The Power (1984) (Movie Review)

Movie Review
The Power
Starring: Suzy Stokey, Warren Lincoln, and Lisa Erickson
Directed by: Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow

Silly horror films are easy to dismiss. They generally have a cheesy plot, lackluster performances, and dialogue that comes across as if it were written by a robot. Their thrills are cheap and feel prefabricated rather than composed with innovative design. However, Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow somehow put everything together to make The Power an enjoyable film. It’s goofy yet interesting; the acting is sometimes questionable but doesn’t get away of the movie; and while the scary parts aren’t that unique, the allure of something shocking coming of nowhere gives The Power a surprising amount of suspense.

The story of The Power revolves around an Aztec trinket the possesses the soul of the demon god Destacatyl. Those who are in possession of the idol are taken over by the spirit who causes nothing but pain and destruction, including for the person possessing the doll.

Somehow, Tommy (Chad Christian) gains possession of Destacatyl. His parents bought the trinket while on a trip and gave it to him as a souvenir. One night, he joins Julie (Lisa Erickson) and Matt (Ben Gilbert) at a séance near a graveyard and brings the doll. Very quickly things go wrong, resulting in the death of a security guard who was crushed by a giant granite stone. The teenagers seek out the help of Sandy McKennah (Suzy Stokey), a reporter at the local paper. While she initially dismisses the story as over-the-top, her friend Jerry (Warren Lincoln) becomes obsessed with Destacatyl. Jerry tricks Julie to hand give him the idol. Once in possession Jerry embraces Destacatyl’s evil and begins to lay a path of pure misery.

The plot is a bit hokey, but that’s usually the case for most horror films. For any horror film to work, they must go outside the realm of reality. In this case, an Aztec god is contained within a small souvenir that has supernatural powers. Yet the way the film sets this up gives it a (limited) sense of credibility. Before the main characters get involved, a man, Francis Lott (J. Dinan Myrtelus) goes into the Mexican desert to find the doll and immediately pays the price. The series of events that leads to Lott’s unfortunate experience shows not only the mystery and wonder behind Destacatyl’s lore, but also the depth of what someone will do to gain possession of the idol and the consequences that are involved.

Nobody in this film is going to be in contention for an Oscar. In fact, some of the supporting cast really come across as wooden posts delivering lines. However, Lincoln does a good job portraying a man possessed. He doesn’t quite have De Niro-like intensity in his eyes, but you get the sense of urgency for this man to obtain the idol. Stokey and Erickson are adequate, but better actors would have made the story more engaging. Still, the main cast is fine and while their performances don’t enhance the film, they don’t cripple it neither (which can be an issue for smaller horror films that lack a name actor).

There are a lot of creepy lights, smoke, noise, and other nonsense used to create a sense of fright. It can sometimes come across as amateurish. However, the intended atmosphere comes through the screen. It feels like there was a plan around the chaos and violence and while it may seem random at times, it actually makes sense as it creates the idea that something bad can go down anytime Destacatyl is in the vicinity. While there is blood and gratuitous violence, it’s not overdone and constantly in-your-face. The gruesome scenes are reserved for when an exclamation point is needed or to get the plot moving rather than to thrown in some thrills for the sake of it. Even though much of the story is easy to predict, Carpenter and Obrow hold off at times, building suspense even though you know that person ‘x’ is going to eventually meet their fate.

The Power is a good horror movie: Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow did a fine job considering the limited budget. It’s not too over the top and they work within the limitations of the script and acting talent. Granted there are many other cerebral and thought-provoking horror and suspense films available (this one wouldn’t even crack the top 100 or maybe 200), but it’s still entertaining for what it is.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Jamie Gore

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