London, 1974. The country is facing sweeping blackouts to conserve electricity. In one East London hospital, a young trainee nurse named Val (Rose Williams) is starting her first day. Over the course of one night, The Power traces her journey into the darkness of her own past, while confronting the horrors contained within the walls of this eerie building. The debut feature from filmmaker Corinna Faith, this is a film with a lot on its mind, running many undercurrents through a gripping gothic horror story lit by oil lamps and furnace rooms.
We don’t know much about Val early on. We can tell that she’s anxious, shy, perhaps a bit weak-willed, but eager to please. She wants to do well at this new job, as we get teases of something in her past that has led to people not having the kindest of opinions towards her. She’s easily pushed around, something that people take advantage of as they march her from one room to the next. This leads to her eventually getting in the bad graces of those in charge of her shift duties, who then assign her to take on the night shift in this cold, dark, mostly abandoned hospital as the majority of the patients and staff are moved to another better equipped building.
Corinna Faith knows the strength of a good location for a horror film, and this real life shut down hospital is the perfect setting for this descent into the deepest, most terrifying corridors of the human mind. Alongside Val, we are taken on a deeply unsettling journey as reality becomes less and less clear, and the secrets hidden within this building’s past start to manifest in unexpected ways. A lover of a good ghost story, Faith takes from influences like The Innocents while crafting a story that feels specific to these characters, one that taps into social themes of the film’s era while connecting them with the same ideas that are very much on the mind of today’s culture.
As we’ve seen in recent years with the surge in female filmmakers being given more opportunity in the industry at large, and within the realm of horror specifically, there’s unsurprisingly an added strength that can come from actually having a female perspective telling a story about women. Faith explores the ways in which women are neglected, manipulated, and ignored, and how those wounds can fester and explode when they become bottled up. The Power is a movie that unnerves, yet it also inspires, uniting survivors of abuse in a sort of camaraderie as we see characters from past and present coming together to uplift one another and stand up to the injustices stripping them of their own power.
Tellingly, however, Faith never allows for any easy solutions. While the film may build to a sort of resolution in its specific story, we are constantly made aware of the fact that the true evils in this tale are the very real systems and institutions that uphold those foundations that have pushed marginalized people down for as long as time can remember. The hierarchy of these power structures always remains lurking in the background of this story, something that Faith never forgets in crafting this emotional journey of one woman struggling in a fight for some kind of decency in an indecent world. The Power is a sincere, thematically rich debut from an exciting filmmaker, with a breakout performance from Rose Williams, who fully commits herself emotionally and physically to this character, guaranteeing that this is a ghost story that will stick with you.
The Power will be available to stream exclusively on Shudder starting April 8th