Slasher Month: The Power (1984)

Jeffrey Obrow is a stellar screenwriter and director — who teaches at USC’s film school — who should be a horror household name, but alas. . . . He gave us the Daphne Zuniga Friday the 13th rip that is The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982), which served as his feature film debut, the hag n’ trollsploitation two-fer starring Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter that is The Kindred (1987), the pretty cool Dean R. Koontz adaption of Servants of the Twilight (1991), and what I thought was a pretty decent take on Bram Stroker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars” with Legend of the Mummy (1998). Each are highly recommended watches for your this year’s “30 days of Halloween” watch schedule.

Here, in his second film, a group of people come into possession of an ancient, Aztec clay doll. However, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit. . . .

Cry (low budget) havoc and let slip the (meh acting) mayhem by way of a class project as four high schoolers research the trinket — in a graveyard with a Ouija board, of course. Modeled after Destacatyl, a Mexican god, the idol was acquired by one the student’s parents from their own South of the Border excursion to learn of its myth. Jerry (Warren Lincoln, over and done after the 1986 pseudo-U.S. giallo, Torment) soon becomes obsessed with learning more about the idol . . . then becomes obsessed by the idol’s trapped spirit.

Let slip the stalking. . . .

Is the inanimate-objects-possessing-the-souls plot a bit derivative? Does the concept of possessed idols, which are knock offs of the ol’ “genie in a bottle” stories of yore, date back to the Hammer/Amicus drive-in ’50s and ’60s? Sure, but what movie in the John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham ’80s backwash, doesn’t?

However, thanks to Jeffrey Obrow — along with his usual partner, Stephen Carpenter — while the acting isn’t that great, the script is production-solid, the film is effectively spooky n’ atmospheric (with a truly shock-scaring arms-out-of-the-bed pisser), the film score does its job, the effects are low-budget but Fangoria gooey-goo great, and the ending has a decent didn’t-see-it-coming twist.

Sadly, The Doom That Dripped Blood, The Power, The Kindred, and Servants of the Twilight, while each are well-made, valiant efforts, they were not the box office bonanzas Jeffery Obrow and Stephen Carpenter hoped; each went their separate ways. All four are fine films. I wished they would have made more. . . .

Jeffrey Obrow, as result of his transition into academia, slowed down his career, but came back with the aforementioned Legend of the Mummy and three more horrors (not as effectively-distributed): They Are Among Us, The Perfect Host, and One by One; his latest, currently-in-production writing and directing effort, is the Molly Ringwald-starrer, Pursued (2022). If you like to know more about Jeffrey Obrow’s work, look for his August 1991 Fangoria interview with Anthony C. Ferrante, “To Serve the Twilight,” in promotion of his Koontz adaption (sorry, no online scans; copies abound on eBay, however).

Stephen Carpenter eventually hit box office gold penning the Martin Lawrence action-comedy Blue Streak (1999) and the Samuel L. Jackson comedy, The Man (2005). Did you see Eliza Dushku in Soul Survivors (2001)? Well, that’s Stephen behind the Brother processors and Canon Reds. Then, between 2011 to 2017, he created and scripted the 123-episode run of Universal/NBC-TV’s Grimm.

And in production backstory twist: While Obrow and Carpentet co-penned and directed The Power, the initial concept and story draft was done by John Penney: he gave us the box office failure Zyzzyx Rd. (2006), a film that made a lousy $20 bucks in its brief theatrical run.

Oh, and one of our students, in her debut, is Suzy Stokey: she became a go-to actress for our beloved Fred Olin Ray (A Christmas Princess) in his films The Tomb, Star Slammer, and Deep Space.

You can watch this ad-free on the Internet Archive.org or with-ads on Tubi.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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