Color, 1983, 84 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow
Starring Susan Stokey, Warren Lincoln, Lisa Erickson, Chad Christian, Ben Gilbert
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Scorpion Releasing (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
A year after helming the overachieving slasher film/school project The Dorm that Dripped Blood, directors Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow joined forces again (and reunited with Hellraiser composer Christopher Young) for this lively tale about an evil Aztec relic bringing great power and greater carnage to a string of hapless humans. It's still basically a slasher movie at heart as the bulk of the film involves one cursed guy racking up a substantial body count, but the supernatural angle gives it a slightly different atmosphere from the norm and, coupled with some generous helpings of red stuff, makes it a fun little horror time capsule today.
Incredibly, it takes over fifteen minutes to get to the main characters of our story after a pair of essentially unrelated vignettes involving a college professor and a murderous businessman in Mexico having violent encounters with Destacatyl, a fiendish knickknack capable of imbuing its owners with the power to cause nosebleeds and levitate in the air. Enter Tommy (Christian), a teen who acquires the trinket from his parents after a trip to Mexico. He decides to bring it along for a trip to the graveyard with some college pals, unleashing a torrent of murders, nightmares, and other supernatural mayhem. This in turn pulls in a reporter, Sandy (Stokey), and her schlubby colleague ex, Jerry (Lincoln), who becomes the main target of possession and the wielder of the idol's power. Cue the Mario Bava lighting and splashy murder sequences, with hands getting stuffed in garbage disposals and various sharp implements going through torsos as Jerry's face turns into a mushy latex monstrosity.
No one will ever single out The Power as a lost classic, but its big set pieces are nasty enough to make it worth a look; on top of that you get some primo '80s fashions and glimpses of SoCal beach properties, some of which are still around today. The last half hour delivers most of the goodies, of course, including a nifty shock ending not dissimilar to Demons, and while it's tough to care about any of the characters, you won't really care when the film's tossing out gems like a nightmare sequence with hands bursting through a mattress. In terms of both the colorful look and arbitrary plotting this could easily be a cousin to Norman J. Warren's Terror, which also features lots of dry ice and people getting skewered on random pointy things.
Apart from a very muddy, pale VHS release from Vestron in 1985, The Power was been virtually impossible to see through legitimate channels for decades and received almost no TV play at all. That means the 2014 DVD from Scorpion was the first opportunity many people had to see this, the middle entry in the Carpenter/Obrow cycle (which ended one film later with The Kindred, a title still missing in action after popping up on Synapse's slate years ago). The DVD does what it can with the source material, which looks appropriately cheap and dark most of the time; however, you can make out way, way more than the tape version, and overall it should please fans trying to figure out what the heck is going on. The mono audio sounds solid throughout, with the strong score getting the biggest boost. (It's also one of the very few Young scores still unreleased on CD, though the LP can be found for silly prices on auction sites.) Extras include the theatrical trailer, the option to play this with (surprisingly brief) hosting wraparounds from hostess Katarina Leigh Waters, and bonus trailers for Grizzly, Day of the Animals, Dogs, Lurkers, and the red band one for Sorceress, which caught a lot of kids off guard back in the '80s.
In 2017, Code Red revisited the film for Blu-ray with an HD presentation featuring identical framing and color timing but a significant uptick in detail and natural film grain. If you liked the way the DVD looked, it's basically a much higher resolution version of that; the DTS-HD MA English track also has a bit more presence than the prior Dolby Digital one but won't come as a huge eye opener. A new bonus here is "Christopher Young Scores The Power" (10m22s), which mainly focuses on his Carpenter/Obrow pair of films and his time at New World; it's the usual Damon Packard featurette style here complete with odd stock images and footage (with watermarks galore) and baffling editing choices like cutting Young's comments into a tinny speaker running over film clips. Well, it's different. The Katarina segments and theatrical trailer are carried over here, plus bonus ones for One Dark Night, The Dark, Mutant, Highpoint, and Mind Ripper.
DVD FRAME GRABS
Updated review on August 14, 2017.