware of the hospital's supernatural presence.

the power review

With their endless corridors, hospitals have always made for effective horror movie settings, the best of the lot being 1981's Halloween 2, in which Michael Myers stalked the wards of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in search of Laurie Strode. The Power initially uses its eerie location well, with one particularly effective sequence in which Val watches in horror as the lights go out one by one, earlier than she expected. But then Val retreats to the hospital's one well lit ward for the remainder of the film, and so the setup is allowed to go unexplored.

The title of Faith's debut refers not only to the blackouts, but to the institutional abuses of power that dogged '70s Britain, but which were only recently made public with the shaming of celebrity icon Jimmy Saville, who used the very setting of a hospital to carry out his abuse of scores of children. Some might say that the horror genre deals in so much nastiness that nothing is taboo, but I've always drawn a line when it comes to child abuse. Maybe I'm a prude, but I just don’t think it's a subject that can be tackled in a genre primarily aimed at entertainment. Grounded in so much real life horror, The Power leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that makes it difficult to engage with. I had a similar issue with the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which pushed its abuse angle to the fore and came off in poor taste.

the power review

I can however see what Faith is trying to do here, but I can't help feel it would have been more effective to use the allegorical potential of the horror genre to address institutional abuse. Taken on its own terms, The Power certainly gets its message across, and as its tortured, vulnerable heroine, Williams embodies a victim finding the strength to expose her tormentors. It's a shame The Power couldn't explore its theme in a more nuanced, genre-savvy fashion.

The Power
 is on Shudder from April 8th.

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