The Daily Stream: You're All Sleeping On The Power

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "The Power"

Where You Can Stream It: Shudder, AMC Plus

The Pitch: "The Power" is Corinna Faith's first feature film. She made the ten-minute short, "Ashes," in 2005, and "The Power" is an evolution of sorts in storytelling for the young director. So many indie horror films are not given their flowers until nearly a decade or so later when the blinders of the era come off. Faith deserves her flowers in real-time, for "The Power" is a powerful meditation on femme anxieties, with enough tooth and atmosphere to sit at home among any episode of "Hammer House of Horror."

Why It's Essential Viewing

"A place people die in should never be allowed to get that dark." – Terry (Nuala McGowan)

We're all afraid of the dark at some level, aren't we? It all goes back to a universal fear: the fear of the unknown. The dark is unquantifiable, and it's impossible to know what lurks in its corners and crevices. Corinna Faith leaned into the concept and takes it to dizzying heights within a classic ghost story structure in 2021 horror yarn "The Power," streaming on Shudder now.

The synopsis, per Shudder:

London, 1974. As Britain prepares for electrical blackouts to sweep across the country, trainee nurse Val arrives for her first day at the crumbling East London Royal Infirmary. With most of the patients and staff evacuated to another hospital, Val is forced to work the night shift in the empty building. Within these walls lies a deadly secret, forcing Val to face her own traumatic past in order to confront the malevolent force that's intent on destroying everything around her.

"The Power" situates its heroine within a classic ghost story framework: isolated in a ward where past patients have died. From the beginning, she is in a liminal space — a dimmed and diminished hospital ward — pressured to toe the line and prioritize discipline over any sort of principles. 

It's a running message throughout the film, illustrated most when Val tells a child to keep to herself and stay quiet amid terrifying conditions, and "you'll be fine." It quickly indicates who the villains are and whose voices have been snuffed out, necessitating the story's alliances. Terry, whose above quote illustrates the tension at play (all scares are situated around darkness and negative space), also warns, "You'll find speaking your mind is not popular here, Val."

All are telling lines of dialogue in "The Power," which, without spoiling too much of the plot, orients itself with the women and girls whose voices haven't carried much beyond the voices of the male authority figures who preyed upon them in their time. "The Power" doesn't just shine a light on injustice, it interrogates the very systems that allow injustices to operate and thrive, from the top down.

Stay In The Light

Within its first fifteen minutes, "The Power" seems akin to Gustavo Hernández' 2010 Uruguayan horror film "Silent House," where past trauma comes up something nasty for this tormented girl with an occlusive past. Past hurt manifests in the walls and in sightings, all originating from the darkest dark imaginable. Star Val (Rose Williams) is constantly framed closest to the light — even in an elevator full of people — as a testament to her faith and innocence. 

Williams turns in a wide-eyed performance that carries with it a greenhorn naivete, searching for meaning where there is only evil as she leans how truly fallible the men of her religion are. The sentiment is carried on through subtext — one nurse is glimpsed reading Stephen King's breakout 1974 novel "Carrie," a tale about a girl who's had enough of everyone's nonsense and brings the whole place down in flames. 

Without bringing spoilers into the discussion, it's safe to observe that the book choice was an intended one. "The Power" bears witness for victims of crimes past and present; contortion fits draw a parallel to a child being held down from behind, and the word "Listen" is carved upon another character's belly, entreating them to hear and validate the injustices of the past.

Through its effective dread-building, D.P. Laura Bellingham's lens situates its subjects in the maw of darkness, even when the generator kicks back on for a scene or two. Like Leigh Whannell's paranoid gaze in "The Invisible Man," Corinna Faith's camera hides threats and unknowns in the periphery of every room, entreating the eye to search for monsters and fill in the space. It makes for some well-constructed scares, effective even to the jaded horror fan who knows the beats to come. 

At the same time, "The Power" is aware enough of itself as a spooky story to allow a diegetic radio host to taunt, "Stay near that candle." In her sophomore effort, Faith has crafted a harrowing entry in a time-honored subgenre, appropriating the ghost story to speak truth to power on the horrifying treatment of women and children in decades past. It's worth watching, and it's on Shudder right now.