The Power (1984)
WRITERS: Story by Jeff Obrow, Stephen Carpenter, John Penny, John Hopkins
Screenplay by Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow
DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
STARRING: Susan Stokey as Sandy
Warren Lincoln as Jerry
Lisa Erickson as Julie
QUICK CUT: A group of kids learn about Aztec history and journalism!
Sandy - A go getter of a reporter, who gets crap from her editor because she's a woman, but she does good work, and is tired of chasing down supernatural stories that go nowhere.
Jerry - A friend of Sandy's, who brings to her a Big Story of Real Supernatural Occurrences. He may also be a bit too interested in the subject matter.
Julie - An average high school student interested in the occult and supernatural. She's smart and caring, but maybe shouldn't be playing with spirit boards in cemeteries.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! We have landed properly back in the 80s, after being gone for far, far too long! This time out, I am taking a look at a little known horror called The Power. Not as little known as Alien Beasts, but still fairly obscure. There's also a little story to go along with this. The Power is one of the very first horror movies I ever watched. Technically. I remember seeing it on the rack to rent, and I wanted to see it SO BAD. I don't know why, the cover just caught my eye, and I kept coming back to it, and insisted we rent it.
My parents tried to talk me out of it, because it was a scary movie, but eventually they relented. And to make a long story short...I do not remember a lick of this movie. Once the scary stuff started, I curled up inside a blanket on the floor at my parents feet and listened while occasionally peeking out and instantly regretting it. I'm not 100% sure this is even the right movie, but the cover felt right, and after watching through it again the other day, I do remember fragments, so I'm pretty sure.
So, how does Jason's first horror movie, that scared him to such a state that he barely saw a frame of footage, hold up almost 30 years later? Let's see...
We dive right into things with Professor Exposition Von Infodump teaching a class about the Aztecs and their beliefs, introducing us to Destacatyl, and his idol, which is rumoured to have actual evil powers, and 'looks like a Mexican salt shaker' as one student points out.
Little does the smartass know, the teacher actually has one of the idols, and uses it to give the kid a nosebleed. FEAR THE EVIL POWER OF NOSEBLEEDS.
As the class ends, a large man shows up who also seems to know about the idol, and tells the professor that he can't control The Power. So he promptly shows his friend he is in TOTAL control by using his evil mental powers to give him a pain in the neck.
Before Francis can get very far, the professor starts to scream, and he rises up into the air and the evil powers of Destacatawhatapoppa hangs him up to dry on a handy flagpole. So, this idol seems more problematic for the people who use it, than the people it is used against.
Ajax tries to get the idol from his dying associate, but the Maltese Salt Shaker has been sent back to where it came from. Which prompts the guy to take a roadtrip to the middle of Dirt.
He finds the people in possession of McGuffatyl, and we find out it is being protected by a child, because he's too innocent to be tempted by the evil.
Ajax spends the night, which seems like a bad idea, because he clearly wants the idol, and it clearly makes people do evil things. So it's no surprise when he shoots the old man and kid guarding the thing.
The guy gets what he wants, bleeds out...and suddenly we're in another movie with a bunch of high school students. We seriously just spent 13 minutes of setup with Ajax and friends, and now we're off with an entirely different cast of characters. I see why this movie has a half dozen writers, they're all writing a different movie, and none of them know what they want this thing to be.
Yeah, high school kids planning to hang out, that's what I wanna see after watching a guy ooze way too much blood out of his arms. Oh, they're planning a seance in a graveyard, that's promising. Oh, and somehow Tommy has McGuffatyl sitting in his bedroom. Why? How? *shrug!*
The kids meet up that night for their graveyard seance, and Tommy brings the idol as his talisman to connect with them. Oh, this could go wrong in so many different ways. Even without the idol. That's like...added salt to the party.
Once they get settled in, they ask the spirits if they have any messages, and it spells out, G-O-G-O...they've contacted the long lost spirit of the Girl in Gold Boots! Gasp!
The kids argue over what the message could mean, one of them insisting they should go, the obvious answer. But Julie says no! It means they should keep going!! Ahahaha, I hope you enjoy your inevitable death. Spoiler: She doesn't die.
But the kids all run away, and the caretaker hears the commotion so comes to investigate. He pokes around for a bit, gets blasted in the face with some sludge from a pipe, falls backwards onto the ground, grabs a rope to help him up, but it breaks and it drops a giant gravestone on his head. That...that may be the most Rube Goldbergian death I've seen this side of Final Destination.
Oh, but have you had enough of that movie? Because now we're on to movie #3 with a bunch of reporters milling about the bullpen of a local newspaper. Why? Because! *shrug!*
After a brief visit with the kids, it's back to Sandy the reporter and her friend Jerry, who has an unrequited thing for her. We spend waay too much time with their little romance setup and meeting Sandy's dad. The pace of this movie just crashed into a pole.
Fortunately, we drift back to something vaguely resembling a plot, while Tommy does some reading and pokes the happy fun idol, which is suddenly becoming magnetic and making a great paperclip holder.
But it suddenly explodes into a magical telekinetic hurricane in the kid's room, flinging things all over the place, and making his stereo barf up tape and burst into flames. But at least Tommy has the presence of mind to do the right thing and hide the idol.
The kids see an article in the newspaper about the caretaker's death right after they were there, and Julie assumes they caused it, which, hey, she's right! So she calls up Sandy, and oh thank Corman, the plotlines are converging quickly.
Jerry sets up the meeting, and everyone has their little chat, but Sandy seems less than a believer. Jerry's all in, but Sandy thinks it's nothing more than kids and their imagination.
The girl steps out of the room to get the idol, and Jerry follows, leaving the guys to tell more of the story. Jerry is super interested in McGuffatyl, to the point that he's clearly gonna be the one coveting the Maltese Idol next.
Oh, but that's enough plot for now, it's time for Sandy and Jerry to head to a party, because why not! It's not like there's a killer magical idol laying around.
We get treated to Jerry doing a research montage, but we don't really get any of that information, we just get thrilling scenes of Jerry looking at books. But he says he learned things!
Sometime later, Sandy comes home for the night, and as she's trying to go to sleep, she gets her own visit from Trumpatyl. Who is apparently the Aztec god of making a mess.
Jerry randomly happens to show up and checks things out, and finds a tape player fried to a crisp. So, Destacatyl is not a fan of music.
He recognises the signs and knows it wasn't a burglar who broke in to not steal anything and stab forks in the wall, and Sandy has had enough. She chases him off angrily, and it gets worse when he brings her attack to her editor, who loves the lurid sounding story of his own reporter being an eyewitness to the weird.
Julie does her own research, and finds out the idol is less than friendly, but Jerry's too obsessed to hear any of it, and gets to work tapping into the idol's dark powers.
She gets worried about Jerry because of his unresponsiveness, and drags the guys with her, even though they so want to be done with the plot. Hey, anyone remember when it was Tommy who had the idol?
The girl who Sandy has been trying to set Jerry up with all movie long stops by, and he's gone all creepy and obsessive, and wants her car keys. She refuses, so Jerry grabs her hand and shoves it into the garbage disposal. This might be the earliest instance I can recall of that being done, so there's that.
While Sandy gets a strange call from her dad and rushes off to see if he's fallen and can't get up, the Scooby Gang shows up at her place but find a note that says she's gone to her father's house. They JUST miss finding Roxanne's body turning the red sink on. It's a really well done moment where the kitchen door closes and swings, revealing what the kids don't see as they walk away.
Sandy arrives at her dad's place and finds her dad has already been taken away to the hospital for breathing issues. She confronts Jerry who's already there thanks to Destaplotyl.
Jerry pops back up and has a moment of clarity, freaking out that he's not in control, but that lasts all of five seconds before he's all crazed and evil again.
He tells Sandy to go look in her bedroom, while he plays with his Aztec dolls. Oh, and the kids show up, so we must be turning down final act lane.
Jerry tries to turn the kids away, but they see he's dripping blood all over the place and freak out. The guys run out into the road to get help, while Julie does the typical thing and runs around aimlessly in the scary house.
Our brave non-heroes don't get any help, so run back to the house to maybe save Julie. They sneak into the basement while Julie and Jerry have an intense stare off and he thinks everyone is out to take his power of not really doing much. Yesss, covet the mighty power of throwing papers around a room.
The guys get some light in the basement, and find Sandy's dad. Their shouts of terror distract Jerry and Julie grabs McGuffatyl. As they all run to the basement, Jerry freaks out and cries out in what SHOULD be a terrifying animalistic rage, but sounds like a toddler with a nasal condition.
Jerry's rage makes doors and windows open and light objects fly around in a barely threatening manner. Which really, is the extent of this thing's mighty evil power. BEWARE THE WRATH IF DESTACATYL.
The girls hide in a room, and try and block the door, but we all know that trick never works. In a slow episode of Fuck Doors, Jerry punches his way through in bits and pieces.
He wants his security blanket back, and Sandy is about to hand it over, but in all the thrashing, it gets knocked out of her hands, and crashes to the ground. Which somehow seems to actually affect the guy.
Julie tests the theory and smashes the idol on the cement floor of the closet. It makes him thrash and yell some more, so she grabs a brick. It seems like a terrible flaw in your mighty evil power, when just whacking the idol will do you in. And smoosh your face, apparently.
He finally breaks his way through the door, but before he can finish off the girls, they grab a cinder block, smash the idol, and Jerry bursts open like a five pound bag filled with ten pounds of shit.
And so ends the reign of terror of...JERRY. But hey, remember the two guys that ran into the basement? You do? Well, the movie sure doesn't becauese we never see them again after they find Sandy's dad.
Now, the movie could just as easily have ended right then and there, but oh no, we gotta cut to three years later for One More Scene, don't we? We find Julie in college in New Mexico, working in the library, and clocking out for the night.
And you would not believe who she runs into. Ajax finds his way back into the movie after over an hour. Because we really needed to see him again.
He's been trying to find Julie, after reading a book that Sandy published about their encounters with Thrakazogg. And yep, he still wants the idol. You would think bleeding from every orafice would've calmed down his obsession.
Ajax follows her to her car where she's crying on her steering wheel, hiding he face. Because she's possessed by the idol. He pushes the subject, and she continues to cry and keep her face hidden, because she's possessed. He just won't let it go, as she sobs and keeps her face hidden...because she's possessed. Finally she jerks around at the big guy and...
She bashes Ajax's head on the roof of the car so hard he dies, and she reveals the remnants of the idol of Yoknapatawpha, its head, now attached to a pendant she wears. And as Ajax dies for some reason, I guess his melted face was easy to squish on the car, she cackles into the end credits.
Okay then. I guess? *shrug!*
Video: It looks decent enough for a low budget early 80s flick of this sort. It could be better, but it looks fine, if maybe a bit too dark at times, and a bit dull.
Audio: Most of the time, the sound is fine, but at other times, most of the movie, it almost has a scratchy record quality.
Sound Bite: Can I make Jerry's wauuugh wails a sound bite choice? Because they're hilarious.
Body Count: A fair showing, especially for the early 80s!
1 - Four minutes in and Professor Matthew is impaled on a flagpole.
2 - Francis shoots the old man guarding the idol
3 - And then he shoots the kid doing the same
4 - The cemetery caretaker gets a gravestone to the face.
5 - Jerry shoves Roxanne's hand into the garbage disposal.
6 - Sandy's father dies off screen via undetermined means.
7 - Jerry dies as he bursts open at the seams.
8 - Francis dies with a head bashing on Julie's car.
Best Corpse: It's the capper to the movie, so I'll say Jerry's demise. The effects of him ripping open are pretty solid.
Blood Type - C+: The movie tries, and there's some okay moments, but they didn't try that hard. And when there is blood, well, you saw my chocolate pudding comments.
Sex Appeal: Surprisingly lacking. Surprising because early 80s horror with nothing much going for it usually tosses in nudity to at least get that checkbox.
Drink Up! Every time you see the idol in closeup.
Video Nasties: Check out Jerry's slow attack on a door, and his demise!
Movie Review: So. The question is, was my 10 year old terror justified? Does it hold up to that level of fright? You can probably guess that my answer is...no. It truly does not. I honestly don't know WHAT freaked me out as a kid. Probably just the general presence of horror, and being my first experience with it. It's silly ALMOST to the point of camp, but never quite bending around to that level. Beyond the frights, the plot is somehow remarkably straightforward, but at the same time a complete convoluted mess. People chase the MacGuffin, they want the power, it corrupts them, people die in hilarious fashion until it's over. But there's so many different plots, it jumps all over the place, and never develops much of its ideas. It could be *worse* for sure, but it's not the most well put together flick. Three out of five salt shakers. JUST barely, mind you.
Entertainment Value: It's not scary, it's not a great story, but there's something undeniably charming to this mess of a film. I like the CONCEPT of the story, and having a horror version of the Maltese Falcon is actually pretty *refreshing* to me. I'm sure there's been other movies about people coveting the evil gewgaw, but not many. The acting isn't BAD, and by my usual standards, it's credible at least. It may even be largely nostalgia based, but there's something fun about this movie I can't quite quantify. And if you're along for the ride, you also get some mildly camp silliness, which is always a plush for an entertainment level, at least. Three out of five cinder blocks.