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The 80s low-cost independent horror "The Power" is an atmospherically inventive and dark with its fascinating concept involving an ancient Aztec idol that's harbouring a powerful force which infatuates those in possession of it, bringing out their dark side. It's starts off really steady and talkative but still remaining effectively compelling within its moody and fearful superstitious framework, but then it goes off the rocker becoming a ghastly, if typical little shocker with some very well executed, icky make-up FX for such a cheap budget. The deaths are few, but they bestow imagination and atmosphere --- however it's the underlining surreal creepiness that's held throughout, which makes up for it.
Dual director's Steven Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow's (who brought us the hokey slasher "The Dorm that Dripped blood" and monster carnage of "The Kindred") minimalist set-up is tidy, even with its gritty look but they do a decent enough job with their touches of brooding suspense and jarring visuals. Limited resources and amateurish acting (although Lisa Erickson was fair) don't distract too heavily as the creative and unusual story is well thought out in its context of forbidden power and the temptation of it that simply attracts evil. There's just a sense of doom that just won't waver, but while it might be a mystery to the characters it's not so for the viewer. Sometimes slightly muddled and random, as there much to gather but it comes together in an ending that's nothing more than a final cheap, but lasting shock. The eerie score accompanying only adds more to the mystical edge, demonstrating an intense, ripple-like grip. Susan Stokey's clueless character is somewhat grating in her self-absorbed attitude and Warren Lincoln gives the film much needed energy as his erratically idealistic character investigating the idol, to only fall under its corrupt spell.
It would actually make a good, interesting double viewing with "The Returning (1983)".
Trivia note; One thing I found somewhat unnerving is a scene in the film, which I don't know if it was purposely staged or not. In the sequence we catch a reflection (less than a second) in a mirror of a bearded man dressed in black just standing there watching Stokey. I never saw this character before, nor does he even reappear in the film. Nothing is mentioned. If it was one of the crew accidentally getting in the shot, it was a strange place to be standing and boy did he look scary. Just look at the face!
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