EVIL Says Lights Out! “The Power” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



East London, January 1974 – a young nurse starts her first day at a stringent hospital during a political war between the government and mining union workers.  Resulting form the conflict is a nightly shutdown of electricity across the entire country.  As the hospital falls into darkness, the young nurse is forced to work the nightshift at the behest of the hospital’s stern matron, ordering her care for the unresponsive in the intensive care unit that’s receiving a limited feed of generator power.  Afraid of the dark, the nurse finds herself short of pleasant company who are knowledgeable of her sordid past, making her feel more alone in an already isolating and gloomy environment.  When she feels an aggressive presence surrounding her, watching her every movement, and even possessing her for short periods of time, dark hospital secrets come to light and her past connects her to be the key to it all.

Partially based off the 1974 Three-Day Week measure implemented on January 1st to battle inflation and avoid an economic collapse in the UK, Corinna Faith’s things that go bump in the dark ghostly feature, “The Power,” pulls inspiration from the government versus trade union war political contest as a backdrop set for the Shudder exclusive release.  To briefly catch inform you, part of the plan was to have Britain’s private sector pay was capped and bonuses eliminated to cutoff high rate inflation, infuriating much of the coal mining industry who were responsible for a good percentage of fueling much of Britain’s energy at that time.  During the month of January 1974, nightly blackouts were issued for all commercial use to conserve coal stocks.  Inspired by this short-lived UK struggle, the 2021 English film became the sophomore written and directed project for Faith, but is chiefly her breakout film following the over a decade and half, father and son Irish drama, “Ashes,” released in 2005.  “The Power” has topical supremacy with a strong parallel of, as the title suggests, power and a delicate allegorical presence of women taking back control of their lives after being suppressed by wicked and disregarding men and their collaborators.  Conglomerating production companies are behind Corinna Faith’s “The Power,” including “Cargo’s” Head Gear Films and Kreo Films, the prolific British Film Institute, Stigma Films (“Double Date”), and Air Street Films.

Starring in her first lead role, Rose Williams plays the mild-mannered and meek young nurse, Val, with an enigmatic and subversive past that has seemingly caused some controversary at a private school.  Williams turns on the docile humility, laying on thick Val’s readiness to submit to any command without contest despite the young nurses visible cues of uneasiness and bumbling hesitation.  Val’s qualities purposefully pose her mindset molded by a system she has shunned her for an unspeakable act that’s skirted around persistently throughout the story.  Faith really puts emphasis on having Val feeling extremely isolated and alone in the old, dark hospital with antagonist characters who some are familiar with Val and others who are new faces to the young nurse, but still exude an uncomfortable impression, such as the strict matron nurse (Diveen Henry, “Black Mirror”) and bizarrely skeevy maintenance man Neville (Theo Barklem-Biggs, “Make Up”).  Even a familiar face in fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby, “Demons Never Die”) strives to make her not forget about her unpleasant past.  Only in foreigner child, a patient named Saba, an introductory performance by Shakira Rahman, Val discovers a kindred spirit of an equally alone and frightened prisoner of the hospital.  For the two sole apprehensive souls, I really couldn’t pinpoint the trembling fear in their eyes or understand how they’re not crippled by the immense inky blackness that seems to engulf everything and everyone with an enshrouding sinister presence.  Gbemisola Ikumelo, Charlie Carrick, Sarah Hoare, and Clara Read make up the remaining cast.

The electricity backout is merely more for harrowing effect, creating lifeless atmospheres of bleak corridors and dank basements that swallow securities with meticulous ease, but “The Power” is more than just a lights out, afraid of the dark, paranormal picture as Faith pens a parallel theme that fashions the title in double entendre stitches.  Audiences are not immediately privy to the backstory that disturbs Val to the core as she finds consternation in the dark’s unknown possibilities.  This we can clearly see in her scattered imaged nightmares and her reluctance to forcibly work the night shift with little-to-no illumination.  As the story unravels, Faith drops breadcrumb hints and misdirection indicators that not only reveal more into Val’s background but also the background of Saba’s and the presence that is targeting them both in playful manner as if an invisible “Jaws” shark was tugging and pulling in all different directions in the tightly confined hospital setting, leading up to what and whose power truly presides over them.  Dark becomes light in the water shedding moment that defines Val’s lightning rod purpose in being a ragdoll puppet for a ghost’s whims and while the story successfully builds up to that climatic moment with blank eye possessions and unconscious grim mischief told in reverse order, “The Power” ultimately tapers off with a finale that falls apart on the precipice of something significantly special for the voices of traumatized women everywhere in recovering the power over themselves.  Though abundant with tension-filled jump scare frights during the puzzling mystery, the horror element also suffers a misaligning derailment in the end with a happy-go-lucky procession of no longer being afraid of the dark, dropping the bulk of scares like a sack of unwanted potatoes no longer ripe for a tasty reward.

Still, “The Power” is a single-setting period horror with potent scares along with an even more compelling subtext significance. The region 2, PAL encoded, 83 minute feature is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a single disc BD25 with a 15 rating for strong supernatural threat, violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual threat. Perfectly capturing the precise black levels, the Blu-ray renders a nice clean and detailed image, leaving the negative space viscerally agitating while waiting for something to pop out of the dark. The color is reduced, and slightly flat, to de-age the filmic look for a 1970’s bleaker of cold, sterile atmospherics. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is a chocked full of robust fidelity. The jump scare ambience and short flash of up-tempo works along with the rest of the solemn score. Where “The Power” lacks is with the dialogue and not within the confines of prominence; instead, capturing the dialect cleanly was challenge to undertake as most of the cast mumbles through most of the Liverpool-esque dialect and dialogue. Special features on the release include an audio commentary with director Corinna Faith and Rose Williams and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. A feminist noteworthy horror, “The Power” connotes powerful and uncomfortable contexts that’ll surely make you squirm far more violently than being alone in the ill-boding dark.

When EVIL Strikes a Family Hard is When Fission Divides and Conquers. “Nuclear” reviewed! (101 Films / Digital Screener)

Emma witnesses her troubled brother violently beating their mother while dragging her through the woods.  After he leaves, Emma and her injured mother escape to the countryside, driving through the night until coming upon a village house, next to what was once a large power plant that now sits vacant, to squat for a few days.  Emma comes into an encounter with a local boy a little older than herself with a free spirit for illegal extreme sports and taking dangerous risks to new heights.  What was intended to be an isolating refuge has turned into an alluring interest for Emma who admires the boy’s nomadic lifestyle, but while her mother’s physical injuries heal, a lingering trauma begins to emerge and Emma’s violent brother is also hot on their trail seeking them out.

Lately, our reviews have been on a stretch of psychological thrillers by first time feature film directors expressing a compelling narrative in the worst of situations; we’ve tackled the unhealthy family relations while battling acute mental illness with Joe Marcantonio’s “Kindred” and have taken a step back in time into the Cold War era with isolation tension and uncontrollable violent outbursts in the “Darkness in Apartment 45,” directed by Nicole Groton.  Well, we’re going for the hat trick with Catherine Linstrum debuting her written and directed psychological drama, “Nuclear,” that deals with the fallout of an estranged, threadbare family under the looming shadow of a defunct nuclear power plant, upending a whole new meaning for the term nuclear family.  Co-written with longtime collaborator, David-John Newman. “Nuclear” is a radiating co-production funded by the British Film Institute, Fields Park Media, and Ffilm Cymru Wales, and Great Point Media with Stella Nwimo serving as producer and Paul Higgins as executive producer.

Much of the narrative hinges on Emma, “Locke & Key’s” Emilia Jones, as a 14-year daughter at the center of her brother’s terrible misdeed that sparks a flight of escape to the country and then befriends an eccentric boy who pulls her toward a more grounded frame of mind despite his extreme antics.  The boy, charmingly played by “1917’s” George MacKay, is exactly the distraction Emilia needed while sheltering in refuge. MacKay boyish good looks accentuates his character’s overweening attitude that renders a thin layer of mysteriousness about him as the boy,, and when I say boy I mean young man not much older than Emilia, lives out of his van near the power plant and does backflips on a stone bridge. With such a small cast, one would assume the boy would have interactions with Emilia’s mother or brother, but that’s not the case as the film purposefully uses evasive maneuvers intended not to mingle the boy with Emilia’s mother, played by another Resident Evil Jill Valentine actress (see review of “Darkness in Apartment 45”) Sienna Guillory, and brother Oliver Coopersmith (“It’s Alive” remake), who are weaved into different stages of Emilia’s cerebral reactions to events that unfold unexpectedly. Floating through the story, like a supernatural Japanese house wife, is Noriko Sakura who, much like most of the other characters, plays that is unidentified, but Sakura’s wraithlike presence attaches itself to Emilia’s mother as a telltale sign that something isn’t quite right with the mother’s mental state.

“Nuclear,” in regards to the term, can be interpreted and dissected on many levels within the film; two possible, and perhaps the more obvious, espies are a nuclear family (as a pun on the phrase that denotes nuclear fission) that goes through a chain reaction of dependent events after a horrible event and the other would be the blatant power plant sitting idle and empty in the background, a symbol of a ruin that once harnessed power and gave energy to all and an allegory to this young teenager Emilia’s handling of the crime committed against her one and only protector- her mother. “Nuclear” is very much a young girl coming of age film that strikes chords of self-reliance and free choice while also strumming to disconnect from her parents and family, but she must face them first in order to really let go of the past. But does Catherine Lindstrum pull all the elements together? Lindstrum’s brain-teasing drama will ultimately confuse the general masses. Hell, “Nuclear” even confuses me by not sewing the last threads to connect the stitches of hecatomb effects as the principles players somber through an inexplicit tapestry that’s not clear, present, and often feels distant. The end result does evoke a sense of a coming of age story, but how that adolescent scores through tribulation is about opaque as murky water.

 

“Nuclear” is a twisting cerebral topography tale comprised of seasoned actors and promising young talent from the United Kingdom being distributed courtesy 101 Films, releasing digitally November 9th. Behind the camera is French cinematographer Crystel Fournier with a harsh realism that delivers a natural, but bleak tone full of shadows and gray contrast. Fournier captures and differentiates Emma’s solitude and isolation, especially when she, inadvertently, searches for answers through the motif of faith centric crosses and messages that surround her in and out of the cottage. Stephen McKeon’s score compliments Fournier’s atmo-melancholic with beautiful synth piano and Celtic akin violin compositions. There were no bonus features included with this digital screener and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t expect a mushroom cloud of edge-of-your-seat drama and psychological torment, “Nuclear” is the breadth of anticipation of the Cold War, never knowing what, when, and where to expect the bomb to drop in Catherine Linstrum’s debuting quandary.

Evil Knievel Eat Your Heart Out! “Psychomania” review!

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A terrorizing motorcycle gang named The Living Dead wreak mischief and murderous havoc amongst the local residents. When Tom, the gang’s leader, learns of his family’s dark agreement with the devil, he seeks to reap the benefits of the agreement’s eternal life bestowed upon his family, but before claiming a long-life of unstoppable hog-wild carnage, Tom must die first and truly believe he’ll return from the afterlife. Convincing the rest of the gang to kill themselves in order to return from the grave and live forever was easy, except his girlfriend Abby who wants to actually be alive. As the torment rips through Abby involving the man she loves, not all satanic bound agreements can last forever and Tom, Abby, and the rest of the gang are caught in a contract that’s all but binding.
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“Psyhomania,” also known as “The Death Wheelers,” is a stunt-heavy horror film from “Kiss the Vampire” and “The Face of Fu Manchu” director Don Sharp and written by “Horror Express’” Julian Zimet and Arnaud d’Usseau. “Psychomania” is a fun, b-horror feature from the swinging London era of the 1970s and rosters a young cast of some seriously talented actors in Nicky Henson as Tom, Mary Larkin as Abby, and Ann Michelle as Jane Pettibone while also being graced with two veterans, George Sanders, who voiced Shere Khan in “The Jungle Book,” and Beryl Reid from “Dr. Phibes Rises Again,” and were most likely the most expensive actors on set, being well worth the cash to balance out a relative unknown cast at the time.
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Yes, this film is British. Yes, this film is horror. But, no, “Pyschomania” is not a Hammer Horror film. The Don Sharp film lightly tip-toes through being a horror film with only the supernatural element placing the feature in the thriller category, but the PG-rated horror has other admirable qualities that certainly differentiates itself from the blood-heavy, frighten laden Hammer films. For instance, a story about an undead motorcycle gang should obviously entail motorcycle stunts and “Psychomania” delivers with surprisingly various top-notch stunts with, and without, motorcycles, involving dedicated stunt men and women challenged to be engaged in nearly all stunts, and whereas the blood does not run thick and heavy like with many fright flicks, the bikes certainly do and revs a different, yet welcomed, change of pace.
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If the intent here was to make a serious film, the mark was missed by a good margin. Outdated and obsolete, “Psychomania” is the epitome of aging with dated hairstyles, dated clothing, and dated dialogue. If the intent was to be campy, Sharp and his team of willing participants hit the center of the bulls eye. The premise of a motorcycle gang committing themselves to a suicide pact only to come back and continue their barrage amongst humane society while choking out nearly everybody they feel tramples upon their aimless and ferocious cause seems like an outright folly. Who knew that in forty years time that “Psychomania” would be a British cult favorite, sparking a well-deserved upgrade Blu-ray and DVD combo release from the British Film Institute, also known by as the BFI.
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BFI Flipside presents “Psychomania” on a Blu-ray and DVD combo presented in the original aspect ratio 1.66:1 and scanned and restored in 2k from preservation negatives. The 1080p Hi-Def Blu-ray runs on a BD50 gigabyte at 24 frames per second with a PCM mono audio mix. The PAL DVD runs about the same, near 25fps, and sports a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio mix. I was presented the DVD version for review and I must say the original print looks immaculate. The lens flares in the corner from previous releases have been extinguished. The colors and skin tones have never been more vibrant through the three layers of the black and white master copies containing yellow, blue, and cyan. The mono mix clearly states a purpose and goes through the ears without muddling and much defect. The BFI have also spared no expense on the bonus features that include various interviews with Nicky Henson and other cast, an interview with Harvey Andrews on the “Riding Free” single, a Hell for Leather documentary about the company who supplied the leather for the cast, a short remastering “Psychomania” segment, and other various extras that dive into British culture. I was a bit disappointed with the Sound of “Psychomania” segment as the track portion in the interview with film composer John Cameron seems to be overlaid by something totally off-the-wall and we’re unable to get the full 9 minute audio from the interview. The bonus material rounds out with original theatrical trailer and a nice, vividly colored illustrated booklet with new writing by Vic Pratt, William Folwer, and Andrew Roberts. BFI’s “Psyhomania” release is one of the best re-releases to hit the region 2 market and will re-hit the youth once again on it’s climbing cult success that branches off far from the bloodlust of 1970’s British horror.