Oct 3, 2010

The Power (1984)

In the 1980's, the duo of Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter made a trio of modest low-budget horror films: each sharing writing and directing credits, while Carpenter also doubled as cinematographer.  Perhaps the best of the lot is their final collaboration, The Kindred (1987), as it had enough money for some cool makeup effects to compliment the offbeat story.  Their second film, The Power, is an ambitious, if not entirely successful horror update of the old Manhattan Melodrama formula.  Instead of viewing an overcoat passing from one owner to the next, one is treated to a mosaic chronicling the odyssey of an Aztec doll, which holds a curse that wreaks havoc on anyone who possesses it.

This film is surely of its time with bluish cinematography and throbbing synths (the latter courtesy pre-Hellraiser Christopher Young), but assuredly strives to offer more characterization than most genre pictures of the day, where cardboard cutout caricatures exist to become fresh victims.  Still, the first third of the film is admittedly choppy, until the narrative finally settles into the main thread, chronicling the strange phenomena surrounding Jerry (Warren Lincoln), the latest owner of the doll.  His ex-girlfriend Sandy (Susan Stokey), an ambitious journalist who investigates these strange goings-on, becomes the film's archetypal heroine in peril.
Despite that the film attempts to offer more than simply bodycount, it too suffers from the "double ending" that corrupts most horror flicks of the day.  Plus, Warren Lincoln isn't menacing enough for his role: with his balding pate, long frizzy nape, and wiry movements, he more resembles a stand-up comedian- thank goodness Matthew Mungle's makeup effects help get the job done.  The film's greatest asset however is a solid performance by the appealing Susan Stokey, who would be a minor scream queen in Fred Olen Ray films (Phantom Empire; The Tomb).  Her three-dimensional role presents a woman who can rise above the obstacles- a refreshing counterpoint to most of the undemanding horror roles given females at the time.
While not a total success, The Power is an engaging, unique picture.  One can envision this one being picked up as a 99 cent rental during Saturday afternoon happy hour at the local mom and pop, and the consumer couldn't go wrong....

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