★★★★ out of ★★★★★
The Power is a riveting U.K. supernatural horror film set in a hospital during that country’s 1970s rolling blackouts, following a nurse on her first night on the job. Real-world horrors are exposed by an otherworldly force in this first-rate chiller.
Directed by Corrina Faith
Writer/director Corrina Faith tackles both institutional abuses and child abuse in her chilling new U.K. feature The Power. Set in a London hospital that has seen better days and during that nation’s 1974 government-mandated rolling blackouts because of the oil crisis and miner strikes, the film is a highly effective chiller that goes to dark places, indeed.
Val (Rose Williams) has just been hired on as a nurse at the hospital, and after unintentionally crossing the stern matron (Diveen Henry), she is forced to work the night shift on one of the blackout nights. Val already has fears of the dark, including seeing visions of a man’s face, and her fears turn out to be well founded as both real-life and supernatural terrors lurk in the eerily silent, unlit hospital corridors and empty rooms.
Val comes to her new job with a reputation that precedes her, and it is one that mean-spirited former schoolmate and now fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby) gleefully goads Val about. As fellow nurses and hospital staff turn against Val during the night, her only allies seem to be a young Indian girl named Saba (Shakira Rahman), who is a patient, and Dr. Franklin (Charlie Carrack), who put her in an awkward position with the matron when he asked Val’s opinion about a patient earlier, despite the matron’s warning not to talk to doctors.
The film’s title alludes to the blackouts, abuses of power in several forms, and the supernatural entity that makes its deadly presence known to Val and others. Faith balances the horror and the social commentary well. What seem to be simple asides turn out to be foreshadowing of the cover-ups that take place in the hospital. Just a few shots come across a bit heavier and more on-the-nose than the tone the film carries for most of its running time.
Faith orchestrates the horror set pieces well, and though the reveals are not surprisingly new or original, the execution is top notch. The Power looks great, with cinematographer Laura Bellingham doing a superb job and making the most of the darkened hospital’s creepy atmosphere. The cast is terrific throughout, with Williams giving a memorable performance that requires both strong physical and emotional executions. She nails every nuance asked of her, including a jaw-dropping set piece that includes a freaky physical display on her part.
The Power is a highly recommended film that, unlike some of its characters, does not turn a blind eye toward abuse of children, but neither does it stray toward the lurid in that department. Uncomfortable hints and conversations are enough to take it into discomfiting territory. Nail-biting suspense and horror are present in abundance.
The Power, a Shudder exclusive, premieres on Thursday, April 8, 2021.