Why should the UK government fork out for the speculative business of making horror movies? It’s an old question, but worth considering after viewing Corinna Faith’s The Power, a slightly above average entry in the demonic horror genre. It’s developed and funded by the BFI and Creative England via National Lottery funding, and it shows; there’s some very obvious virtue-signalling going on here about the historical abuse of women and children, attesting to government influence.
Thus, we return to the 1970’s, rolling black-outs caused by striking miners, and a London hospital where the nurses patrol Victorian corridors by torchlight. Rose Williams plays Val, an inexperienced nurse on her first day at work, who runs into some kind of supernatural presence. Is the spirit connected to the predatory male porter, brusque doctors, or the mysterious little girl whose scary drawings (sigh) suggest an evil force loose in the building? Val’s investigation leads to wrong-doing in the past, and only by solving the mystery can she escape the forces unleashed…
1970’s ultra-gloomy Britain has made for rich pickings for horror, notably The Conjuring 2, the best of that franchise to date. But while Wan’s film piled on a slew of incident and rich period detail, The Power largely settles for dark, empty corridors and general murk; Val’s situation does not improve over the course of the film, and the lack of narrative development will put off genre fans. 70’s Britain seems to be a land that time forgot in terms of sexual abuse of women and children, but this punch-line is so heavily signalled that it’s a relief when The Power finally makes it point and leaves.
In general, audiences enjoy the danger and forbidden quality of horror; when it comes with a government-approved message, it negates any potential thrills. Williams does well with an underwritten lead, and there are some half-decent scares, but The Power seems less interested in scaring us as it does on finding an agreed social commentary. Val fears ‘the dark shift’ which would have been a better title for Faith’s film; The Power’s title refers to the power of men over women, and gives a flavour of the lecturing, hectoring tone of the final film. It’s a horror film made by people who think today’s horror films should reinforce current woke attitudes, and despite game effort all round, that’s what hobbles The Power right out of the gate.