The Power (2021) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Her first night shift

“The Power” is a little spooky horror film shrouded in creepy darkness. While it has several effective moments to be appreciated, the movie often falters in case of handling its two different kinds of horrors in addition to being hampered by its thin narrative and weak characterization, and that is a shame considering its relevant main subjects which have drawn more of our attention during last several years.

The story of the movie is mainly set in one big hospital of East London in early 1974. At that time, the conflict between the British government and striking miners led to the nocturnal electricity cutoff in the city, and that is not a good thing at all for a young nurse named Val (Rose Williams), who has been afraid of darkness due to some childhood trauma which is vaguely presented to us during the opening scene.

After having another bad dream, Val tries to calm herself a bit because she is about to begin her first day in the aforementioned hospital, which turns out to be not an ideal workplace for her right from the beginning. While her direct supervisor is frigid and strict to say the least, several other nurses in the hospital do not provide much comfort or support to her, and most of those doctors in the hospital do not pay much attention to her because, well, she is way below their rank just like other nurses.

At least, there is one doctor who seems to be open to Val’s thoughts and opinions, but, unfortunately, their brief conversation only leads to more troubles for Val when her supervisor happens to see that. As an old-fashioned matron who firmly believes in rules and boundaries, her supervisor does not approve of Val’s casual interactions with that doctor at all, and Val soon finds herself assigned to cleaning the ward for child patients and then forced to do a night shift during the following night. She is certainly worried and scared due to her fear of darkness, but she has no choice but to do whatever is demanded to her because she does not want to give any more bad impression to others during her first day at the hospital.

As the day is being over, darkness comes into the hospital much earlier than Val expected, and, to make matters worse, a section where she and a few other nurses who are supposed to do their respective night shifts is locked up from the outside. She naturally becomes more terrified and nervous than before, and we soon see her tentatively walking along dark hospital corridors with a small oil lamp in her hand.

While Val manages to get accustomed to her night work a bit, it seems to her that there is something sinister lurking somewhere inside the hospital, and that gradually unnerves her. While those few other nurses in the hospital do not take Val’s growing anxiety that seriously, it looks like a small Indian orphan girl, who has been one of child patients in the hospital, has also been aware of whatever Val is sensing at present. Nevertheless, she is not so willing to tell Val on what has exactly scared her, probably because of her mistrust on others around her in the hospital or her rather limited ability to speak English.

Of course, the mood becomes all the more disturbing as the night goes on, and director/writer Corinna Faith and her crew members continue to push us and Val into more terror and creepiness as expected. There is a tense and frightening moment unfolded in a certain space inside the hospital, and we see how that comes to resonate with those traumatic childhood memories of Val. No matter how much she tries to repress her hurtful memories, they keep coming back to her, while amplified further by whatever is hiding somewhere inside the hospital.

As we naturally come to wonder about the reliability of Val’s increasingly unstable viewpoint, the movie subsequently shifts itself a bit onto the viewpoints of a few other substantial characters around Val including that Indian girl, but the outcome is not so successful due to deficient storytelling and characterization. While these supporting characters are under-developed on the whole, what is eventually revealed during the last act is not so particularly surprising because we already saw that coming even during the first act (Hint: just look at a certain poster on a wall), and the finale is rather weak compared to what has been built up during the rest of the film.

At least, a number of competent aspects of the movie compensate for its weak elements to some degree. Thanks to cinematographer Laura Bellingham, the movie is constantly filled with uneasy murkiness from the beginning to the end, and its small group of performers do as much as they can for filling their broad archetype characters. While Rose Williams ably conveys to us her character’s accumulating fear and anxiety, several other main cast members including Emma Rigby, Gbemisola Ikumelo, and Diveen Henry are well-cast in their respective supporting roles, and young performer Shakira Rahman brings some life and personality to her functional character.

In conclusion, “The Power” will surely make you reflect on the multiple meanings of its very title in the end, but it does not work well enough on the whole despite its palpable spooky atmosphere and some other good stuffs. This is not a bad horror film at all, but it could be better in terms of story and characters in my trivial opinion, and I am only left with dissatisfaction instead of being entertained by it.

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