The latest original Shudder offering is Corinna Faith's debut movie The Power, available to watch now. Not to be confused by the book of the same name by Naomi Alderman, the movie uses the real-life blackouts of January 1974 – when the government used blackouts to conserve power – as the basis for a terrifying ghost story.
Trainee nurse Val (Sanditon's Rose Williams) is on her first day at the East London Royal Infirmary when she gets on the wrong side of the fearsome matron. She's ordered to work the "dark shift" that night after most of the patients and staff have been evacuated to another hospital during the blackout.
With her old school enemy Babs (ex-Hollyoaks star Emma Rigby) as company, Val finds herself confronting her traumatic past and deepest fears when a malevolent force strikes, intent on destroying everything around her.
Setting a ghost story during a blackout is such an inspired idea that means no matter how many dark corridors The Power throws you down, you accept that it's a consequence of the setting, rather than a cheap horror ploy.
Faith uses every corridor to full effect, delivering the kind of ghost story scares we'd expect from creaking doors to creepy children. There might not be anything particularly original about the scares, but they are effectively done. The Power is a classical ghost story told extremely well, wringing tension from every candle-lit sequence.
While it's set in 1974, Faith also manages to have a contemporary relevance to The Power as it explores real-life issues that are still prevalent in society today. She wrote the movie at a time when the #MeToo movement became widespread and much like last year's breakout horror Saint Maud tackled real-life mental health issues, The Power addresses such issues in its period setting.
It adds a fresh edge and perspective to what otherwise could have been a fairly traditional ghost story. "The idea that an angry spirit could neatly be put to rest, made quiet at the end of a story, felt plain wrong," explained Faith in her director's statement. The movie might not always approach it in the subtlest way, but it has an impact.
It's a shame, however, that The Power doesn't give as much depth to its characters as it does to its central plot. As the lead, Rose Williams gets the most to do and gives an impressively physical performance, but though Val's past is hinted at, it's not explored enough to explain Val's actions.
Once the scares get going as the "dark shift" kicks in, there's rarely any let-up which is great for the horror, but less so for the characters. Beyond Val, everybody is mostly a stereotype and little more, despite the efforts of the likes of Emma Rigby and Theo Barklem-Biggs. In keeping things moving at a pace, Faith leaves us in the dark about why we should care about the characters.
Still, for those in need of an effectively told and creepy ghost story, The Power delivers on that front, while bringing something new to well-trodden ground. It might fall short of the greats of the genre, but you'll definitely switch on every light after you watch it.
The Power is available to watch now on Shudder.
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