THE POWER movie poster | ©2021 Shudder

THE POWER movie poster | ©2021 Shudder

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Rose Williams, Charlie Carrick, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Nuala McGowan, Emma Rigby, Diveen Henry, Paul Antony-Barber, Shakira Rahman, Clara Read
Writer: Corinna Faith
Director: Corinna Faith
Distributor: Shudder
Release Date: April 8, 2021

THE POWER has a title with threefold meanings. It refers to the electricity, which is in short supply in 1974 London. It also encompasses the hierarchy of the hospital where the story takes place. Finally, it concerns the malevolent force that pervades the building when the lights are out.

The power shortage is due to a miners’ strike in Great Britain (this is historical fact). The government would rather suffer through nightly blackouts than negotiate.

This is bad news for young nurse Val (Rose Williams), who is afraid of the dark. On her first day on the job at a large hospital in London’s East End, she manages to annoy her immediate supervisor (Diveen Henry).

The result is that Val is ordered to work the night shift, when the staff is down to a skeleton crew. Most of the patients who can be moved and the attending medical personnel are transferred to a facility where there’s emergency power, but Val and the few other remaining nurses, plus maintenance man Neville (Theo Barklem-Biggs) and child runaway Saba (Shakira Rahman), have to make do with lanterns and flashlights.

There is also a presence – a power, if you will – in the hospital, which is agitated by Val’s presence, for reasons we gradually learn. It has terrifying and sometimes lethal ways of expressing itself.

Writer/director Corinna Faith manages to be very scary on a number of fronts. She also finds ways of making her shots visually intriguing. Where light comes from and how much there is in any given shot creates a sense of scarcity and tension before anything even happens. It also feeds into the overall examination of power dynamics. Faith also uses composition to make points about personality. There’s a dialogue scene where two characters are talking, but one is reflected in a mirror and thus made smaller than the other.

There is also an eerie sense of dislocation, achieved not only by judicious use of darkness, but because Val, unfamiliar with her surroundings, seldom knows where she is.

Williams gives a soulful, warm performance as Val. Rahman is sympathetic as the frightened youg Saba. Henry is properly intimidating, with layers, as the formidable matron in charge. Gbemisola Ikumelo, Nuala McGowan, and Emma Rigby all display lots of personality as Val’s fellow nurses. Charlie Carrick makes an impression as a doctor who takes a shine to Val, and Barklem-Biggs is suitably insinuating as the less than reassuring on-site handyman.

THE POWER has certain points it wants to make. As these become clearer, the film changes moods. It is to Faith’s credit that she pulls this off for the most part. The writing certainly lays the groundwork for it, though by the end, we have a few more questions than when we began.

Mostly, though, THE POWER is a strong horror movie, with a pleasing amount of bite.

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