The dark and hospitals are two things that scare a lot of people. Writer/director Corinna Faith (Ashes) combines them in The Power. Set against the oil crisis and miners’ strikes that resulted in months of rolling blackouts, the so-called “Three Day Weeks”, across England during the winter of 1974.
It’s Val’s (Rose Williams, Reign) first day as a nurse. As if the crumbling inner-city hospital wasn’t imposing enough, the matron (Diveen Henry, Black Mirror) is a condescending authoritarian who quickly takes a dislike to her. And it only gets worse, the patients are being moved to another facility due to a blackout scheduled for that night. She’ll be left behind as part of a skeleton crew to care for those that can’t be moved.
Once the power goes out it quickly becomes obvious something lurks in the darkness. Something even more sinister than the lecherous maintenance man Nev (Theo Barklam-Biggs).
Faith wastes no time in stacking the odds against Val even before anything supernatural happens. Apart from Matron who tells Val “The people here live like animals.” before learning this is where she grew up, there’s fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby, Hollyoaks, Castlevania) a former schoolmate with a grudge who’s jealous of the attention Dr. Franklin (Charlie Carrick, Trench 11, Abandoned: Angelique’s Isle) pays her.
As soon as whatever’s in the darkness makes its presence known things escalate quickly. Not only is Val physically attacked by it, but she’s also subjected to some terrifying visions. There seems to be some connection to a young patient named Saba (Shakira Rahman) but what that is isn’t clear.
The dark, nearly empty hospital is a great setting for a film like this, and cinematographer Laura Bellingham (Amulet) makes the most of it. The Power uses those dark rooms and corridors to build plenty of atmosphere and to hide lurking threats as the spirit grows stronger. As one of the nurses says “No place that people die in should be allowed to get that dark”.
The Power isn’t a particularly original film, there’s the expected dark secret shared among several of the staff. One that the spirit wants revenge for, and is more than willing to use Val as its weapon of choice to get. That doesn’t stop the film from delivering plenty of scares though. There are loads of tense scenes and the payoffs tend to be effective, whether jumps or something deeper and more disturbing.
“I realised while we were filming that we were telling a story about the silence of girls. Voices made quiet. Then I realized that without planning, I was telling the story of my journey to that moment too.”Corinna Faith
And there is something deeper and more disturbing at the core of The Power. Something reflected both in the other nurses’ refusal to believe Val and the ultimate revelation of what set it all in motion. Thankfully Faith doesn’t get too heavy-handed or preachy with it, though that probably won’t stop the usual suspects from screaming about “woke” culture.
On a lighter note, there are a few nice Easter Eggs for genre fans to notice along the way. For example one of the staff is reading the newly published Carrie by Stephen King, as well as a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street as well.