The Power (1984) (DVD)

I got the pow-WAH!

Made in 1982 but not released until 1984, it seems The Power was destined to fall into obscurity, even amid the great deluge of horror flicks during that era. Now, it’s getting a long-overdue revival on this DVD.

Its name is Destacyl. It’s a small stone idol of Aztec origin that’s been around for thousands of years. It contains great power, and whoever owns it can control that power, but cannot do so without succumbing to evil. The idol finds its way into the hands of numerous people in L.A., including tabloid reporter Sandy (Susan Stokey, The Tomb) and teenager wannabe spiritualist Julie (Lisa Erickson).

A lot of times, a movie falls into obscurity and is later rediscovered and heralded as a new cult classic. Others, though, become forgotten films just because they’re not very good. The Power falls deep into that second category. I sat down to watch some fun supernatural thrills, and instead I was just plain bored. The worst thing about this movie is how seriously it takes itself. The filmmakers are trying for something all intense and psychological like The Exorcist, but the subject matter is far better served for a more “roller coaster ride” like, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Prepare for a lot of scenes involving the main characters’ home lives, their families, and their relationships. I’d estimate that all this drama is about 60-70 percent of the movie. This is all done in the name of character development, but it all goes nowhere, becoming filler in between the scant few horror scenes.

As for the horror, it can be effective in short bursts. A nightmare scene has disembodied hands attacking our heroine, and the big finale breaks out some impressive gore effects. At other times, though, the movie’s low budget becomes too glaringly evident. One scene has telekinetic magic making things float around the room, yet you can tell a crew member is just out of shot holding stuff to give the illusion that it’s floating. They couldn’t afford strings?!?

Another frustrating aspect of the movie is the lack of rules. I’m at a loss as to how to explain the mythology of the evil idol, or how it’s supposed to work. We see its owners using its power for their own gain, but at other times it turns its owners into zombie-like beasties. Other scenes have it acting on its own. Killing people by making stuff fly around whatever room it happens to be in. There’s a lot of talk about the titular power, and how great and important it is, but that talk is meaningless because we have no idea just what the power is, exactly.

The picture and audio on the DVD are sadly below par. The visuals are overly soft and are marked with flecks and scratches. The sound is muted and hard to hear, even after I cranked the volume all the way up. For extras, we’ve got a jokey intro and outro with Katarina Leigh Waters, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Note that DVD Verdict received an advanced screener copy that may or may not differ from the final produce.

I wanted to like The Power. I was hoping it would be an undiscovered gem. Instead, I found something that maybe should have stayed buried.

The Verdict

Powerfully guilty.

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