After gothic mansions, it’s the hospitals – places riddled with death – that make for the perfect horror movie setting. Imagine a deceased someone crawling or running in your direction while you are alone doing the night shift as a nurse. This eerie-sounding thought is converted to reality for a young nurse, Val (Rose Williams), at a hospital in the 1970s. She is under training, and the day she joins work, the matron (Diveen Henry) tells her that she “couldn’t have picked a worse day”. You see, there is total chaos everywhere. The miners are on strike, which means the electricity will be gone during the night. And because of that, nearly all the patients need to be moved out before dark. Val’s day gets worse when the matron orders her to stay for the night.
Poor Val really wants to love her job, but there is an abundance of discouragement. When she says she has a feel for children, she is told to have an iron will instead. When she optimistically says that she took the job in hopes of finding a family, her spirits are let down by “you’d need to be desperate to want this lot as family”. The working environment is not so good either. A man tries to lift Val’s skirt in the elevator. More horrific is the uncaring response from the rest of the people in the lift. The sexual hassles are followed by the supernatural ones: a dark closet keeps opening by itself, ghostly whispers echo in the air and the reflection of an apparition appears in a mirror.
For a while, you have faith in this material. The shots of Val walking on the unlit stairs and corridors evoke frightening images. You are on edge, fearing something sinister will pop up from the shadowy frames. The scene where all the patients rise and sit on their bed is perhaps the creepiest moment in The Power. But the film is not able to maintain the unnerving feeling for long. As it progresses, The Power keeps dropping into the pit of humour. You are asked to gasp in horror, but you cover your mouth and giggle. Most horror films lose steam once the ghost is revealed to us. Maybe that’s why they all save the revelation for the climax. The Power should have applied this approach instead of showing the phantasm in the middle. That reflection in the glass becomes the source of laughter when it’s supposed to be scary for the viewer.
The film has an undercurrent of female empowerment, encouraging women to strike back with confidence and authority. An abusive past and its concealment are used to create an arc of emancipation from male dominance. The “power” in the title does not just mean electricity. It also refers to the power that women need to take hold of in a repressed society. These good intentions, however, falter in execution. The men are horribly one-dimensional, acting as stick figures who help convey the plot’s message. The twist towards the end prefers to be shocking, not clever. The Power overall leaves no memorable impression on the mind. While watching the film, you neither clutch at your cross nor feel the urge to switch on the lights.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.