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Power, The

Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Review: September ’05 – Matinee of the Macabre

http://www.roguereviewers.com/roundtables.html 

This has not been the summer for movies whose titles start with “The” and end in some sort of noun or pronoun. First The Island tanked at the box-office, throwing many a Hollywood producer into a blind panic. Then I went to see The Cave on a whim, resulting in my head pounding like the overworked heart of a cheeseburger-loving senior citizen. So you can understand my oh-so slight hesitation upon popping The Power into my VCR. It was one of many titles I had picked up at a local Blowout sale, with a psychedelic cover and the promise of ancient Aztecan tomfoolery. Surely this would be fodder for a review…but how bad would it actually be?

After one of the more dramatic opening credits sequences in recent memory (the word “starring” appears for five seconds by itself for crying out loud), we begin officially in your average college classroom. A professor is attempting to give a lecture, but the students are nothing more than oblivious. Too bad, as they’re missing all of the exposition: Ya see, many moons ago a group of Aztec spirits were cast out of paradise, so they took the form of demons here on earth. These demons reside in little clay idols, only one of which still remains. This idol supposedly controls the dark portion of the human soul, yadda-yadda-yadda. When the doo-hickey is shown on a projector slide, however, we see it is nothing more than a poor excuse for a seventh grader’s art project.

A student dressed in stereotypical nerd garb pokes fun at the professor’s stodgy lesson, which causes the old coot to stare at him reeeal hard and make his nose bleed. Eeriness! The nerd runs out in a panic, bumping into an overweight fellow who’s just stepping into the classroom. When the class is dismissed we see the Aztec idol from the lecture amongst the professor’s belongings. Aha, we say to ourselves, he used the mysterious power of the idol to…make some nerd’s nose bleed. The overweight fellow tries to convince the professor to give up the idol, but his pleas are punished when the professor gives him a really bad ice cream headache. Moments after the poor fellow runs out screaming, the professor is impaled on a flag pole in a stunning display of magical irony. For you see, the idol cannot be trusted! The idol only uses people to its own devious ends, manipulating the dark part of our okay this is getting silly. Let’s move on, shall we?

Upon reflection, though, the moment with the flag pole was slightly creepy in an Omen sort of way. Unfortunately, this scene, much like many others, only made me think of other, far scarier, films. I’ll point them out as we trek ahead. So our professor is dead, which leads the overweight fellow to go on a search for the idol himself. I found this an odd plot development, as earlier he spent so much time talking about how it’s eevil and whatnot. Ah, but maybe he just wanted it for himself all along? This is quite possible. But why does he spend the next five minutes driving around Mexico when the idol should technically still be in the classroom? Man, talk about your plot holes. How did the idol find its way to a hut in the middle of a Mexican desert? Hmm, probably best not to think about it.

What we’re supposed to be getting from all of this is that, no matter who possesses the idol, they will not be able to control its immense, ooga-booga voodoo power. At first the overweight fellow tries to bargain for the idol within the hut, but ultimately he shoots its geezer owner, as well as his son, just so he can steal the item. The idol then betrays him about ten seconds later, showing how humanity’s folly can lead to disaster…I guess.

But enough about that guy! Now we’re meeting a completely new set of characters: There’s a spunky tabloid reporter, her dopey on again/off again boyfriend, and a bunch of horribly generic teens who want to connect with the spirit world. Oh and do they ever, as during a spooky graveyard séance one of the teens presents the idol, throwing the natural elements out of whack. They manage to escape before anything deadly happens to their party, leaving one of the graveyard patrolmen to get crushed by a cement block. Thanks kids!

The rest of the movie sees the teens taking their story to a reporter and her love interest, and of course they are not to be believed at first. The ace reporter’s chased too many silly stories of aliens and Bigfeet to bother with this Aztec idol, but her dopey ex-boyfriend becomes obsessed with the little trinket. Indeed, he slowly becomes mad over it, and the finale involves our protagonists dealing with his whacked-out behavior. Here’s where we get into Shining territory, as the actor playing the boyfriend is obviously going for a twisted, Jack Nicholson-style performance. There’s also quite a bit of The Exorcist thrown in for good measure, as anyone involved with the idol eventually adopts the freakish makeup of a possessed maniac.

Aside from these similarities to more iconic horror films, however, The Power is actually not bad at all. Sure, there are plot holes as well, but these criticisms are easily forgiven. The acting really threw me for a loop, as the performances of the reporter and boyfriend were much more convincing than what one would see in b-horror. There are also a slew of effective special effects which are sure to satisfy the gore fans in the crowd. Lastly, and this is most important, it moved at a good clip. At just under 90 minutes this movie was a breeze to sit through, which is a Godsend compared to other cinematic feet-draggers. Granted, The Power is not a classic by anyone’s definition, but it’s about five times better than most other bargain bin horror pics.

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