Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: The Power
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Tagline: There is no escape!
Released by: Gemstone Entertainment
Directors: Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow.
Plot: An Aztec idol of unspeakable evil power takes possession of whoever carries it.
Thoughts: The co-directing duo of Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow were responsible for not one, but three awesomely entertaining low budget horror films from the eighties. The first was the gory 1982 coed cut-up The Dorm That Dripped Blood, which has only recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray. The third was the 1987 slimy monster classic The Kindred, that is still sadly only available on analog. Those two movies definitely have a strong cult following, but The Power is one of their lesser-known stabs at the supernatural genre. I saw it a couple of years ago at an all-night horrorthon around the 4:00 A.M. mark and tracked down a VHS copy during a video hunt sometime after.
The film concerns an Aztec idol that looks like a “Mexican saltshaker” and contains an awesome power that addicts anyone who has it in his or her possession. It starts off with an arrogant college professor who is impaled on a pole for his greed. Then a wealthy man searches for it in the Mexican desert and shoots a father and son as they sleep, so that he may steal it. The idol scars him horribly and disappears, only to reappear in a small American town where a young high school girl conjures it up with an Ouija board. Soon her world becomes unglued by a series of strange murders and other unexplainable acts of the supernatural. An aggressive female journalist and her friend Jerry get mixed up in all this business, as they try to unravel the idol’s mysterious origin. Jerry eventually becomes consumed by it and transforms into a horrifying monster complete with pulsating airbladders and gooey prosthetics.
This is definitely not a great work of art, but it does have its occasional moments of suspense and some good gross out effects. The music by Christopher Young is a very scary little orchestral arrangement that really works well, too. Overall, the film is creepy and fun with a typically awesome 80’s shock ending. I must also give it props for having an interesting premise that reminded me of a lo-fi horror take on The Lord of the Rings. I wonder if Carpenter and Obrow were inspired by Tolkien’s classic trilogy when writing this enjoyable slice of brain-cheese.